An unopened 2007 iPhone can be yours (for $32,000 or more)
Wright Auctions, a leading site for the sale of contemporary design items, has secured five-figure deals for a Hans Wegner desk, a George Nakashima sofa and a chair designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.
For an auction scheduled to take place on Thursday, there’s a new item topping the list: a first-generation Apple iPhone in its original packaging.
Smaller than a Cedric Hartman desk lamp, and not as obvious of a status item as, say, the Yves Klein table a few lots down the road, the 2007 iPhone has a floor price of $32,000. This is the amount a potential buyer should be willing to spend just to get in on the action. Wright Auctions estimates the winning bid should be between $40,000 and $60,000.
It doesn’t matter that iPhones produced before 2015 are incompatible with Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 16. Or that the iPhone hard drive in 2007 only allows 8 gigabytes. Or that the list price for this model was $599.
“There are so few tangible design objects that change everything,” said Richard Wright, president of Wright Auctions, speaking Tuesday from his offices in Chicago on the 512-gigabyte iPhone 14 he purchased in January. “It’s this tangible object.”
Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone to a cheering crowd at the MacWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco in January 2007. Six months later it was in stores. Writing in The New York Times, David Pogue said the device lived up to the hype, calling it “a tiny, gorgeous laptop whose screen is a touch-sensitive glass slab.”
Mr Wright added that the “purity of user interface and clarity of information” of the vintage iPhone was reminiscent of Dieter Rams’ revolutionary mid-century industrial designs, including electronics works for Braun and furniture collections for Vitsœ + Zapf were the subject of a 2011 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and inspiration for a 2018 auction at Wright Auctions.
Although that might not have been the best parallel to draw for Mr. Wright.
As he noted, Dieter Rams’ auction was “a labor of love,” meaning it was a pretty fruitless financial endeavor. Winning bidders for his Bauhaus-inspired electronics paid $32 for a black alarm clock from 1975 and $1,750 for a black-and-white Super 8 camera, also from 1975. The most expensive item sold – for a bid of $8,450 – was a 1960s leather, aluminum and fiberglass sofa.
The auction that includes the 2007 iPhone will begin at noon Central Daylight Time. Bidders may participate online or by telephone.
The $32,000 floor price is partly because there’s precedent for what an unopened first-generation iPhone will fetch: Last month, an unopened iPhone sold for $63,356 via LCG Auctions. , a shipper from Louisiana.
The only thing revealed about the provenance of the one to be sold by Wright is that it came to Mr. Wright via Donald Gajadhar, a New York appraiser specializing in antiques and decorative arts.
In an interview, Mr Gajadhar did not disclose the name of the seller, saying only that he was a New Yorker who worked in finance and had some social notoriety.
“I think I said too much,” he added.
Then he goes on to say more, noting that this particular iPhone was given to its mysterious owner by a business friend shortly after its release in June 2007. At the time, Mr Gajadhar said, the man didn’t wasn’t ready to part with his Motorola Razr phone.
The marketing of the Razr phone was almost entirely centered around its light weight and sleek design. At 3.5 ounces, it was touted as the thinnest cell phone on the market. The rival iPhone weighed 4.8 ounces.
“He loved the Razr like it was a Star Trek communicator,” Mr. Gajadhar said. “And he really wasn’t into social media. He was using it for calls, not apps.
The business friend kept asking the man how he liked the gift, Mr Gajadhar continued. And the man repeatedly avoided giving his friend an honest answer: that the iPhone was sitting in a drawer, unopened. By the time he finally joined the modern world and bought one for himself, the 2007 model was obsolete.
As Mr. Gajadhar said, the client now feels too guilty to tell the truth. But the fact that it can bring in enough to finance a BMW could be another reason for the owner to remain in the shadows. (Who wants to share?)