Steve Jobs NFT auction disappoints as authenticity thrown into doubt

A signed Steve Jobs job application submitted to Atari in 1973 and an accompanying NFT failed to sell for even half of its estimate at auction Thursday, following a last-minute revelation about Jobs that cast doubt on its authenticity.

Sold as part of RR Auction’s event ‘The Steve Jobs Revolution: Engelbart, Atari, and Apple’ the ‘Steve Jobs Signed Job Application and NFT’ was purportedly an Atari job application questionnaire filled out and signed by Jobs in 1973. From the listing:

Incredible Atari job application questionnaire filled out and signed by Steve Jobs, one page, 8.5 x 11, annotated 1973 in another hand. Jobs fills out the document with his name, “Steven jobs”; address, “reed college”; phone, “none”; and major, “english lit.” In the middle section, he writes “yes” in response to ‘Driver’s License?’ and “possible, but not probable,” in reply to ‘Access to transportation?’ With regard to his skills from him, next to ‘Computer’ and ‘Calculator,’ he writes, “yes (design, tech).” At the bottom, he describes his ‘Special Abilities’ as “electronics tech or design engineer. digital.-from Bay near Hewitt-Packard [sic].” In very good condition, with intersecting folds, overall creasing, light staining, and some old clear tape to the top edge.

Despite two letters of authenticity from PSA/DNA and Beckett Authentication Services, the item and its non-fungible equivalent failed to sell for even half of its estimate, according to the listing as reviewed by iMore.

The closing bid won the auction on Thursday for a disappointing $130,614. Not only is this less than half of the lot’s estimate of $300,000+, but it is also more than $200,000 less than the $343,000 the previous buyer paid for it in July 2021. The NFT fetched a further $27,460 at the time, apparently bought by the same buyer given that they were auctioned off this week as a single lot.

This disappointing sale price is likely connected to last-minute doubt that cast over the item’s authenticity. A note from the auction-house states:

UPDATE: Note: RR Auction has received new information that Jobs had part-time employment in 1973 as a repair technician in Reed College’s psych lab. As such, we can no longer definitively state that this is his Atari job application.

RR Auction doesn’t explicitly state the implications of this information, however the application includes a blank past employment section, possibly suggesting that an authentic application would have included this previous experience, especially given that Jobs was seeking work as an “electronics tech or design engineer.”

One of the item’s letters of authenticity was signed by Atari’s chief engineer and creator of Pong Allan Alcorn, who wrote:

“This is to establish the authenticity of this document as the actual job application that Steve Jobs submitted to Atari when he applied to be a technician. In 1973 Atari was about a year old and we were now dominant in the coin operated amusement industry and growing fast. I was the vice president of engineering and had two or three engineers each working on individual video game projects. A team would consist of an engineer who would design the circuitry for a new game and a technician who would build the prototype of that game. One of my engineers needed a technician so we ran an ad in the local paper.Our personnel manager, Penny Chapler, said we had a candidate but he was very young and would I be interested in interviewing him.He was a college dropout and a bit of a hippie but he could solder and wire wrap.

Despite this and a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity, the auction seems to have ended in disappointment for the seller. While RR Auction did not explicitly state that application is not authentic, the doubt appears to have been enough to derail the bidding.

Other items in the auction pertaining to Jobs and Apple enjoyed much better success in achieving their estimated prices, including a 1976 Apple Computer Check signed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, which fetched some $131,000.

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