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- Cosmetic tattoo artist Karen Green was gifted a first-generation iPhone in 2007 but never opened it.
- Now, she’s putting it up for auction, where it’s expected to fetch at least $50,000, more than 80 times its original price.
- Last year, another factory-sealed original iPhone auctioned for nearly $40,000.
When Karen Green got a management job at PetSmart in 2007, her friends pitched in for a gift: the first-generation iPhone, which just came out that summer.
The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera, and the Safari web browser; it was initially available with only 4 GB or 8 GB of storage and sold for $599.
There was only one problem: Green already had three phone lines with Verizon, and iPhones at the time could only use AT&T. Rather than pay hefty termination fees and risk losing her phone number, Green left the phone on a shelf for years, unopened and unused, wrapped in a pair of felt pajamas for extra measure.
More than 15 years later, Green’s iPhone — still in its original packaging — is hitting the auction block, where it could fetch at least $50,000. The auction, handled by LCG Auctions, begins Thursday and closes February 19.
Over the years, Green considered selling the phone a few times.
When she heard of another original, unopened iPhone listing on eBay for $10,000, she took note.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I think I have the original,'” she said. “I called my son and I was like, ‘Go get the phone and make sure it’s not opened.”
The device was in fact unopened and the original iPhone. Curious what it was worth, Green went on the daytime TV show “Doctor & the Diva” in 2019 for a segment where a handful of viewers could have items appraised. Green’s iPhone was given an estimated value of $5,000.
Green held onto the phone for a few more years. In October, she caught wind of another big sale for a factory-sealed, first-generation iPhone; that phone auctioned for nearly $40,000. At the time, she was just starting her business, a cosmetic tattoo studio called Tattician located in New Jersey.
“If I could hold off on the phone for like another 10 years, I probably would,” she says. “The only reason why I am selling that phone is because I need to support this business.”
Shocked by the big sale, Green reached out to the auction house behind it, LCG Auctions. But many others who heard about the October auction also phoned in.
“We got calls from everybody, but 99% of them didn’t have the same thing,” said LCG Auctions founder Mark Montero. “But Karen had a really unique piece with a great story behind it.”
“It was shocking because we had gotten so many duds,” he added.
Bidding will start at $2,500 but the phone is estimated to fetch $50,000 or more, based on the sale price in the October auction and its widespread media coverage.
“It took me almost a year to get it up and running, and when you don’t have an income for a year because you don’t have a place to work and you’re trying to get out on your own, your resources start to go,” she said.
“If I could hold off on the phone for like another 10 years, I probably would,” she says. “The only reason why I’m selling that phone is because I need to support this business.”