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Darwin letter, vintage Apple computer among rare items on the auction block

Sex sells, even if it is in the form of an 1857 letter written by Charles Darwin about the intimate life of barnacles.

That's one of the many scientific artifacts Bonhams will be auctioning off on Oct. 22. David Kohn, director and general editor of the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History, says there is a big market for letters by Darwin, and there is a major historical significance to this particular one, which discusses how barnacles have sex ("were the specimens under water at times?" Darwin asked). "Darwin's still pursuing this evolutionary theme of reproduction.... Darwin is observing, fishing, and finding the exact significance of it," Kohn told The Associated Press.

The letter is estimated to bring in $20,000 to $30,000. Other items that will be on the auction block include a rare 1905 Helmholtz sound synthesizer, a viewing window from the Manhattan Project, and a functioning Apple 1 computer — one of just 50 made in Steve Jobs' garage in 1976 and designed by Steve Wozniak.

The lead-oxide-stuffed window, which protected scientists from radiation, is 3 feet by 4 feet and weighs 1,500 pounds; that's estimated to go at auction for $150,000 to $250,000. The synthesizer is expected to bring in $20,000 to $30,000, while the Apple 1 will likely fetch between $300,000 to $500,000. Last year, the same model sold for $671,000.