Of course, in this case, we still have the guy that actually made the thing in the first place alive (Woz). He is the most authority on these things surely?
If he can't (or won't) authenticate something he made, that must tell the auction house (and the bidders) something...
I know memory is not 100% reliable and even to the founders of historical companies the prototypes are not always memorialized well. After Al dumped the two good ROMs from the Sol prototype, I went to Lee Felsenstein and Bob Marsh both to ask what the prototype's "firmware" enabled it to do exactly, since we didn't have the third ROM where much of the code was, as it had been damaged. Neither could remember any functionality, and Bob had had the thing in his possession for 40 years at that point. So yes, Woz could potentially be wrong. Over the years he's said a number of things that are demonstrably, almost laughably wrong.
That said, if I were bidding, would I take the word of a well respected expert who did not actually work on any of these things and was in short pants when the Apple 1 was being produced, over *3* guys who were
directly involved? If I were placing a premium on that board being the one in the Polaroids, that would give me pause.
I've thought of all kinds of scenarios to explain this board's existence, from straight up it-is-what-it-is to outright forgery. Near as I can tell, they're all plausible. We don't have any photos of the backside of the board and the photos we do have are old, poorly lit Polaroids. For all we know someone could have gotten their hands on the photo negatives used for etching and banged off a board or two for themselves. I know of at least a couple of cases in the past where something like this happened. I've spoken to past employees who were allowed and even encouraged, as a perk of the job, to put something together for themselves. That may be how my Osborne 1 has that weird 'pre production' board in it.
While I deeply respect Corey's expertise, experts do get it wrong sometimes. If I were the auction house, I'd take the hit and modify the description to be less unequivocal and just say it's *a* pre-production prototype board, not *the* prototype, and leave it at that. There seems to be enough consensus among all the parties who would be in the know that it's at least that. Otherwise, they'd better hope another prototype board that looks more like the one in the photo doesn't pop up one day. I can imagine it would get quite ugly if it did.