An auction is the process of buying and selling goods by offering items for a certain price. The buyers take turns in making bids and the item will eventually be sold to the highest bidder.
Auctions usually attract quite a number of bidders, some of them old to the business, others fairly new. Nevertheless, these events are usually where the world’s rarest items are sold for eye-popping prices. If you wish to know of the most expensive items ever sold in an auction, check out our list below:
10. Hair from Elvis Presley (2002) – $115,000
Elvis Presley was known for three things: his voice, his hip and his hair. It would not come to a surprise that the hair on his head would sell at a whopping price of $115,000. In fact, his hair raked in more cash than the hair of The Beatles’ John Lennon, John F. Kennedy and Beethoven combined.
9. Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ Dress (1999) – $1.2 million
This dress was worn by the Hollywood icon when she serenaded Pres. John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962. Legend has it that the flesh-colored, curve-hugging, jewel-encrusted dress was so tight that Monroe was literally sewn into the gown and wore nothing under it. The dress was purchased by the Manhattan-based collectible company Gotta Have It.
8. Mark McGwire’s 70th Home Run Baseball (1999) – $3 million
American baseball player Mark McGwire was known for his best at bats per home run ratio in the history of the ball game. His real claim to fame was in 1998 when he beat Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa for the most record of home runs in one season.
It was comic book creator and music producer Todd McFarlane, who bought McGwire’s homerun baseball for a whopping $3 million dollar record.
7. Guarneri del Gesu Violin (2007) – $3.9 million
Italian violin maker Bartolomeo Guiseppe Antonio Guarnieri’s instrument made the world-shattering record of being the highest priced auction for an instrument. The 250-year old violin was purchased by a Russian lawyer and it was later played for the first time in 70 years by Israeli maestro Pinchas Zukerman during a private concert in Moscow.
6. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa (2009) – $12.2 million
It was reported that there were only 21 cars made for this particular Ferrari model. This car won a total of 10 out of 19 international races and amazingly never finished lower than fourth place. The body was designed by famed Italian automobile designer Sergio Scaglietti. This record breaking Ferrari model was sold on May 2009 at an auction organized by Sotheby and RM Auctions.
5. Wittelsbach Diamond (2008) – $23.4 million
This 35.56 carat blue diamond dates back to the 17th century and was chosen by King Philip IV of Spain as part of his daughter’s dowry. The diamond was strictly passed among Austrian and Bavarian royalty, before being repossessed by the Bavarian state shortly after World War I. The diamond was eventually sold in 2008 by an unnamed collector.
4. Roman Era Statue of Artemis and the Stag (2007) – $28.6 million
This 2,000-year-old bronze statue was unearthed during the 1920s. This centuries-old sculpture fetched quite a jaw dropping price ever sold at an auction. The director at Sotheby’s auction says that it was the best antiquity ever sold at the famous auction house.
3. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Hammer (1994) – $30.8 million
Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci was widely recognized for meticulously recording his thoughts on paper. Of the 30 entries that remain from his original journal, it was da Vinci’s Codex Hammer that gained the most recognition. The item was reportedly bought by Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, who graciously released a digitally scanned version for the world to marvel at.
2. Badminton Cabinet (2004) – $36 million
This 18th century Florentine ebony chest is inlaid with precious gems like amethyst, lapis lazuli, and other precious stones. As such, it came as no surprise that this particular furniture was sold for $36 million dollars at a 2004 Christie’s auction.
The furniture got its name from Badminton, England where it was previously stored for more than two centuries. This cabinet was bought by Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein, who eventually donated it to the Liechtenstein Museum in Austria.
1. Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (2010) – $106.5 Million
Picasso’s masterpiece was sold on May 4 at an auction in Christie’s. The painting, which is that of the artist’s lover Marie Therese Walters and only took the artist one day to complete, was sold in a little over eight minutes. It was previously owned by a California philanthropist and beat the previous record held by Giacometti’s sculpture “Walking Man I” for the most expensive artwork sold in an auction.
Auctions have gained the reputation as the perfect go-to place in finding many of the world’s rarest and most expensive items. For some, purchasing centuries-old items may seem ridiculous, but owning a piece of history may really be worth it if you have the money.
Here are other expensive items sold at auctions: