15 of the Most Expensive Collectibles Ever Sold
While most of us consider ourselves collectors -- of records, purses, guitars, fine china or favorite stocks -- there are some valuable items vastly out of the reach of our bank accounts.
Collectibles that only the wealthiest collectors in the world can afford.
Think you paid too much for that vintage guitar or classic car?
Check out what some collectors dished out for a rare piece to add to their collection and you might sleep better tonight.
Now, without further ado, here is the world's most expensive...
Bottle of Wine: Cheval Blanc 1947 -- $304,375
Christie's sold this rare Bordeaux at auction in November 2010, setting a world record for the price paid for a single bottle of wine. Discovered in the secret cellar of a world-class wine collector, an anonymous buyer bought the bottle for double its pre-sale estimate.
The Cheval Blanc was actually an imperial-size bottle equivalent to eight standard bottles of wine. If you want to know the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold on an ounce-for-ounce basis, it was a standard bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1869 sold by Sotheby's in Hong Kong in October 2010, just one month earlier.
Photo courtesy of www.about-all-about.com.
Meteorite: "Valley of the Sky" -- $93,000
What started in 1946 when American scientist Harvey Nininger opened his Meteorite Museum on Route 66 in Arizona is a full-blown industry today, complete with its own TV show ("Meteorite Men" on the Science Channel). Unclassified meteorite finds are readily available for $0.50 a gram, whereas a top-quality, one-kilogram specimen of Argentina's Campo del Cielo meteorite, found in Argentina, averages $400. One of the most expensive examples, a 355-pound meteorite known as the "Valley of the Sky" from the same Campo del Cielo region, sold for $93,000 on eBay in 2006. The meteorite is believed to have originated in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Photo courtesy of BornRich.com
Comic Book: Action Comics #1 -- $2.16 Million
Deemed the "holy grail" of comic books, Action Comics #1 contains what is considered to be the single most important event in comic book history -- Superman's introduction to the world in April 1938. Before Superman's introduction, there was no such thing as a superhero in the world. That's a scary thought.
The previous record for a comic book was $1.5 million, set in 2010 by a different, slightly-less pristine copy of Action Comics #1.
Photo courtesy of Flickr: Phillip Lenssen
War Memorabilia: Custer's Last Flag -- $2.2 Million
Blood stained and tattered, the only remaining flag from General Custer's 1876 last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn is one of the most expensive pieces of war memorabilia. Custer and 200 U.S. troopers were killed during the fight against Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors in southeastern Montana, with this guidon-style 7th U.S. Cavalry flag being recovered from beneath the body of a fallen soldier. The Detroit Institute of Arts purchased the flag in 1895 for $54 and recently auctioned the artifact through Sotheby's for $2.2 million.
Interesting to note, the Detroit museum that sold the flag plans to use the proceeds to strengthen its collection of Native American art.
Photo courtesy of forum.model-space.co.uk
Pop Culture: John Lennon's Psychedelic Rolls Royce -- $2.3 Million
When John Lennon bought this brand-new Rolls Royce Phantom V in 1965, the first thing he did was install a radio telephone, custom sound system, portable refrigerator and covert the rear seat to fold into a double bed. Still, he felt it didn't quite fit his style. In 1967, during the filming of "Magical Mystery Tour," he commissioned a psychedelic pattern of scroll and flowers to be hand painted over the original Valentine's black finish.
The car was an instant media sensation -- and an outrage among Britain's establishment, who felt the Beatle had defaced a symbol of British dignity. Nevertheless, the Beatles used the car exclusively during 1966 to 1969. In 1977, John donated the car to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City to help settle a tax dispute with the IRS. The Rolls was auctioned by Sotheby's in 1985, fetching £1,768,462 ($2,299,000 U.S.). Today, the car lives at the Royal British Columbia Museum where it is occasionally displayed for fundraising.
Other notables in this category are: the piano on which Lennon composed "Imagine" (£1,450,000); Andy Warhol's wig, complete with the tape used to attach it to his head ($10,800); the "Maltese Falcon" prop from the 1941 Bogart classic ($389,500); Marilyn Monroe's evening dress from her 1962 "Happy Birthday" tribute to President Kennedy ($1,267,500); Buddy Holly's glasses ($80,000).
Photo courtesy of DennisSylvesterHurd
Stamp: Three Skilling Yellow -- $2.3 Million
In 1855, Sweden issued its first series of postage stamps, which included a three-skilling stamp on blue paper and an eight-skilling stamp printed on yellow paper. Due to a printing error, a series of three skillings were printed on the yellow paper and issued to the public. While the actual number of issues is unknown, only one is known to exist today. The stamp was first uncovered in 1886 by Georg Backman in his grandmother's attic, which he sold to a local dealer for 7 kronor. More recently, it was auctioned in 1996 for a record $2.3 million to an anonymous winner.
The Inverted Jenny -- a prized American stamp from 1918, which features an upside-down image of a Curtiss JN-4 airplane accidentally inverted during printing -- is valued at around $900,000. A block of four sold in 2005 for $2.7 million.
Photo courtesy of GlenStephens.com
Guitar: Autographed Fender Standard Series Strat -- $2.8 Million
In 2005, an auction was held in Doha, Qatar to aid the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. A Fender Standard Series Stratocastor, signed by nineteen of rock's most famous musicians, fetched a stunning $2.8 million, surpassing the previous record held by Eric Clapton's $959,500 black strat.
According to Fender's website, Fender Europe's Jamie Crompton contacted Bryan Adams to see how many people in the music industry could help victims affected by the disaster.
The artists who famously penned their names on the guitar include: Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Brian May, Liam Gallagher, Jeck Beck, Peter Townsend, Ray Davies,David Gilmour, Bryan Adams, Tony Iommi, Mark Knopfler, Angus Young, Malcom Young, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Sting and Noel Gallagher.
Photo courtesy of fender's guitar blog
Autograph: William Shakespeare -- $3 Million
The World's most expensive autograph rightfully belongs to one of the most famous people to ever use a pen: English author William Shakespeare.
Only six authenticated specimens exist, and all occur on signed documents held by institutions. If they were sold, they would each fetch around $3 million.
Photo courtesy of www.gutenberg.org
Sports Memorabilia: Mark McGwire's 70th Home Run Ball -- $3 Million
When Mark McGwire launched his record-shattering 70th home run during the 1998 season, the entire sports world went biserk over the historic record. And even amidst the PED allegations, the auction bidding for the ball reached unparallel heights. Comic book maker Todd MacFarlane eventually outbid everyone and paid $3,005,000. The ball is now estimated to be worth less than a third of the auctioned price.
While Mark McGwire's home run ball may have fetched the highest dollar, the most valuable sports memorabilia is the 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card, currently valued at $2.35 Million. Issued by the American Tobacco Company, the very rare and highly collectible Honus Wagner baseball card was sold by none other than legendary hockery great Wayne Gretzky to an anonymous California dealer in 2007.
Photo courtesy of Flickr: Adwriter
Photograph: 99 Cent II Diptychon -- $3.3 Million
99 Cent II Diptychon, by German visual artist Andreas Gursky, is a two-part photograph of the interior of a 99-cent store. Digitally altered to enhance the dizzying effect, the photos show stacks of colorful merchandise arranged on rows and rows of aisles. Six sets of the two-part work (known as a diptych) were printed and mounted on acrylic glass.
Sotheby's auctioned one of the six prints in February 2007, eventually getting $3.34 million for the piece. Two earlier auctions held in 2006 brought in $2.25 million and $2.48 million for two other prints. These three prints of the same work hold the record for the 1st, 3rd, and 4th most expensive photos ever sold.
Photo courtesy of www.worldinterestingfacts.com.
Gold Coin: 1933 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle Coin -- $7.6 Million
Any and all gold coins had to be turned over to the government and melted down. But true to the American spirit, a few coins survived.
Today, there is only one legitimate 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle in existence, which was sold for $7.6 Million to a private collector in 2002.
Photo courtesy of americanhistory.si.edu
Book: Birds of America -- $11.4 Million
Written and illustrated by world-famous naturalist John James Audubon, Birds of America is 3 feet tall and includes 1,000 life-size, hand-colored illustrations of, what else, the birds of America. The American flamingo is famously depicted with its head bent down so that when painted life-size, it fits on the page.
In December 2010, a complete first edition of the book was sold at auction by Sotheby's for £7.3 million, which is approximately $11.5 million. That same month, The Economist estimated that if you look at inflation-adjusted prices, 5 of the 10 highest prices ever paid for a printed book were for copies of Birds of America.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Car: 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO -- $17.2 Million
UK radio host Chris Evans has a thing for Ferraris. In May 2010, he set the record when he purchased a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO for $17.2 million at a private auction. He even sold three other Ferraris from his collection to pay for it. Only 36 Ferrari 250 GTOs were ever produced.
But this isn't Evans' first rodeo. He also set the previous record -- $10.9 million for a 1961 Ferrari 250 California Spider SWB once owned by late actor James Coburn. Including his most recent addition, Evans owns eight Ferraris. Editor's note: While the picture for this entry isn't the same 250 GTO that set the record, you can see the real deal on Evan's Twitter page.
Photo courtesy of Flikr: Geoff Ackling
Diamond: Fancy Intense Pink Diamond (24.78 carats) -- $45.6 Million
This breathtaking gem didn't just set the record for being the most expensive diamond -- it's also the most expensive gem ever sold.
The 24.78 carat "fancy intense pink" diamond was auctioned off at Sotheby's in Geneva on November 16, 2010. It was purchased by British billionaire and jewelry dealer Laurence Graff, who described it as the "most fabulous" diamond he had seen in his entire career. The diamond, which was purchased for Graff's personal collection, was immediately christened it "The Graff Pink."
Photo courtesy of Sotheby's Online Auction Catalogue
Painting: Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 -- $140 Million
No. 5, 1948 -- painted by the American modern artist Jackson Pollock -- is a relatively large painting (4' x 8') in the drip style for which Pollock is famous. In a late-2006 sale allegedly brokered by Sotheby's, Hollywood billionaire David Geffen sold the painting to ultrasecretive Mexican financier David Martinez for $140 million.
In a shrewd piece of timing, Geffen sold two other modern masterpieces in 2006, just before the bottom fell out of the global financial markets. In October 2006, he sold Jasper Johns's False Start and Willem de Kooning's Police Gazette for a total of $143.5 million.
Photo courtesy of Mediaspin.com.