The world’s wealthiest collectors constantly set new record-shattering at auction housing, buying everything from fine art, collectibles, expensive vehicles, and even entire towns. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of the most valuable antiques and collectibles that ever sold at an auction house.
Ru Guanyao brush washer bowl from the Song Dynasty
A Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong sold the most expensive piece of Chinese ceramics on October 3, 2017, for approximately $37.68 million.
The 5-inch blue-green bowl was used to wash brushes during the Song Dynasty. These “ru-guanyao” bowls were produced in the northern reaches of the empire. Few of these bowls were ever produced by the empires kilns, and even fewer have survived the ravages of time, making them very sought-after by collectors.
The CTF “Pink Star”
Formerly known as the Pink Star, the CTF Pink Star is a 59.60-carat pink diamond that sold for around $71.2 million on April 4, 2017. The Sotheby’s website describes it as “the largest Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has ever graded”. The diamond was mined by De Beers in Africa, which subsequently sold it to conglomerate in Hong Kong called Chow Tai Fook.
Constantin Brancusi’s “La Muse Endormie”
Constantin Brancusi was one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century and is considered to be a pioneer of modernism. The “La Muse Endormie” (The Sleeping Muse) sold by Christie’s on May 15, 2017, is one of the bronze-cast versions of the original marble sculpture, which was created by Brancusi in 1910. It sold for an astounding $57.37 million, which far exceeded Christie’s initial estimate of $25 million.
The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet
The Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet broke records when it was sold at Sotheby’s New York in June 2013 for $33.7 million. The 17th-century Persian rug came from the collection of William Clark, the US industrialist who was known as an avid collector of rugs and fine art. It was a notably auction for Sotheby’s its sale price far exceeded the company’s initial estimates of between $5 million and $7 million.
L’Homme au doigt
Standing at five feet and ten inches, L’Homme au doigt (The Pointing Man) was cast by sculptor renowned Alberto Giacometti in 1947. It broke the record for most expensive sculpture ever sold when it was auctioned at Christie’s for $141.3 million on May 11, 2015.
Prior to being sold on auction, the statue had been residing in the private collection of Sheldon Solow, a New York real estate developer.
The Badminton cabinet set the record as the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold not once, but twice. The first time it broke the record was in 1990 when it was auctioned for $15.1 million (around $29.1 million in today’s dollars). 14 years later, it again broke the record for a whopping $36 million (around $48 million today).
While we’re on the subject, the Badminton cabinet was named not for the sport, but for Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England. It resided in the village of Badminton in England for nearly 200 years before being auctioned off in 1990.
Codex Leicester (Codex Hammer)
The Codex Leicester is a collection of the renowned thinker Leonardo Da Vinci’s scientific notes and writings. It was initially purchased by Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester (hence the name) in 1719. It sat in the Leicester estate’s collection for 265 years, before it was sold to Armand Hammer for $5.1 million in 1980.
Armand Hammer received the codex as a loose collection of notes and manuscripts, so he commissioned renowned Dr. Carlo Pedretti, a renowned Leonardo da Vinci scholar, to recompile them into their original form.
14 years later, the restored manuscript was sold to Bill Gates at a Christie’s auction for $30 million, or around $50.1 million in today’s money.
Macallan Valerio Adami 1926
Now here’s a little something to shake the list up – the world’s most expensive bottle of whiskey. This bottle of whiskey sold for $1.1 million at a Bonhams auction in Hong Kong in May 2018.
What makes Macallan Valerio Adami so unique is that only 12 bottles of the whiskey were ever produced. Rumor has it that one of the bottles has already been consumed, and there is no accurate count of exactly how many are still left.
Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch
This unique pocket watch made by the luxury Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe broke the record for the most expensive timepiece not once, but twice. The first was when it sold for $11 million in 1999 (around $16 million today), and again for $24 million in 2014.
This one-of-a-kind timepiece features 24 “complications” or extended functions, including a celestial chart, a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater, and more. Its production was specially commissioned by a New York businessman named Henry Graves Jr., to produce the most complicated timepiece ever created. The timepiece took 7 years to produce, from 1925 to 1932.
T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card
Honus Wagner was an American-German shortstop who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1897 to 1917. He is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time and is featured in one of the rarest and most valuable baseball cards ever printed.
The T206 Honus Wagner card was issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909. Horus Wagner however, did not take too kindly to being featured in a children’s product manufactured by a tobacco company, which forced the ATC to terminate production of the card early. This resulted in only an estimated 50 to 200 cards ever being produced. If that doesn’t sound too bad, consider the fact that tens of thousands of T206 cards were produced for other players.
Its exceptional rarity fetched a price of $3.12 million for one card at an auction in 2016 and $2.8 million for a different card in 2007.
These record-breaking auction biddings show the great lengths that collectors will do to get their hands on the most iconic pieces in history. There’s always a market for collectibles, which means there are always easy transactions and cash buyers to be found.