This rather peculiar looking fruit broke a record when it sold for a whopping 1.5 million baht at an auction in Thailand in June – the equivalent of $49,603 (£38.6k). Yes, it’s a piece of fruit, but the Kanyao is the most expensive, and supposedly tastiest, variety of durian fruit in the world. This bid for this specimen, which was said to be of perfect ripeness and shape, overtook last year’s sale of 800,000 baht ($26.5k/£20.6k). The farmer who grew the durian said that he hopes the bidder will enjoy eating it.
Estimated to sell for a maximum of $50,000 (£39k), this 18th-century US map went for more than double that, raking in $125,000 (£98k) at an auction in New York in June. Drawn by surveyor Lewis Evans in 1755 when travelling with good friend Benjamin Franklin, it shows eight US states, as well as land that would later become Ohio and Canada. The antique map, which is said to be three-quarters complete, managed to command such a high price due to its impeccable condition.
An extremely rare crocodile skin Hermès Birkin bag sold at a Christie’s auction in London for $209,350 (£162.5k) in June, becoming the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction in Europe. The bag is made of Nile crocodile skin and features a diamond-encrusted lock, earning the name 'Himalaya' due to its snowy white colour. However, it didn't quite beat the record for the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction – that accolade is claimed by another Hermès Birkin, which sold for $325,940 (£253k) in Hong Kong last year.
In October, Nirvana guitarist and vocalist Kurt Cobain’s green cardigan sold for $334,000 (£259.3k), breaking the record for the most expensive sweater ever sold at auction. The cardigan, which was reportedly unwashed since he had last worn it, had been worn by Cobain during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert in 1993. It’s thought that Cobain had purchased the mohair-blend cardigan at a thrift shop, and that it was originally made in the 1960s.
To the untrained eye, this pair of Nike trainers might not look like much, yet in July they became the most expensive pair of trainers ever sold at auction. The 1972 ‘moon shoes’ sold for a jaw-dropping $437,500 (£340.6k). They were designed by Nike’s cofounder Bill Bowerman to be worn by athletes trialling for the 1972 Olympics and were one of only 12 pairs ever made. The winning bidder was Canadian collector Miles Nadal, who had also paid a whopping $850,000 (£660k) for a collection of 99 other rare pairs of trainers at a Sotheby’s auction a few days earlier.
A rare medieval chess piece which had been lost for centuries sold at auction for $946,000 (£735k) in July. The piece had been bought by an Edinburgh antiques dealer for just £5 in 1964 and kept by the family since then. The family took it to be valued by Sotheby’s in London and, upon learning that it was a historic Lewis chess piece dating back to the late 12th or early 13th century, decided to put it up for auction. Lewis chessmen are one of the main draws at the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. They were originally found buried in a sand dune on the Scottish island of Lewis in 1831.
It’s pretty hard to get your hands on a McLaren Senna, a model created in homage to the legendary Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna, of which just 500 examples were made. This particular car carries the chassis number 005, meaning it was the fifth example to be produced, and is painted an unusual ‘Amethyst Black’ colour. It was sold by Arizona auction house Barrett-Jackson for $1.4 million (£1.1m) in January, beating its estimate of $800,000 (£621k).
This portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphili was lost for almost 300 years until it made a mysterious reappearance at an auction in the 1980s. Recently, it was brought into Sotheby’s office in Amsterdam and, due to black markings on the back, the researchers were able to determine that it was a work of art by Old Master Diego Velásquez, painted in 1650. The artwork sold for just under $3 million (£2.375m) at an auction this July, as part of a sale of Old Master paintings which totalled $71.9 million (£56m).
In January, a rare Pacific bluefin tuna weighing 612 pounds sold at auction for $3.1 million (£2.4m) at a Tokyo market, breaking the record for the highest price ever paid for a bluefin tuna. It was purchased by restaurateur Kiyoshi Kimura (pictured), who planned to serve the rare fish to diners at his Sushi Zanmai restaurant later that day. However, the sale was clouded by concerns over the conservation of the species, which is incredibly rare with bluefin tuna stocks 96% depleted since pre-industrial times.
Former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour broke the record for the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction in June, with the sale of his 1954 Black Fender Stratocaster guitar for $3.975 million (£3.1m). The guitar, which was used by Gilmour to write iconic albums including Dark Side of the Moon, was sold as part of a collection of 120 of Gilmour’s guitars, which totalled $21.5 million (£16.7m), at a Christie’s auction in New York. Gilmour donated all the money to climate change charity ClientEarth.
How much was the most expensive lunch you’ve ever had? Did it stretch into the millions? We didn’t think so. But a chance to dine with the world’s third richest man did just that. A lunch with legendary investment manager Warren Buffett sold for a record $4.6 million (£3.6m) in May. Bidding started at $25,000 (£19.6k) but rapidly made its way up until it demolished the previous record of $3.5 million (£2.7m) for a lunch with the Berkshire Hathaway CEO. Since 2000, when Buffett started the initiative, he has dined with the winning bidder each year at New York restaurant Smith & Wollensky, donating the proceeds of the auction to San Francisco's Glide Foundation.
Lee Krasner’s painting, the eye in the first circle, sold for an incredible $11.7m (£9.1m) at Sotheby’s in New York in May. Bought by a couple of art collectors who own an art museum in Maryland, the sale broke a record for the artist, more than doubling the previous price of $5.5 million (£4.3m) paid for her Shattered Light. Krasner apparently created this unique oil on canvas painting in a state of grief after the death of her husband Jackson Pollock.
Painted by the anonymous street artist a decade ago, Banksy’s work of art depicting British Members of Parliament as chimpanzees might be seen by some as more politically pertinent now than ever. In October, it sold for $12.7 million (£9.88m) at a Sotheby’s auction in London, the highest price a Banksy painting has ever sold for. The artist voiced his opinion on the sale via Instagram, posting a quote by art critic Robert Hughes which read: “Instead of being the common property of humankind the way a book is, art becomes the property of someone who can afford it.”
This 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta is one of the most expensive pre-war cars ever to be sold at auction, selling for €16.48 million ($18.3m/£14.2m) at Artcurial's Rétromobile car auction in February. It has more than a few distinguishing features: it was the fastest production car to be built before the Second World War; it won a host of events in the 1940s and 1950s; and went to auction as an unrestored car. It was bought in 1976 for the equivalent of roughly €11,000 ($12.2k/£9.5k) in today's money and remained with the same family until the auction this February.
This 16,889-bottle wine collection sold for a colossal sum of $29.8 million (£23.2m) at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong in May, beating the record for the most expensive wine collection sold at auction ever by almost $8 million (£6.2m). The wine collection, which also exceeded estimates by $4 million (£3.15m), included rare Burgundies and Bordeaux, with some bottles dating back as far as the 1920s.
Louise Bourgeois' bronze sculpture Spider, created in 1997, set a new record for the French-American artist when it sold for $32 million (£25.2m) in May. Not only that, but it is the second-highest auction price paid for a work by a female artist, after Georgia O'Keeffe, whose painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 achieved $44.4 million (£35m) in 2014.
Another record-breaking sale this year was a silkscreen work, Buffalo II, completed in 1964 by artist Robert Rauschenberg. It sold for an enormous $88.8 million (£69.7m) in May. The artwork was estimated at $50 million ($39m) but surpassed that mark quickly during a 20-minute bidding war.
Believe it or not, this 3-foot tall stainless-steel rabbit sold for a record-breaking $91.1 million (£70.8m) in May. The sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons broke the record for the most expensive work by a living artist ever sold at auction. The previous record was set only last year at $90.3 million (£70.2m) with a work by British painter David Hockney. Koons completed Rabbit in 1986 and it is thought to have been inspired by an inflatable toy.
At a Christie’s auction in New York, a collection of royal Indian jewellery sold for a grand total of $109.3 million (£87.1m) in June. Included in the collection of 400 objects were: a ceremonial sword of the Nizams of Hyderabad, which set a new world record for an Indian sword; a jade-hilted dagger of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan; and a bejewelled medieval huqqa (a type of smoking pipe). In a statement, Christie’s said it was “the highest total for any auction of Indian art and Mughal objects, and the second highest auction total for a private jewellery collection”. Pictured is an enamelled and gem-set model of a parrot from the collection, which sold for just over $1 million (£776k).
Take a look at these amazingly valuable treasures bought for very little money
Meules by Claude Monet sold for a record-breaking $110.7 million (£86.8m) in May. Not only was this the first time an Impressionist painting sold at an auction for more than $100 million, but it is a record for the artist himself. It was last auctioned in 1986 and fetched just $2.5 million. The artist finished this painting in the late 1800s as part of his Haystack series, which depict different scenes during the harvest season. Famous for the different lights and atmosphere Monet captured, Meules was fought over by bidders for eight minutes before selling for the record-breaking sum.
This June the British-American auction house Sotheby's announced a surprise sale – it was being bought by French telecoms billionaire and art collector Patrick Drahi (pictured) in a deal worth $3.7 billion (£2.9bn). That's the equivalent of $57 (£45) per share of the house's stock – a staggering 61% premium on Sotheby's closing price on 14 June. It's not the first time a French billionaire has purchased an auction house: Sotheby's main rival Christie's was bought by luxury goods billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault in 1998.
Now take a look at the biggest treasure finds of 2019