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13 Quirkiest Items That Sold for Millions at Auctions

From royal undies to a banana duct-taped to a wall, here are some really strange things that have fetched major moolah at auctions.

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Holding a auction paddle

People buy the strangest things

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that certainly rings true for people who have spent tons of cash on some really odd things. Here, we round up the weirdest, and a few of the coolest, things people have paid big money for. Have a look and see if you would have done the same! Do you have anything worth selling? If any of these things are in your attic, you might be sitting on a gold mine.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by RHONA WISE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10492891h) Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's piece 'Comedian' (a banana duct taped to the wall) is shown during Art Basel in Miami, Florida, USA, 05 December 2019. Art Basel represents over 250 art galleries onsite at the Miami Beach Convention Center and is considered one of the world's largest art festivals with art events throughout the city. Art Basel, Miami, USA - 05 Dec 2019

A banana taped to a wall

It’s hard to say what is art anymore. One may think of the Mona Lisa, while another might value, say, a banana duct-taped to a wall. We’re not being cute. That is literally what someone bought at the Art Basel art fair in Miami recently. Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s controversial piece (said banana duct-taped to a wall), titled Comedian, sold for a whopping $120,000. The point of the piece, said the gallerist who sold the pricey fruit, was to question what “art” is. Looks like someone found the piece rather a-peeling, after all. If art’s your thing, check out the 13 strangest unsolved mysteries of the art world.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bournemouth News/Shutterstock (3245064f) The violin and its case Violin played as Titanic sank sells for £900,000, Wiltshire, Britain - 20 Oct 2013 The historic violin that was famously played as the Titanic sank has been sold at auction in Wiltshire for £900,000. The wooden instrument has been proven to be the one used by Wallace Hartley as his band famously played on to help keep the passengers calm during the disaster. Its existence and survival only emerged in 2006 when the son of an amateur violinist who was gifted it by her music teacher in the early 1940s contacted an auctioneers. It had taken seven years for the Devizes auction house, Henry Aldridge & Son, to authenticate the instrument. Several experts were used, including forensic scientists who said the wood still contained salt deposits from the sea water. It is said that the violin survived because it was in a leather case strapped to Mr Harley's body. The new owner of the instrument has remained anonymous but is believed to be British.
Bournemouth News/Shutterstock

The last violin played on the Titanic

One of the most memorable tales from the tragic sinking of the Titanic is the eight-piece band that played until the end. Led by English musician Wallace Hartley, the band played their instruments as the ship sank into the frozen waters of the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to help soothe scared passengers. According to CNN, “Hartley’s body was reportedly pulled from the water days after the April 1912 sinking with his violin case still strapped to his back.” More than a century later, in 2013, Hartley’s damaged violin was sold at an auction for $1.7 million in less than 10 minutes. It is the most expensive artifact linked to the doomed ship. Don’t miss these 10 fascinating facts you never knew about the Titanic.

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Exclusive - Premium Rates Apply. Call your Account Manager for pricing. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matthew Ford/Shutterstock (977414s) Harry Potter Chair decorated by JK Rowling Chair on which JK Rowling sat when writing Harry Potter to be auctioned on ebay, Devon, Britain - Jul 2009
Matthew Ford/Shutterstock

J.K. Rowling’s chair

Talk about a conversation starter! The chair that the author J.K. Rowling sat in as she wrote her first two Harry Potter books was sold at auction in 2016 for $394,000. According to the Guardian, the well-worn oak chair was accompanied by a letter from Rowling herself that read: “Dear new-owner-of-my-chair / I was given four mismatched dining room chairs in 1995 and this was the comfiest one, which is why it ended up stationed permanently in front of my typewriter, supporting me while I typed out Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. / My nostalgic side is quite sad to see it go, but my back isn’t. / JK Rowling.” Love Harry Potter? Only die-hard Harry Potter fans can ace this quiz.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (524008o) 'Frost on Saturday' TV programme - John Lennon - 24 Aug 1968 JOHN LENNON

John Lennon’s toilet

Imagine all the ways you can spend your money…and then think about this. One Beatles fan spent nearly $15,000 on a flowered porcelain toilet once owned by John Lennon. The luxe loo came from an English estate owned by Lennon and Yoko Ono. When Lennon had the toilet replaced, he told the builders “to put some flowers in it or something,” according to the auction catalog. The estate, Tittenhurst Park, was where Lennon recorded his legendary Imagine album and film. Hopefully, the toilet was as inspiring to its new owner!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/Shutterstock (7039790b) Alexandra Kim, curator of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, holds a pair of bloomers which once belonged to Britain's Queen Victoria, as she poses for the photographer at Kensington Palace, in central London, . The underwear, which has a 56-inch (142-centimeter) waist, has been added to Britain's Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace. It has a matching chemise, is embroidered with a "VR" and is believed to date from the 1890s BRITAIN VICTORIAS BLOOMERS, LONDON, Gbr Xen
Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/Shutterstock

Queen Victoria’s undies

And speaking of bathroom inspiration, cotton knickers owned by Queen Victoria (Queen Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother) sold in 2015 for $16,300. Embroidered with her royal initials, “VR” for Victoria Regina, the undies were in pristine shape, having been wrapped in tissue and kept in a temperature-controlled room. There was something unique about these roomy drawers, which boasted a 45-inch drawstring waist. “On these particular knickers, there is a chevron section, which is where they were taken up slightly as Queen Victoria got older and essentially she shrunk in stature,” auctioneer Richard Edmonds told People.com. “That element got the collectors really excited, because you can then date them quite specifically to the last 10 years of her life.” If you’re fascinated by all things royal, check out these 50 things you didn’t know about the British royal family.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Peter Brooker/Shutterstock (1755267a) Elvis Presley hair clipping 'Music Icons' auction by Juliens, Los Angeles, America - 22 Jun 2012
Peter Brooker/Shutterstock

A lock of Elvis Presley’s hair

A hunka, chunka hair from the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, sold for $115,000 to an eager fan back in 2002. Saved from his barber, who also used to dye his sandy-blonde hair jet black, the trimmings had been kept in a plastic bag since the singer’s death in 1977, until they were sold for a king’s ransom. Other big-ticket Elvis items that sold at auction include his 24-carat gold-leaf grand piano; his peacock jumpsuit; and one of his very first recordings of a song called “My Happiness,” which was bought by White Stripes musician Jack White. If you’re a fan, you won’t want to miss these rarely seen vintage photos of Elvis.

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Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Profiles In History/Shutterstock (1350453b) The famous white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the film 'The Seven Year Itch' has sold for $4.6million (£2.8m) White dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in film 'The Seven Year Itch' sells for $4.6million, Los Angeles, America - Jun 2011 The famous white dress designed by William Travilla and worn by Marilyn Monroe in the film 'The Seven Year Itch' has sold for USD 4.6million (GBP 2.8m) at an auction in Beverly Hills. The dress in question helped the blonde bombshell secure star status thanks to a scene that saw a gust of wind from a subway grate send it billowing upwards. It had been expected to sell for under USD 2 million but eventually sold for USD 4,520,000.
Profiles In History/Shutterstock

Marilyn Monroe’s white dress

It was the dress that launched a thousand gasps. Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white halter dress, which she wore in The Seven Year Itch, sold in 2011 for a whopping $4.6 million. The dress—which was famously blown up while she stood over a subway grate—made Monroe a certified sex symbol. It also made actress Debbie Reynolds some major bucks when she sold it. Reynolds, the iconic star of Singing in the Rain (and also Carrie Fisher’s mom), was a huge collector of vintage Hollywood gowns, and Marilyn’s made her a pretty penny. Next, read about the story behind Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock (10310162ak) Justin Timberlake Songwriters Hall of Fame Annual Induction and Awards Gala, Arrivals, Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York, USA - 13 Jun 2019
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Justin Timberlake’s leftover French toast

Twenty years ago, a young band member from NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, was interviewed by the Z100 morning show in New York City when he left some of his uneaten French toast behind. The station’s DJ jokingly put two slices of it for sale on eBay, where it was sold to a teenage girl named Kathy Summers for $1,025. When asked what she would do with the leftover and slightly burned toast, the teen fan said, “I’ll probably freeze-dry it, then seal it…then put it on my dresser.” Mmmm…a wise investment, indeed.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ray Tang/Shutterstock (1686251af) Installation by Damien Hirst titled 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (1991) Damien Hirst exhibition, Tate Modern, London, Britain - 02 Apr 2012
Ray Tang/Shutterstock

A dead shark in formaldehyde

Weird art always seems to sell well and big. (See slide one.) But a piece by British contemporary artist Damien Hirst really takes the shark. Hirst is known for his obsession with death, seen in his high-priced and macabre styles of art. In 2004, he sold a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, for a reported $8 million. The 22-ton shark, which is obviously dead but kept scarily preserved, embodies life, death, and just what its title aptly describes.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10306209a) Albert Einstein, German theoretical physicist in 1931. Photo taken during Einsteins third trip to the U.S., in Pasadena, California, by E. Willard Spurr Historical Collection
Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Albert Einstein’s theory on happiness

A Japanese bellboy received the tip of a lifetime when he made a delivery to physicist Albert Einstein in 1922. Einstein was in Tokyo on a book tour when he found out he’d won the Nobel Prize. Overwhelmed by the honor and attention, Einstein put some of his thoughts to paper, which he gave the bellboy when he couldn’t find change for a tip. “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness,” Einstein wrote in German on a piece of hotel stationery, according to the New York Times. On the second paper, he wrote, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The two papers, his take on happiness, sold at a 2017 auction in Israel for $1.56 million and $250,000, respectively. For a more budget-friendly way to put a smile on your face, try these 24 things happy people do every day.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock (10227515c) Rabbit" by Jeff Koons is displayed during a media preview at Christie's in New York, . This sculpture along with other artworks will be sold in series of auctions starting on May 13, 2019 Auction Jeff Koons, New York, USA - 03 May 2019
Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

A giant steel rabbit

And we’re back with some really expensive art. A three-foot stainless steel rabbit created by the artist Jeff Koons in 1986 sold at auction in 2019 for the breathtaking price of $91 million. It went to Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and it set the world-record price for a work by a living artist. The rabbit is considered one of the most iconic works of art of the 20th century, and a blow-up version of it appeared in the Macy’s Day parade in 2007. The work has influenced generations of artists, even the aforementioned Damien Hirst. And on a funny side note, when Koons was deciding on what animal to sculpt a likeness of, he almost chose a pig. It seems like the bunny paid off. Next, check out these vintage old computers that could be worth a fortune.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Lent/AP/Shutterstock (6651421a) Watchf Associated Press APHS60460 TRUMAN CAPOTE Author Truman Capote is shown in New York on TRUMAN CAPOTE, NEW YORK, USA
John Lent/AP/Shutterstock

Truman Capote’s ashes

The author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood certainly did love an adventure, and so maybe it’s not that big of a surprise that his ashes continue to have a life of their own. Housed in a Japanese wooden box, the writer’s remains belonged to Capote’s longtime friend Joanne Carson—ex-wife of the famed late-night talk-show host Johnny Carson—until her death in 2015. (Capote died in 1984.) The ashes have had quite a ride, having been stolen once before and luckily returned, until they were finally sold for $45,000 in 2016, to an anonymous buyer who promised: “that Truman will continue his adventures.” Check out these true crime books that will keep you up at night.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock (6518428a) GARIPOLI Marisa Garipoli, of New York's American Museum of Natural History, views 2 of 72 pages of Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester on display at the facility, . The manuscript, which is on loan from Bill Gates, covers a wide variety of topics, from astronomy to hydrodynamics and includes Leonardo's observations and theories related to rivers and seas; properties of water; fossils; air; and celestial light LEONARDO'S EXHIBIT, NEW YORK, USA
Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester

While most people associate Leonardo da Vinci with his paintings, like The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, da Vinci was also a scientist and engineer whose notes about inventions and thoughts on the planet (its origin and end) were captured in a journal titled the “Codex Leicester.” In 1994, Bill Gates purchased the journal for $30.8 million at auction, a price that made it one of the most expensive books ever sold. Da Vinci’s ideas and musings in the Codex are written in his famous mirrored cursive writing, and it’s currently on loan to museums and schools across the country. Next, read through this list of rare books worth a fortune.

Robyn Moreno
Robyn Moreno is former editor-in-chief and co-president of Latina Media Ventures, an Emmy-nominated TV host, a keynote speaker and the author of two lifestyle books, Borderline Personalities and Practically Posh. She has interviewed powerhouse women from Rihanna to Latina activist Dolores Huerta, Jennifer Lopez to Hillary Clinton, and is working on a new book and podcast, Finding My Magic. A certified yoga teacher and life coach, she lives in Cold Spring, New York, with her spirited daughters and her hubby, Sven.