Collectibles

Top 100 highlights of the 2021 auction year

Top 100 highlights of the 2021 auction year
Our annual highlights of the auction year reached a crescendo in this post-2021 coverage - the most explosive growth, the most ridiculous lots, and dozens of examples of the most expensive items in history ... not to mention the most bizarre lots we've yet seen. The most intriguing of them all was the sale by tender of (most of) the cars from the 2015 movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Our annual highlights of the auction year reached a crescendo in this post-2021 coverage - the most explosive growth, the most ridiculous lots, and dozens of examples of the most expensive items in history ... not to mention the most bizarre lots we've yet seen. The most intriguing of them all was the sale by tender of (most of) the cars from the 2015 movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
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"The Auction" (1958) by Laurence Stephen Lowry, sold for £2,556,000 ($3,418,650) at Sotheby’s on 23 November 2021
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"The Auction" (1958) by Laurence Stephen Lowry, sold for £2,556,000 ($3,418,650) at Sotheby’s on 23 November 2021

This six litre bottle of The Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $1,000,000 during the 19th annual fundraising weekend of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in New Orleans (5-6 November 2021)
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This six litre bottle of The Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $1,000,000 during the 19th annual fundraising weekend of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in New Orleans (5-6 November 2021)
The most expensive astrolabe of 2021 was made around 1336-37 AD by a previously unknown craftsman. The quality, however, was first class and it sold for £741,000 ($1,019,838) at Sotheby’s on 31 March 2021
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The most expensive astrolabe of 2021 was made around 1336-37 AD by a previously unknown craftsman. The quality, however, was first class and it sold for £741,000 ($1,019,838) at Sotheby’s on 31 March 2021
This 1927 Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix sold for $1,000,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021 even though its price guidelines of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 were more indicative of the value of the 95-year-old Grand Prix car which swept all before it in its day.
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This 1927 Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix sold for $1,000,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021 even though its price guidelines of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 were more indicative of the value of the 95-year-old Grand Prix car which swept all before it in its day.
This copy of Plato's "Opera" sold for $1,026,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021
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This copy of Plato's "Opera" sold for $1,026,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021
This copy of "The North American Indian" (1907-1930) by Edward S. Curtis sold for $1,080,000 at Santa Fe Art Auction on 6 November 2021
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This copy of "The North American Indian" (1907-1930) by Edward S. Curtis sold for $1,080,000 at Santa Fe Art Auction on 6 November 2021
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Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. As his personal protection weapon it sold for $1,040,600 at Witherells on 8 October 2021
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Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. As his personal protection weapon it sold for $1,040,600 at Witherells on 8 October 2021
This Microscope D'epoque Louis XV sold for €1,016,000 ($1,143,000) at Christie's on 23 November 2021
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This Microscope D'epoque Louis XV sold for €1,016,000 ($1,143,000) at Christie's on 23 November 2021
"Untitled (Campbell's Soup Can)" by Andy Warhol was 320 x 200 pixel digital artwork created on a Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels and sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 27 May 2021
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"Untitled (Campbell's Soup Can)" by Andy Warhol was 320 x 200 pixel digital artwork created on a Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels and sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 27 May 2021
This first edition of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 14 September 2021, breaking the auction record for a printed work by a woman that had been set by Bonhams in 2008, when a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel “Emma" sold for £180,000.
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This first edition of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 14 September 2021, breaking the auction record for a printed work by a woman that had been set by Bonhams in 2008, when a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel “Emma" sold for £180,000.
Two of the signature Bicorne beaverskin hats worn by Emperor Napoleon I went to auction in 2021, no doubt because it was the 200th anniversary of his death. The more expensive of the two was worn during the Winter campaign of 1806-1807 and sold for €1,222,500 ($1,432,770) at Sotheby's on 22 September 2021
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Two of the signature Bicorne beaverskin hats worn by Emperor Napoleon I went to auction in 2021, no doubt because it was the 200th anniversary of his death. The more expensive of the two was worn during the Winter campaign of 1806-1807 and sold for €1,222,500 ($1,432,770) at Sotheby's on 22 September 2021
Charles Minard’s Flow Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812
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Charles Minard’s Flow Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812
Napoleon wore this hat during his epic march on Moscow in 1812, which was captured perfectly by Charles Minard’s Flow Map of the Russian Campaign - one of the most ingenious information graphics in history. We have a full-sized copy of the map here and it is well worth a look - the width of the columns running to and from Moscow is a representation of the size of his army. The painting is by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier and portrays Napoleon returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon in 1814.
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Napoleon wore this hat during his epic march on Moscow in 1812, which was captured perfectly by Charles Minard’s Flow Map of the Russian Campaign - one of the most ingenious information graphics in history. We have a full-sized copy of the map here and it is well worth a look - the width of the columns running to and from Moscow is a representation of the size of his army. The painting is by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier and portrays Napoleon returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon in 1814.
This Pink Gold 1948 Patek Philippe World Time pocket watch is one of only four known. It sold for CHF 1,170,000 ($1,299,856) at Christie's on 10 May 2021
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This Pink Gold 1948 Patek Philippe World Time pocket watch is one of only four known. It sold for CHF 1,170,000 ($1,299,856) at Christie's on 10 May 2021
The Leica MP is among the rarest Leica models of all time. This Leica MP black paint no.55 is one of just 412 units made and sold for €1,200,000 ($1,354,320) at Leitz Photographica on 20 November 2021
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The Leica MP is among the rarest Leica models of all time. This Leica MP black paint no.55 is one of just 412 units made and sold for €1,200,000 ($1,354,320) at Leitz Photographica on 20 November 2021
This Super Mario 64 (Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed) N64 Nintendo 1996 sold for $1,560,000 at Heritage Auctions on 11 July 2021, becoming the most expensive video game in the world.
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This Super Mario 64 (Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed) N64 Nintendo 1996 sold for $1,560,000 at Heritage Auctions on 11 July 2021, becoming the most expensive video game in the world.

2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package sold for $1,600,000 at RM-Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
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2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package sold for $1,600,000 at RM-Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
This Japanese Hishi Oban (10 Ryo) was the world's largest gold coin when it was minted circa 1588, measuring 145.63 x 85.17 mm and weighing in at 165.83 grams. It sold for $1,920,000 at Stack's Bowers on 6 April 2021
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This Japanese Hishi Oban (10 Ryo) was the world's largest gold coin when it was minted circa 1588, measuring 145.63 x 85.17 mm and weighing in at 165.83 grams. It sold for $1,920,000 at Stack's Bowers on 6 April 2021

This 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 is one of seven made, one of which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10 kilometers below sea level, on the outside of the deep-diving research bathyscaphe “Trieste” and continued to function flawlessly.It sold for CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513) at Christie's on 8 November 2021
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This 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 is one of seven made, one of which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10 kilometers below sea level, on the outside of the deep-diving research bathyscaphe “Trieste” and continued to function flawlessly.It sold for CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513) at Christie's on 8 November 2021
The muscular side profile of the 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 gives a hint of why it was able to submerge 10,915 metres (35,810 ft) and continue to work flawlessly. At that depth, it experienced a pressure of 1,150 atm or 1,150 kgs per cm2.
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The muscular side profile of the 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 gives a hint of why it was able to submerge 10,915 metres (35,810 ft) and continue to work flawlessly. At that depth, it experienced a pressure of 1,150 atm or 1,150 kgs per cm2.
This autograph manuscript of revisions to the first edition of Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica" sold for £1,702,500 ($2,344,513) at Christie's on 8 July 2021
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This autograph manuscript of revisions to the first edition of Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica" sold for £1,702,500 ($2,344,513) at Christie's on 8 July 2021

"Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse" (2021) by Refik Anadol sold for HK$18,325,000 ($2,353,113) at Sotheby's on 4 October 2021
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"Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse" (2021) by Refik Anadol sold for HK$18,325,000 ($2,353,113) at Sotheby's on 4 October 2021
The 1979 Porsche 928 that was driven by Tom Cruise in the movie "Risky Business", sold for $1,980,000 at Barrett-Jackson on 18 September 2021
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The 1979 Porsche 928 that was driven by Tom Cruise in the movie "Risky Business", sold for $1,980,000 at Barrett-Jackson on 18 September 2021

This 400-year-old Elephant Automaton Clock sold for $2,610,000 ($2,610,000) at Christie's on 13 October 2021
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This 400-year-old Elephant Automaton Clock sold for $2,610,000 ($2,610,000) at Christie's on 13 October 2021
Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47) as an NFT at Valuables on 7 March, with Dorsey immediately donating the money to charity
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Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47) as an NFT at Valuables on 7 March, with Dorsey immediately donating the money to charity

This "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stillborn movie sold for €2,660,000 ($3,002,076) at Christie's on 22 November 2021
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This "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stillborn movie sold for €2,660,000 ($3,002,076) at Christie's on 22 November 2021

This magnificent Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms by Nicolas-Noel Boutet is among the most significant set of arms from the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars in private hands. It was sold for $2,875,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 3 December 2021
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This magnificent Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms by Nicolas-Noel Boutet is among the most significant set of arms from the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars in private hands. It was sold for $2,875,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 3 December 2021
This copy of Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) - the first appearance of "Superman" - sold for $3,250,000 at ComicConnect.com on 4 April 2021 to become the world's most expensive comic book ... for a few months
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This copy of Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) - the first appearance of "Superman" - sold for $3,250,000 at ComicConnect.com on 4 April 2021 to become the world's most expensive comic book ... for a few months

"The Auction" (1958) by Laurence Stephen Lowry, sold for £2,556,000 ($3,418,650) at Sotheby’s on 23 November 2021
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"The Auction" (1958) by Laurence Stephen Lowry, sold for £2,556,000 ($3,418,650) at Sotheby’s on 23 November 2021

This copy of "Amazing Fantasy #15" (Marvel, 1962) was the first appearance of Spider-Man. It sold for $3,600,000 at Heritage Auctions on 9 September 2021, deposing Action Comics #1 as the world's most valuable comic for the first time in history.
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This copy of "Amazing Fantasy #15" (Marvel, 1962) was the first appearance of Spider-Man. It sold for $3,600,000 at Heritage Auctions on 9 September 2021, deposing Action Comics #1 as the world's most valuable comic for the first time in history.
This 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3,750,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 May 2021, becoming the world’s most expensive Hockey Trading Card
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This 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3,750,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 May 2021, becoming the world’s most expensive Hockey Trading Card
This elaborate 15th Century shirt of chain mail and plate armour from the Janissary Arsenal in Istanbul sold for $2,300,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 5 December 2021
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This elaborate 15th Century shirt of chain mail and plate armour from the Janissary Arsenal in Istanbul sold for $2,300,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 5 December 2021
NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden sold his first NFT this year, creating a mosaic from the paperwork of the 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision which ruled illegal the NSA mass surveillance Snowden first exposed. Entitled “Stay Free” the NFT sold for 2,224 ETH ($5,500,000) on foundation.app and Snowden donated the entire amount to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
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NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden sold his first NFT this year, creating a mosaic from the paperwork of the 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision which ruled illegal the NSA mass surveillance Snowden first exposed. Entitled “Stay Free” the NFT sold for 2,224 ETH ($5,500,000) on foundation.app and Snowden donated the entire amount to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned the original Source Code for the World Wide Web into an NFT and sold it for $5,434,500 at Sotheby's on 30 June 2021
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Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned the original Source Code for the World Wide Web into an NFT and sold it for $5,434,500 at Sotheby's on 30 June 2021
This splendid Chinese Quarter Striking Musical Table Clock with automaton waterfalls, spinning flowers and acrobat was made between 230 and 300 years ago. It sold for HK$35,000,000 ($5,489,050) at Poly Auction in Beijing on 5 December 2021
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This splendid Chinese Quarter Striking Musical Table Clock with automaton waterfalls, spinning flowers and acrobat was made between 230 and 300 years ago. It sold for HK$35,000,000 ($5,489,050) at Poly Auction in Beijing on 5 December 2021
This Imperial Lianzhu-Style Qin sold for RMB 38,000,000 ($5,959,540) at Polyauction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the front and back of the same Qinglong Period, Qing Dynasty (1745) instrument.
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This Imperial Lianzhu-Style Qin sold for RMB 38,000,000 ($5,959,540) at Polyauction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the front and back of the same Qinglong Period, Qing Dynasty (1745) instrument.

The Colt Single Action Army Revolver that Pat Garrett used to kill “Billy The Kid” sold for $6,030,312 at Bonhams on 27 August 2021
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The Colt Single Action Army Revolver that Pat Garrett used to kill “Billy The Kid” sold for $6,030,312 at Bonhams on 27 August 2021
This 2021 Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A-018 “Tiffany Blue” sold for $6,503,500 at Phillips on 12 December 2021
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This 2021 Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A-018 “Tiffany Blue” sold for $6,503,500 at Phillips on 12 December 2021
The 2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1 car that was driven to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix sold for £4,730,000 ($6,511,791) at an RM-Sotheby's single-car auction on 17 July 2021.
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The 2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1 car that was driven to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix sold for £4,730,000 ($6,511,791) at an RM-Sotheby's single-car auction on 17 July 2021.
This 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card sold for $6,606,296 at Robert Edwards Auctions on 15 August 2021, becoming the most valuable baseball card in history (again)
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This 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card sold for $6,606,296 at Robert Edwards Auctions on 15 August 2021, becoming the most valuable baseball card in history (again)
The PWCC Trading Card Marketplace tracks the prices of a selected group of cards to produce the PWC 100, PWC 500 and PWC 2500 Vintage Trading Card Indices.
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The PWCC Trading Card Marketplace tracks the prices of a selected group of cards to produce the PWC 100, PWC 500 and PWC 2500 Vintage Trading Card Indices.
The world's largest known Triceratops skeleton sold for €6,651,100 ($7,494,459) at Binoche et Giquello on 26 October 2021
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The world's largest known Triceratops skeleton sold for €6,651,100 ($7,494,459) at Binoche et Giquello on 26 October 2021

This 1953 Patek Philippe Two-Crown Worldtime Ref. 2523 with Eurasia dial sold for CHF 7,048,000 ($7,828,502) at Phillips on 8 May 2021
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This 1953 Patek Philippe Two-Crown Worldtime Ref. 2523 with Eurasia dial sold for CHF 7,048,000 ($7,828,502) at Phillips on 8 May 2021

The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta postage stamp sold for $8,307,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
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The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta postage stamp sold for $8,307,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
The winner of the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Matra MS670 sports car sold for €6,907,200 ($8,321,795) at Artcurial on 5 February 2021
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The winner of the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Matra MS670 sports car sold for €6,907,200 ($8,321,795) at Artcurial on 5 February 2021
This 17th-Century Chinese Imperial "Huanghuali" Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021
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This 17th-Century Chinese Imperial "Huanghuali" Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021

This 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato sold for $9,520,000 at RM Sotheby's on 12 August 2021
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This 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato sold for $9,520,000 at RM Sotheby's on 12 August 2021

The 1787 DBLN New York-Style Brasher Doubloon has been the subject of several feature movies and has retained its mystique for hundreds of years. It sold for $9,360,000 at Heritage Auctions on 21 January 2021
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The 1787 DBLN New York-Style Brasher Doubloon has been the subject of several feature movies and has retained its mystique for hundreds of years. It sold for $9,360,000 at Heritage Auctions on 21 January 2021
This pink gold 1948 Patek Philippe Reference 1518 sold for $9,570,900 ($9,570,900) at Sotheby's on 9 December 2021
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This pink gold 1948 Patek Philippe Reference 1518 sold for $9,570,900 ($9,570,900) at Sotheby's on 9 December 2021
This 2021 Patek Philippe Complicated desk clock Ref. 27001M-001, sold for CHF 9,500,000 ($10,416,667) at Christie's "Only Watch" Charity auction on 6 November 2021
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This 2021 Patek Philippe Complicated desk clock Ref. 27001M-001, sold for CHF 9,500,000 ($10,416,667) at Christie's "Only Watch" Charity auction on 6 November 2021
This 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California LWB sold for $10,840,000 at Gooding & Co on 13 August 2021
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This 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California LWB sold for $10,840,000 at Gooding & Co on 13 August 2021
Leonardo da Vinci's "Head of a Bear" sold for £8,857,500 ($12,197,663) at Christie's on 8 July 2021. Please note that the image at left above is a blow up of the sketch - it is only 2 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches (7 x 7 cm) in size. The right side of the image showing the human and the framed sketch, is in per
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Leonardo da Vinci's "Head of a Bear" sold for £8,857,500 ($12,197,663) at Christie's on 8 July 2021. Please note that the image at left above is a blow up of the sketch - it is only 2 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches (7 x 7 cm) in size. The right side of the image showing the human and the framed sketch, is in perspective.

A rare surviving autograph scientific manuscript from Albert Einstein and Michele Besso sold for €13,383,000 ($15,055,875) at Christie's on 23 November 2021
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A rare surviving autograph scientific manuscript from Albert Einstein and Michele Besso sold for €13,383,000 ($15,055,875) at Christie's on 23 November 2021

The 1933 Double Eagle sold for $18,872,250 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
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The 1933 Double Eagle sold for $18,872,250 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
The most expensive car sold in 2021 was this 1995 McLaren F1 that sold for $20,465,000 at Gooding & Co on 13 August 2021
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The most expensive car sold in 2021 was this 1995 McLaren F1 that sold for $20,465,000 at Gooding & Co on 13 August 2021

Dr. Thomas Newman was a humble dentist who collected baseball cards all his life. With the dramatic rise in the value of baseball cards of recent times, his hobby netted his estate a total $21,500,000 at Memory Lane on 10 July 2021
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Dr. Thomas Newman was a humble dentist who collected baseball cards all his life. With the dramatic rise in the value of baseball cards of recent times, his hobby netted his estate a total $21,500,000 at Memory Lane on 10 July 2021
"Love is in the Bin" by Banksy sold for £18,582,000 ($25,449,907) at Sotheby’s on 14 October 2021.
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"Love is in the Bin" by Banksy sold for £18,582,000 ($25,449,907) at Sotheby’s on 14 October 2021.
This Marble Figure of the Capitoline Aphrodite, Roman Imperial, 1st/2nd Century A.D. sold for £18,582,000 ($24,619,292) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021
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This Marble Figure of the Capitoline Aphrodite, Roman Imperial, 1st/2nd Century A.D. sold for £18,582,000 ($24,619,292) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021

The auction of a seat on Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship was held on 13 June 2021 with crypto pioneer Justin Sun paying $28 million. Sun, who won a similar opportunity/experience auction in 2019 by paying $4.6 million to have lunch with Warren Buffet, immediately doubled down, and is now paying for additional seats so he can take people with him. Love him or hate him, you have to admire Justin's chutzpah.
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The auction of a seat on Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship was held on 13 June 2021 with crypto pioneer Justin Sun paying $28 million. Sun, who won a similar opportunity/experience auction in 2019 by paying $4.6 million to have lunch with Warren Buffet, immediately doubled down, and is now paying for additional seats so he can take people with him. Love him or hate him, you have to admire Justin's chutzpah.




Justin Sun tweeted on 23 December, “So I’m very excited to announce this news and turn this opportunity into a voyage with 5 other warriors to space with me because I believe that space belongs to everyone!"
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Justin Sun tweeted on 23 December, “So I’m very excited to announce this news and turn this opportunity into a voyage with 5 other warriors to space with me because I believe that space belongs to everyone!"
Project Y910" is a 120-Meter Luxury Mega Yacht from Fincantieri Shipyards, Trieste, Italy. It was due to sell in December, but bidding has now been extended for another 90 days. It would have sold if someone had met the $25,000,000 asking price but it is now for sale in a "no reserve" auction at Concierge Auctions and we've kept it in the listing because it helps to give the diverse lots some perspective.
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Project Y910" is a 120-Meter Luxury Mega Yacht from Fincantieri Shipyards, Trieste, Italy. It was due to sell in December, but bidding has now been extended for another 90 days. It would have sold if someone had met the $25,000,000 asking price but it is now for sale in a "no reserve" auction at Concierge Auctions and we've kept it in the listing because it helps to give the diverse lots some perspective.
"The Sakura Diamond," a 15.81-carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond ring sold for HK$223,412,500 ($28,775,530) at Christie's on 23 May 2021
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"The Sakura Diamond," a 15.81-carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond ring sold for HK$223,412,500 ($28,775,530) at Christie's on 23 May 2021
This Yangcai Ruby-Ground with Carved Open-Work ‘Phoenix Scene’ Revolving Vase sold for RMB 265,650,000 ($41,547,660) at Polyauction Beijing on 7 June 2021 becoming the most expensive ceramic in history
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This Yangcai Ruby-Ground with Carved Open-Work ‘Phoenix Scene’ Revolving Vase sold for RMB 265,650,000 ($41,547,660) at Polyauction Beijing on 7 June 2021 becoming the most expensive ceramic in history
"Everydays: The First 5000 Days" by Beeple sold for $69,346,250 at Christie's on 12 March 2021 to become the most valuable NFT sold to that point in time. It has since been surpassed in price, but this ridiculously large jpeg/nft might one day be viewed in the same light as the Roman Imperial Capitoline Aphrodite that sold for £18,582,000 ($24,619,292) in 2021. It is most certainly the point at which the public at large began taking NFTs seriously.
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"Everydays: The First 5000 Days" by Beeple sold for $69,346,250 at Christie's on 12 March 2021 to become the most valuable NFT sold to that point in time. It has since been surpassed in price, but this ridiculously large jpeg/nft might one day be viewed in the same light as the Roman Imperial Capitoline Aphrodite that sold for £18,582,000 ($24,619,292) in 2021. It is most certainly the point at which the public at large began taking NFTs seriously.
“Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès” by Vincent Van Gogh sold for $71,350,000 at Christie's on 11 November 2021
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“Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès” by Vincent Van Gogh sold for $71,350,000 at Christie's on 11 November 2021
"Le Nez" by Alberto Giacometti sold for $78,396,000 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021, becoming the most valuable sculpture sold in 2021
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"Le Nez" by Alberto Giacometti sold for $78,396,000 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021, becoming the most valuable sculpture sold in 2021
"No. 7" by Mark Rothko sold for $82,468,500 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021
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"No. 7" by Mark Rothko sold for $82,468,500 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021
"Merge" by Pak sold for $91,806,519 at Nifty Gateway on 4 December 2021, becoming the most valuable NFT of 2021 and the most valuable NFT sold to date
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"Merge" by Pak sold for $91,806,519 at Nifty Gateway on 4 December 2021, becoming the most valuable NFT of 2021 and the most valuable NFT sold to date
"Portrait of a young man holding a roundel" by Alessandro di Mariano Filipep (called Sandro Botticelli | 1444/5 – 1510) sold for $92,184,000 at Christie's on 28 January 2021
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"Portrait of a young man holding a roundel" by Alessandro di Mariano Filipep (called Sandro Botticelli | 1444/5 – 1510) sold for $92,184,000 at Christie's on 28 January 2021
"In This Case" by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $93,105,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
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"In This Case" by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $93,105,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
"Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)" by Pablo Picasso sold for $103,410,000 at Christie's on 13 May 2021
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"Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)" by Pablo Picasso sold for $103,410,000 at Christie's on 13 May 2021
The Cox Collection sold for $332,031,500 at Christie's on 11 November 2021
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The Cox Collection sold for $332,031,500 at Christie's on 11 November 2021
That’s part of the Macklowe Collection going to auction at Sotheby’s in New York on 15 November. The painting at left behind Sotheby's hammer-wielding Oliver Barker, is “Rasterbild mit Palmen” by Sigmar Polke which fetched $21,520,250, and the next painting up (at right behind auctioneer) is “Number 17” by Jackson Pollock which fetched $61,161,000.
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That’s part of the Macklowe Collection going to auction at Sotheby’s in New York on 15 November. The painting at left behind Sotheby's hammer-wielding Oliver Barker, is “Rasterbild mit Palmen” by Sigmar Polke which fetched $21,520,250, and the next painting up (at right behind auctioneer) is “Number 17” by Jackson Pollock which fetched $61,161,000.
Measuring nearly 40 by 79 inches, "Le Bassin aux nymphéas" was created between 1917–19 and was conceived as part of Claude Monet’s series of monumental paintings depicting his beloved lily pond at his home in Giverny, France. The painting sold for $70,353,000 at Sotheby's on 12 May 2021
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Measuring nearly 40 by 79 inches, "Le Bassin aux nymphéas" was created between 1917–19 and was conceived as part of Claude Monet’s series of monumental paintings depicting his beloved lily pond at his home in Giverny, France. The painting sold for $70,353,000 at Sotheby's on 12 May 2021
This 2021 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon sold for $5,200,000 at private Audemars Piguet function on 10 April 2021
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This 2021 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon sold for $5,200,000 at private Audemars Piguet function on 10 April 2021
Alexander Hamilton's flintlock pistols and epaulettes sold for $1,150,000 at Rock Island on 14 May 2021
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Alexander Hamilton's flintlock pistols and epaulettes sold for $1,150,000 at Rock Island on 14 May 2021
The famous "Inverted Jenny" Plate Block sold for $4,860,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
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The famous "Inverted Jenny" Plate Block sold for $4,860,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021

This Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Vase from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) sold at Polyauction HK on 21 April 2021 for HK$45,600,000 ($5,873,280)
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This Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Vase from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) sold at Polyauction HK on 21 April 2021 for HK$45,600,000 ($5,873,280)
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J torpedo convertible sold for $5,725,000 at RM Sotheby's on 22 May 2021
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This 1929 Duesenberg Model J torpedo convertible sold for $5,725,000 at RM Sotheby's on 22 May 2021
This 1965 Shelby American Cobra 427 sold for $5,940,000 at Mecum on 16 January 2021
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This 1965 Shelby American Cobra 427 sold for $5,940,000 at Mecum on 16 January 2021
This 1929 Bugatti Type 35B sold for $5,615,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
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This 1929 Bugatti Type 35B sold for $5,615,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
This four-bottle 1950s Glenfiddich Collection is a "one-off collection from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959." It sold for £1,037,500 ($1,375,621) at Sotheby's on 3 December 2021
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This four-bottle 1950s Glenfiddich Collection is a "one-off collection from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959." It sold for £1,037,500 ($1,375,621) at Sotheby's on 3 December 2021
This lot consisted of 24 bottles of 1974 "Sun Flower" 53.0 abv Kweichow Moutai in an original wooden case. It sold for £1,000,000 ($1,385,800) at Sotheby's on 18 June 2021
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This lot consisted of 24 bottles of 1974 "Sun Flower" 53.0 abv Kweichow Moutai in an original wooden case. It sold for £1,000,000 ($1,385,800) at Sotheby's on 18 June 2021
From little acorns … no-one could have known just how high Michael Jordan's star would soar when he wore this jersey in 1982-83. Michael Jordan's game-worn University of North Carolina Tar Heels Jersey from his first "NCAA Player of the Year" photo shoot sold for $1,380,000 at Heritage Auctions on 7 May 2021
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From little acorns … no-one could have known just how high Michael Jordan's star would soar when he wore this jersey in 1982-83. Michael Jordan's game-worn University of North Carolina Tar Heels Jersey from his first "NCAA Player of the Year" photo shoot sold for $1,380,000 at Heritage Auctions on 7 May 2021
This 1914 Stutz Model 4E Bearcat sold for $2,920,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
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This 1914 Stutz Model 4E Bearcat sold for $2,920,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
Kobe Bryant's Rookie Season (1996-97) game-used and signed Lakers Home Jersey sold for $3,600,000 at Goldin Auctions on 22 May 2021
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Kobe Bryant's Rookie Season (1996-97) game-used and signed Lakers Home Jersey sold for $3,600,000 at Goldin Auctions on 22 May 2021

This game-used Babe Ruth baseball bat from 1916-18 sold for $1,020,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 February 2021
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This game-used Babe Ruth baseball bat from 1916-18 sold for $1,020,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 February 2021
This 1994 Bugatti Automobili EB110 SS sold for $2,755,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
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This 1994 Bugatti Automobili EB110 SS sold for $2,755,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
This cask of 30-year-old Macallan whisky, sold complete with artwork and an NFT, for $2,330,000 at Metacask on 22 October 2021. That's a new world record for a cask.
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This cask of 30-year-old Macallan whisky, sold complete with artwork and an NFT, for $2,330,000 at Metacask on 22 October 2021. That's a new world record for a cask.
This 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort sold for CHF 1,973,750 ($2,117,439) at RM Sotheby's on 17 September 2021, setting a new price record for the model.
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This 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort sold for CHF 1,973,750 ($2,117,439) at RM Sotheby's on 17 September 2021, setting a new price record for the model.
This 1992 Ferrari F40 sold for $2,892,500 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021, becoming the new price record holder for the F40 model.
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This 1992 Ferrari F40 sold for $2,892,500 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021, becoming the new price record holder for the F40 model.
This 1995 Ferrari F50 sold for $3,965,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021, setting a new record price for the model.
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This 1995 Ferrari F50 sold for $3,965,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021, setting a new record price for the model.
This 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster sold for $3,085,000 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021
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This 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster sold for $3,085,000 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021
This 2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for $3,360,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021 and achieved the highest price of any Enzo that hadn’t been owned by the global head of a major religion.
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This 2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for $3,360,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021 and achieved the highest price of any Enzo that hadn’t been owned by the global head of a major religion.
Buying whisky by the cask has massive advantages, not the least of which is that the ageing process continues, further leveraging your investment
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Buying whisky by the cask has massive advantages, not the least of which is that the ageing process continues, further leveraging your investment
"Love is in the Bin" by Banksy sold for £18,582,000 ($25,449,907) at Sotheby’s on 14 October 2021
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"Love is in the Bin" by Banksy sold for £18,582,000 ($25,449,907) at Sotheby’s on 14 October 2021
"Human One" by Beeple sold for $28,985,000 at Christie's on 9 November 2021
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"Human One" by Beeple sold for $28,985,000 at Christie's on 9 November 2021
Stuart Weitzman's "Three Treasures" Collection sold for $32,039,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
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Stuart Weitzman's "Three Treasures" Collection sold for $32,039,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
The First Printing and "Official Edition" of the final text of the United States' Constitution sold for $43,173,000 at Sotheby’s on 18 November 2021
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The First Printing and "Official Edition" of the final text of the United States' Constitution sold for $43,173,000 at Sotheby’s on 18 November 2021
This Achaemenid Gold applique of a winged bull dates from between 404 BC and 359 BC so it is at least 2380 years old. It sold for £1,402,500 ($1,853,264) at Christie's on 8 December 2021
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This Achaemenid Gold applique of a winged bull dates from between 404 BC and 359 BC so it is at least 2380 years old. It sold for £1,402,500 ($1,853,264) at Christie's on 8 December 2021

This 30cm tall bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha is from the Western Wei dynasty, dated 539 AD. It sold for HK$17,115,000 ($2,199,278) at Sotheby’s on 12 October 2021
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This 30cm tall bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha is from the Western Wei dynasty, dated 539 AD. It sold for HK$17,115,000 ($2,199,278) at Sotheby’s on 12 October 2021
This Nautilus Cup (1628) by Jacob Claesz de Grebber (Amsterdam) sold for £1,769,500 ($2,344,411) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021
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This Nautilus Cup (1628) by Jacob Claesz de Grebber (Amsterdam) sold for £1,769,500 ($2,344,411) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021

This Charles I Silver Inkstand (1639) sold for £1,942,500 ($2,675,017) at Christie's on 8 July 2021
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This Charles I Silver Inkstand (1639) sold for £1,942,500 ($2,675,017) at Christie's on 8 July 2021

"Untitled" by Keith Haring sold for $3,000,000 at Christie's on 9 March 2021
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"Untitled" by Keith Haring sold for $3,000,000 at Christie's on 9 March 2021
The main (right) image shows the package that contained the seven pieces of antique "Chen Yun Hao" Pu’er Tea Cakes (1910s) that sold for HK$8,400,000 ($1,077,804) at Poly Auction Hong Kong on 1 December 2021. At left is the one piece of "Jia Ji" Blue Label Tea Cake (1950s) sold by Sotheby's on 16 December for HK$562,000 ($77,170).
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The main (right) image shows the package that contained the seven pieces of antique "Chen Yun Hao" Pu’er Tea Cakes (1910s) that sold for HK$8,400,000 ($1,077,804) at Poly Auction Hong Kong on 1 December 2021. At left is the one piece of "Jia Ji" Blue Label Tea Cake (1950s) sold by Sotheby's on 16 December for HK$562,000 ($77,170).
"Submarine Christmas Tree" (1947) by Alexander Calder sold for £6,567,500 ($9,057,896) at Christie's on 23 March 2021
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"Submarine Christmas Tree" (1947) by Alexander Calder sold for £6,567,500 ($9,057,896) at Christie's on 23 March 2021
This Mortlock Islands mask (date unknown, Caroline Islands)sold for €9,171,000 ($10,951,091) at Christie's on 23 June 2021, becoming the most expensive headwear ever sold at auction
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This Mortlock Islands mask (date unknown, Caroline Islands)sold for €9,171,000 ($10,951,091) at Christie's on 23 June 2021, becoming the most expensive headwear ever sold at auction
This Nimba Baga Shoulder Mask (Guinea) sold for €4,700,000 ($5,612,270) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
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This Nimba Baga Shoulder Mask (Guinea) sold for €4,700,000 ($5,612,270) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
Tête Fang (Gabon) sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
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Tête Fang (Gabon) sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
“Spider V” by Louise Bourgeois sold for $5,550,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
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“Spider V” by Louise Bourgeois sold for $5,550,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
This 17th-Century Chinese "Huanghuali" Imperial Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021
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This 17th-Century Chinese "Huanghuali" Imperial Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021
“Martin, into the corner. You should be ashamed of yourself” (1989) by Martin Kippenberger sold for $9,520,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
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“Martin, into the corner. You should be ashamed of yourself” (1989) by Martin Kippenberger sold for $9,520,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
The first separate printing of the United States House of Representatives Bill of Rights sold for $1,532,500 at Sotheby's on 23 November 2021
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The first separate printing of the United States House of Representatives Bill of Rights sold for $1,532,500 at Sotheby's on 23 November 2021
This copy of “Batman #1” (DC, 1940) sold for $2,200,000 at Heritage Auctions on 14 January 2021
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This copy of “Batman #1” (DC, 1940) sold for $2,200,000 at Heritage Auctions on 14 January 2021
This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021
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This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021
This 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 sold for $1,902,500 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction on 14 August, setting a new world record for the model.
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This 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 sold for $1,902,500 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction on 14 August, setting a new world record for the model.
The Sienna Star' Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Ring sold for $3,408,000 at Sotheby's on 9 June 2021
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The Sienna Star' Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Ring sold for $3,408,000 at Sotheby's on 9 June 2021
“The Extraordinary Wine Collection of Robert Drouhin” was auctioned on 13 October 2018 at Sotheby’s New York. Just a small selection of the wines sold that day, from left to right, are: La Tache 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($297,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($558,000). Three bottles of Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti actually sold for $310,000 each that day.
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“The Extraordinary Wine Collection of Robert Drouhin” was auctioned on 13 October 2018 at Sotheby’s New York. Just a small selection of the wines sold that day, from left to right, are: La Tache 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($297,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($558,000). Three bottles of Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti actually sold for $310,000 each that day.
"Diego y yo" by Frida Kahlo sold for $34,883,000 at Sotheby's on 16 November 2021, becoming the most valuable work of art by a female in 2021
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"Diego y yo" by Frida Kahlo sold for $34,883,000 at Sotheby's on 16 November 2021, becoming the most valuable work of art by a female in 2021
The black Nike Air Yeezy sneakers worn by Kanye West wore while performing at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2008 sold for $1,800,000 at Sotheby's on 26 April 2021
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The black Nike Air Yeezy sneakers worn by Kanye West wore while performing at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2008 sold for $1,800,000 at Sotheby's on 26 April 2021
This "Ours Polaire" sofa and armchair (Circa 1950) by Jean Royère sold for $1,110,000 at Christie's on 9 December 2021
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This "Ours Polaire" sofa and armchair (Circa 1950) by Jean Royère sold for $1,110,000 at Christie's on 9 December 2021
This Jade-inset Bronze Ge-Halberd dagger, was made circa 570-400 BC and would have been used for ceremonial purposes. It sold for HK$9,850,000 ($1,263,460) at Christie's on 3 December 2021
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This Jade-inset Bronze Ge-Halberd dagger, was made circa 570-400 BC and would have been used for ceremonial purposes. It sold for HK$9,850,000 ($1,263,460) at Christie's on 3 December 2021

2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 BGS 8.5 card sold for $4,300,000 in a PWCC-brokered sale on 28 July 2021
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2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 BGS 8.5 card sold for $4,300,000 in a PWCC-brokered sale on 28 July 2021
This “Beast Man” Luba Mask sold for €7,224,500 ($8,626,775) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
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This “Beast Man” Luba Mask sold for €7,224,500 ($8,626,775) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
Pianos don't carry the same multiplication factor as guitars at an auction. Elton John's Steinway has consistently played some of the largest live audiences in history, but film and television audiences count for more these days.
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Pianos don't carry the same multiplication factor as guitars at an auction. Elton John's Steinway has consistently played some of the largest live audiences in history, but film and television audiences count for more these days.
Tête Fang Gabon sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
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Tête Fang Gabon sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
"An Imperial Portrait Of Consort Chunhui" attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione sold for CNY 60,000,000 ($9,409,800) at Poly Auction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the portrait of Consort Chunhui at right and a portrait of the famous Italian Jesuit, diplomat and painter Giuseppe Castiglione at left.
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"An Imperial Portrait Of Consort Chunhui" attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione sold for CNY 60,000,000 ($9,409,800) at Poly Auction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the portrait of Consort Chunhui at right and a portrait of the famous Italian Jesuit, diplomat and painter Giuseppe Castiglione at left.
This historic image was taken in 1930 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels by the first female journalist in Belgium, Germaine van Parys. It shows three Gabonese Fang artworks that were being exhibited by famous collector, Henri Lavachery.
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This historic image was taken in 1930 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels by the first female journalist in Belgium, Germaine van Parys. It shows three Gabonese Fang artworks that were being exhibited by famous collector, Henri Lavachery.
"Abstraktes Bild" by Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932 | age: 89 years) sold for $33,010,500 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021. It was one of the most expensive artworks sold by a living artist in 2021 -
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"Abstraktes Bild" by Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932 | age: 89 years) sold for $33,010,500 at Sotheby’s on 15 November 2021. It was one of the most expensive artworks sold by a living artist in 2021 -
"Missing In Action" by Yoshitomo Nara sold for HKD 123,725,000 ($15,862,180) at Poly Auction HK on 8 June 2021
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"Missing In Action" by Yoshitomo Nara sold for HKD 123,725,000 ($15,862,180) at Poly Auction HK on 8 June 2021
"Pumpkin" by Yayoi Kusama sold for HKD 62,540,000 at Christie's on 1 December 2021
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"Pumpkin" by Yayoi Kusama sold for HKD 62,540,000 at Christie's on 1 December 2021
"Game Changer" by Banksy sold for £14,582,500 ($20,112,184) at Christie's on 23 March 2021
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"Game Changer" by Banksy sold for £14,582,500 ($20,112,184) at Christie's on 23 March 2021
“Emperor Qianlong’s conquest of Xiyu” (18th century) by Xu Yang sold for RMB 414,000,000 ($64,737,180) at Poly Auction Beijing on 6 June 2021. These three views of the 61-foot scroll show its immense size and detail
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“Emperor Qianlong’s conquest of Xiyu” (18th century) by Xu Yang sold for RMB 414,000,000 ($64,737,180) at Poly Auction Beijing on 6 June 2021. These three views of the 61-foot scroll show its immense size and detail
This Imperial Dragon Carpet that once adorned the throne room of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace, sold for €6,881,000 ($7,741,125) at Christie's on 23 November 2021. The carpet at left is as it sold at auction, having faded over time. The carpet at right is how it would have appeared when used in the ancient Beijing Palace.
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This Imperial Dragon Carpet that once adorned the throne room of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace, sold for €6,881,000 ($7,741,125) at Christie's on 23 November 2021. The carpet at left is as it sold at auction, having faded over time. The carpet at right is how it would have appeared when used in the ancient Beijing Palace.

David Drake's April 12, 1858 25-Gallon Poem Jar sold for $1,560,000 at Crocker Farm on 7 August 2021. The jar is now on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR
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David Drake's April 12, 1858 25-Gallon Poem Jar sold for $1,560,000 at Crocker Farm on 7 August 2021. The jar is now on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR
Thanks to Sultan Qaitbay's long and wise reign of Mamluk Egypt (1468–1496 CE), his helmet has also been preserved and is part of the Collection of the State Heritage Museum, St. Petersburg. At Right is Mamluk horse armour from the relevant period - it is most likely that the leader of a warrior caste going into battle would be heavily protected, and as the Sultan of an Empire, he was probably afforded some seriously capable close protection in addition to the armour.
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Thanks to Sultan Qaitbay's long and wise reign of Mamluk Egypt (1468–1496 CE), his helmet has also been preserved and is part of the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. At Right is Mamluk horse armour from the relevant period - it is most likely that the leader of a warrior caste going into battle would be heavily protected, and as the Sultan of an Empire, he was probably afforded some seriously capable close protection in addition to the armour.

This Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript in Latin and French on vellum, sold for $3,630,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021
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This Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript in Latin and French on vellum, sold for $3,630,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021

This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,430,356 at Bring A Trailer on 2 July 2021, becoming the most expensive car sold on the online platform during 2021. That record has already been pushed to $1.9 million in the first week of 2022 and more elite cars will be sold online every year from now onwards.
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This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,430,356 at Bring A Trailer on 2 July 2021, becoming the most expensive car sold on the online platform during 2021. That record has already been pushed to $1.9 million in the first week of 2022 and more elite cars will be sold online every year from now onwards.
Our annual highlights of the auction year reached a crescendo in this post-2021 coverage - the most explosive growth, the most ridiculous lots, and dozens of examples of the most expensive items in history ... not to mention the most bizarre lots we've yet seen. The most intriguing of them all was the sale by tender of (most of) the cars from the 2015 movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
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Our annual highlights of the auction year reached a crescendo in this post-2021 coverage - the most explosive growth, the most ridiculous lots, and dozens of examples of the most expensive items in history ... not to mention the most bizarre lots we've yet seen. The most intriguing of them all was the sale by tender of (most of) the cars from the 2015 movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
This 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card is one of just two examples that are graded BGS PRISTINE/Black Label 10. It sold for $1,752,000 at Goldin Auctions on 8 March 2021
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This 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card is one of just two examples that are graded BGS PRISTINE/Black Label 10. It sold for $1,752,000 at Goldin Auctions on 8 March 2021
A very similar card to this 2003-04 UD LeBron James "Exquisite Collection" Signed Rookie Patch Autograph #78/99 sold for $2,400,000 at Goldin Auctions on 24 October 2021. The new record holder is numbered #23/99 - LeBron's jersey number
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A very similar card to this 2003-04 UD LeBron James "Exquisite Collection" Signed Rookie Patch Autograph #78/99 sold for $2,400,000 at Goldin Auctions on 24 October 2021. The new record holder is numbered #23/99 - LeBron's jersey number
Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. it was his preferred personal protection weapon for a considerable period of time prior to his going to jail. The gun sold for $1,040,600 at Witherell's on 8 October 2021
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Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. it was his preferred personal protection weapon for a considerable period of time prior to his going to jail. The gun sold for $1,040,600 at Witherell's on 8 October 2021
View gallery - 144 images

The 2021 auction year was quite extraordinary, with almost all auction categories reporting unprecedented levels of participation and sales.

For the last five years, the New Atlas end-of-year market recap of the science, sci-fi and technology auction year has been focused on just technology-related lots, but this year we’ve decided to do it a little differently by including all auction genres in our analysis. The result is something we’d never seen before, and you will definitely have never seen before, full of fascinating tales and astonishing prices.

Normally, in a year at auction, we might see on average, two or three million-dollar science-related results and around 100 lots selling for more than $70,000.

This year we saw 23 science-related lots that sold for more than US$1.0 million and another 152 lots over $100,000. Clearly, the market for scientific manuscripts, technology and sci-fi memorabilia was finally beginning to move.

We have long opined that the marketplace for science and technology memorabilia was grossly undervalued and fundamental breakthroughs in understanding of every aspect of science will one day be valued far more than they are today.

Indeed, as such remarkable technological progress has been made in the last century, many fundamental texts and artifacts are still available at prices that do not yet reflect historical perspective. In some ways we began to see computer and digital memorabilia began to seriously appreciate in 2021, and if you have visions of one day collecting up all those things you once owned along your tech journey into some sort of museum for the family archives, do it soon or it will become prohibitively expensive to do so.

Most of the digital memorabilia is in part 2 of this article (the 152 science lots between $100,000 and $999,999) which drops next week.

This article is about perspective, because we’re now tracking all auction genres and we were able to watch with some form of perspective as 2021 unfolded.

Now some categories grew 50 percent in the course of the year, but others saw 1000 percent growth and the aim of this article is to demonstrate perspective … and perhaps the need for some recalibration of what value really means.

The world’s most expensive bottle of wine

This six litre bottle of The Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $1,000,000 during the 19th annual fundraising weekend of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in New Orleans (5-6 November 2021)
This six litre bottle of The Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $1,000,000 during the 19th annual fundraising weekend of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in New Orleans (5-6 November 2021)

Final price including Buyers’ Premium:  $1,000,000 
Auction House: Private | Date sold: 6 November 2021
Estimate: £600,000 to £800,000 ($825,780 to $1,101,040)
Official Auction Page
This six liter bottle of The Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is far-and-away the most expensive bottle of wine that has ever been sold at auction, as often happens when there’s a charity involved. The record-breaking wine came from Glass Slipper Vineyard in the Napa Valley, and it is the first wine ever to be released from this vineyard. Just 75 cases and a six-liter bottle were produced, and the aim all along was to work with philanthropic organizations to support their cause. The vineyard currently has collaborations with Ellen DeGeneres, the LA Lakers, Tony Hawk and Shep Gordon and the same wine that was in the new world record holder can be procured at $185 for a 750ml bottle by obtaining a membership of The Setting Society … at which point you will be able to drink the world’s most expensive wine at a substantial discount.

We love charity auctions and they perform a wonderful win-win-win for so many people … but they can’t realistically be included in any data that people might use to make important decisions, at least not without warning them. So you are warned.

The non-charity record was established on 13 October 2018 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York when “The Extraordinary Wine Collection of Robert Drouhin” was auctioned. Robert Drouhin really did have the most extraordinary wine collection of perhaps any that has ever existed. The Drouhin family were the exclusive distributors for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in France and Belgium for many years.

Lots 84 and 85 on that day were both single bottles of Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti. At a time when the most that had ever been paid for a bottle of wine stood at $500,000, Lot 84 sold for $558,000 and Lot 85 validated that price, fetching $496,000.

“The Extraordinary Wine Collection of Robert Drouhin” was auctioned on 13 October 2018 at Sotheby’s New York. Just a small selection of the wines sold that day, from left to right, are: La Tache 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($297,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($558,000). Three bottles of Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti actually sold for $310,000 each that day.
“The Extraordinary Wine Collection of Robert Drouhin” was auctioned on 13 October 2018 at Sotheby’s New York. Just a small selection of the wines sold that day, from left to right, are: La Tache 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($297,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($310,000), La Tache 1959 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($80,600), Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti ($558,000). Three bottles of Romanee Conti 1937 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti actually sold for $310,000 each that day.

Now the $500,000 paid in 1992 for a six-liter bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle was also at a charity event. Screaming Eagle Vintage 1992 is sublime wine, but a 750 ml bottle can be easily procured on the internet at a much lesser cost by volume than the bottle that broke the record. So while it is a pretty remarkable wine, it doesn’t rate as the most valuable on Earth. Consecutive sales at world record levels indicates that the Romanee Conti 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti is still world’s best, providing it hasn’t been drunk.

The previous non-charity auction record for a single bottle of wine was set in February 2007 when a jeroboam of 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild sold for US$310,700 at Sotheby’s New York. The bottle had come from the private cellar of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Just to put that Robert Drouhin auction in perspective, that means the non-charity record for a single bottle was $310,700 on 13 October 2018, then three bottles sold for $310,000, one sold for $496,000 and one sold for $558,000. We expect those records will hold for some time barring charity events.

Gilt-brass astrolabe, North-East Spain, dated 737 AH/1336-37 AD

The most expensive astrolabe of 2021 was made around 1336-37 AD by a previously unknown craftsman. The quality, however, was first class and it sold for £741,000 ($1,019,838) at Sotheby’s on 31 March 2021
The most expensive astrolabe of 2021 was made around 1336-37 AD by a previously unknown craftsman. The quality, however, was first class and it sold for £741,000 ($1,019,838) at Sotheby’s on 31 March 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £741,000 ($1,019,838)
Auction House: Sotheby’s | Date sold: 31 March 2021
Estimate: £600,000 to £800,000 ($825,780 to $1,101,040)
Official Auction Page
This quote from “Astronomical Instruments between East and West” (1992) by D.A. King, superbly summarizes why astrolabes make this listing every year, as they are invariably the oldest, most robust and most beautiful of the scientific instruments that reach auction. Examining the workmanship in these magnificent instruments is a humbling experience because the decoration is so elaborate that it appears to have been created under an electron microscope.

“The astrolabe is a model of the universe in two dimensions, with it one can simulate the apparent rotation of the celestial sphere about the horizon of the observer and solve numerous problems of mathematical astronomy and astrology, such as timekeeping by the sun and stars and setting up the basis for the casting of horoscopes. Muslim scientists and craftsmen made an object of beauty out of the astrolabe, preserving its scientific integrity by engraving the astronomical markings with astounding mathematical accuracy and decorating as befits what they saw essentially as a mirror of God's universe.”

The most expensive astrolabe of 2021 is signed by Ahmad ibn Abu 'Abdallah al-Qurtubi al-Yamani, North-East Spain, Tudela, dated 737 AH which translates to 1336-37 AD. The catalog notes that “the maker was previously unknown to us and his production is the only known medieval astrolabe from Tudela.”

1927 Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix

This 1927 Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix sold for $1,000,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021 even though its price guidelines of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 were more indicative of the value of the 95-year-old Grand Prix car which swept all before it in its day.
This 1927 Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix sold for $1,000,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021 even though its price guidelines of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 were more indicative of the value of the 95-year-old Grand Prix car which swept all before it in its day.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,000,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 August 2021
Estimate: $2,500,000 to $3,500,000
Official Auction Page
The World Formula One Championship began in 1951 and has been the acknowledged pinnacle of motor racing ever since. There was however, a stillborn attempt to begin a world championship motor racing series back in the 1920s. The World Manufacturers' Championship (AKA Automobile World Championship) ran for three years – 1925, 1926 and 1927. In 1925, Alfa Romeo won the title, in 1926 Bugatti won the title and in 1927, Delage won the title using a team of four Delage 15-S-8 Grand Prix cars. The Delage was completely dominant, and it won all four of the European rounds, choosing to miss the Indianapolis 500 for financial and logistical reasons. This car was one of the four, being driven to third place by André Morel in a Delage 1-2-3 sweep of the “Grand Prix de l’ACF” at Montlhéry (the equivalent of the French Grand Prix for that season). After a retirement at the Spanish Grand Prix, Albert Divo drove this car to another third place at the 1927 British Grand Prix at Brooklands.

Ninety-five years ago, this car was unquestionably the dominant racing car in the world. We do not understand the circumstances that saw it sell for so far below expectations, but it was one of the most historically-significant cars sold during 2021.

1916-18 Babe Ruth game-used baseball bat

This game-used Babe Ruth baseball bat from 1916-18 sold for $1,020,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 February 2021
This game-used Babe Ruth baseball bat from 1916-18 sold for $1,020,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 February 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,020,000
Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 27 February 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
It’s now 87 years since Babe Ruth retired from baseball (2 June 1935) and 74 years since his death (16 August 1948) yet he still dominates global sports memorabilia sales like no other individual ever has. In 2021, two baseball bats that were game-used by the “Sultan of Swat” sold at auction for more than a million dollars (there have only been five that have bested $1.0 million in history and "The Babe" accounts for four of them) plus half a dozen baseball cards one of which sold privately for $6 million. Ruth’s two bat sales of note in 2021 were this bat at $1,020,000 (a 1916-18 game-used bat with a delightful post-retirement story that sold at Heritage Auctions on 27 February) and $1,050,000 (a 1928-29 game-used bat with eight home run notches that sold at Christie’s on 7 October).

PSA reported the private sale of a $1,100,000 game-used bat by Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame centerfielder Ty Cobb as happening on 23 March, but in a remarkable turn of events, the most expensive non-card baseball memorabilia was an extraordinary autographed 110-year-old photo of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson that sold for $1,470,000 at a Christie’s auction.

Sportscard sales made all the headlines in 2021, but non-card sports memorabilia is still a gargantuan force in American culture and ultimately in global culture. Babe Ruth dominates the very tip but other players and other sports combine to make up a juggernaut global industry, and there are other countries and other sports swelling with interest and activity and hundreds of millions of die-hard fans.

Plato's "Opera" (1433-99).

This copy of Plato's "Opera" sold for $1,026,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021
This copy of Plato's "Opera" sold for $1,026,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,026,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 April 2021
Estimate: $200,000 to $400,000
Official Auction Page
Plato was an Athenian philosopher who lived from 428/427 BC to 348/347 BC. A student of Socrates and the mentor of Aristotle, Plato became the author of numerous philosophical works of unparalleled influence, and this book gathered all of those works together for the first time in print, more than 1800 years after his death. Plato is unique in history in that his entire body of work has survived intact for over 2400 years.

He is also credited with having created the first school of higher learning in Western civilization – Plato’s “Academy” (that’s where the word comes from) was situated just outside Athens, with him presiding from its formation in the mid-380s BC until his death in 347 BC.

Plato’s Academy taught arithmetic as part of philosophy, as Pythagoras had done, and the first 10 years of a course at the Academy included the study of geometry, astronomy, and music.

The first edition of this book was printed at the monastery of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence, one of the very first printing presses in Europe, and the first press known to employ women. The nuns of the convent worked as compositors, setting the type of this book. Just 1025 copies were produced between September 1484 and late 1485.

Not surprisingly, the books were heavily used, generating a fearsome attrition rate – only 100 partial copies are still known, with only a dozen complete copies extant.

Remarkably, this copy of Plato’s Opera now holds the record price at auction for the work, eclipsing the £159,500 ($264,770) paid for another complete first edition at a Sotheby’s auction in London on 13 November 1989.

A complete digital copy of this work can be found on the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek site.

Al Capone's "Favorite" Colt .45

Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. it was his preferred personal protection weapon for a considerable period of time prior to his going to jail. The gun sold for $1,040,600 at Witherell's on 8 October 2021
Notorious Chicago Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone once referred to this Colt Model 1911 .45 as his “sweetheart”. it was his preferred personal protection weapon for a considerable period of time prior to his going to jail. The gun sold for $1,040,600 at Witherell's on 8 October 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,040,600
Auction House: Witherells | Date sold: 8 October 2021
Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000
Official Auction Page
Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone (1899-1947 - also known as “Scarface”) rose to infamy as a gangster in Chicago during the 1920s and early 1930s. The notorious gangster’s life has been the subject of many movies over the last 75 years, which heightened his notoriety long after his death and no doubt contributed to the extraordinary price fetched by this gun.

In terms of accuracy, the FBI website probably gives the most detail regarding Capone’s life, though in only reporting established fact, there’s obviously a lot of the story missing. On the other hand, there is a massive archive of detail in the FBI’s vault that is freely available.

Seven Pieces Of “Chen Yun Hao” Pu’er Tea Cakes (1910s)

The main (right) image shows the package that contained the seven pieces of antique "Chen Yun Hao" Pu’er Tea Cakes (1910s) that sold for HK$8,400,000 ($1,077,804) at Poly Auction Hong Kong on 1 December 2021. At left is the one piece of "Jia Ji" Blue Label Tea Cake (1950s) sold by Sotheby's on 16 December for HK$562,000 ($77,170).
The main (right) image shows the package that contained the seven pieces of antique "Chen Yun Hao" Pu’er Tea Cakes (1910s) that sold for HK$8,400,000 ($1,077,804) at Poly Auction Hong Kong on 1 December 2021. At left is the one piece of "Jia Ji" Blue Label Tea Cake (1950s) sold by Sotheby's on 16 December for HK$562,000 ($77,170).

Final price including BP: HK$8,400,000 ($1,077,804)
Auction House: Poly Auction HK | Date: 1 December 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page
When Sotheby’s Hong Kong announced the launch of its first tea auction in November, “Tea Treasures – Rare Vintage and Premium Puerh” some parts of the Western media reported of the emergence of a “new collecting category”, perhaps missing the point that the Chinese were the first to domesticate tea-producing "Camellia sinensis" plants more than 3000 years ago, and have been producing, drinking and trading tea ever since.

The most treasured of all Chinese teas is Pu’er (also written “Pu-Erh” and “Puerh”) and as with any activity refined over thousands of years, the finest examples of this complex process are afforded great respect and value. This article on “Serious Eats" by Max Falkowitz beautifully elucidates the intricacies of Pu-Erh, describing it as “drinking time.”

Almost on queue, between the Sotheby’s announcement that its tea auction would cater to an ever-growing market demand and the auction being held, Poly Auction Hong Kong sold a single lot of seven 110-year-old Pu’er Tea Cakes for $1.077 million. “Chen Yun Hao” is a revered brand of Pu’er tea just as Macallan, Laphroaig or Ardbeg are to Scotch Whisky, and the “tea cakes” are bricks of compressed dried tea leaves – the form in which they are aged.

As the world wakes up to the delights of Pu’er and other vintage Chinese teas, the laws of supply and demand will come into play and likely we’ll see more seven-figure prices at auction. Like whisky, the production of aged tea cannot be hurried or falsified (though forgery appears to be an even bigger problem with vintage tea than it is with whisky), so it might take a long time to align production with demand, with scarcity and the resultant high prices the norm until then.

The North American Indian (1907-1930)

This copy of "The North American Indian" (1907-1930) by Edward S. Curtis sold for $1,080,000 at Santa Fe Art Auction on 6 November 2021
This copy of "The North American Indian" (1907-1930) by Edward S. Curtis sold for $1,080,000 at Santa Fe Art Auction on 6 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,080,000
Auction House: Santa Fe Art Auction | Date sold: 6 November 2021
Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000
Official Auction Page
Two copies of "The North American Indian” sold at auction this year, both at Santa Fe Art Auction, and both copies of this spectacular 20-volume set were printed on India proof paper ('tissue') etching stock. Only approximately 15 copies were produced on this special paper and those copies went to Curtis himself, Wall Street mogul J.P. Morgan, Railroad Magnate Edward H. Harriman, the King of England and other well-heeled patrons.

Curtis was introduced to J. Pierpont Morgan by President Theodore Roosevelt and Morgan originally tipped in $75,000 into the budget, but Curtis' vision kept growing and getting more grandiose. In the end, the production of the 20 volumes took 34 years (1896 to 1930) as Curtis photographed every major Native American tribe west of the Mississippi, taking over 40,000 negatives of 80 tribes. J.P. Morgan's contribution reportedly grew tenfold to get the job finished.

Roosevelt was a great advocate of Curtis. In his foreword in the first volume, Roosevelt calls the work, "a service not only to our people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere."

"In Mr. Curtis we have both an artist and a trained observer, whose pictures are pictures, not merely photographs; whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful."

The Smithsonian dedicated a feature article to Curtis’ endeavors, and there are a number of sites on the internet dedicated to perpetuating the Curtis Legacy, notably the Curtis Legacy Foundation, the Digital Collection at Northwestern University, and the Edward Curtis Gallery.

The copies that sold this year fetched $1,080,000 and $922,500 (both including buyers premium) respectively, with this copy becoming the fifth of the 292 sets in existence to break the million-dollar barrier. The record for the work was achieved by Christie's in 2012 when another set printed on the finest paper sold for $2,882,500 during the sale of The Private Library of Kenneth Nebenzahl.

“Ours Polaire” Sofa and Armchair, Circa 1950 by Jean Royère

This "Ours Polaire" sofa and armchair (Circa 1950) by Jean Royère sold for $1,110,000 at Christie's on 9 December 2021
This "Ours Polaire" sofa and armchair (Circa 1950) by Jean Royère sold for $1,110,000 at Christie's on 9 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,110,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 9 December 2021
Estimate: $800,000 to $1,200,000
Official Auction Page
The “Ours Polaire” (polar bear) sofa was conceived by French interior designer Jean Royère (1902-1981) in the late 1940s and regularly sells for more than a million dollars. Two such sofas sold this year - a dark blue sofa for $1,230,000 at Christie’s New York and this one, which came with an armchair

Microscope D'epoque Louis XV

This Microscope D'epoque Louis XV sold for €1,016,000 ($1,143,000) at Christie's on 23 November 2021
This Microscope D'epoque Louis XV sold for €1,016,000 ($1,143,000) at Christie's on 23 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €1,016,000 ($1,143,000)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 November 2021
Estimate: €300,000 to €500,000 ($337,500 to $562,500)
Official Auction Page
One of the most beautiful scientific instruments ever created, this Louis XV microscope is believed to be one of eight made by Jacques and Philippe Caffieri, with the mechanics attributed to Claude-Simeon Passement. The microscopes all appear to have been created for the scientific laboratory being built by Louis XV during 1749 at the Château de la Muette. It is known that the Marquise de Pompadour, the official chief mistress of King Louis XV from 1745 to 1751, also had a microscope of this model. Madam de Pompadour was even more interested in microscopy than Louis XV and was a frequent visitor to the laboratory.

Several very similar microscopes have been to auction before, and all can be traced back to Louis XV’s Cabinet du Roi à la Muette. The most expensive such microscope was in magnificent condition and came in its own travel case when it sold for £991,500 ($1,544,360) at Christie’s July 1999 sale of the Collection of Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild.

Another sold at a Sotheby’s Paris auction in October 2008 at the epicenter of the Global Financial Crisis, fetching €900,750 ($1,156,833) when almost nothing else sold in the auction of Important Furniture, Sculptures And Works Of Art.

There’s another of these microscopes currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Alexander Hamilton's Flintlock Holster Pistols and Epaulettes

Alexander Hamilton's Flintlock Holster Pistols and Epaulettes

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,150,000
Auction House: Rock Island Auctions | Date sold: 14 May 2021
Estimate: $1,000,000 to $3,500,000
Official Auction Page
This lot actually comprised both a pair of flintlock holster pistols inscribed "AH" and carried by Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War, plus the epaulettes Hamilton wore as a Colonel serving under George Washington. The pistols were presented to Hamilton following the historic Battle of Saratoga by General Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law, and were subsequently housed at Hamilton Grange in New York, Alexander Hamilton's historic home, which is now a museum and national memorial. At the end of the day, this is a perfect example of contrasting perspectives on similar objects.

On one hand we have the personal Colt 45 of Chicago gangster Al Capone selling for $1,040,600, and on the other, the pistols carried by a founding father while fighting the Revolutionary War to free the nation sell for a comparable figure. One of these people did unspeakable things that damaged many lives, while the other fought a winning Revolutionary War and became the First United States Secretary of the Treasury. These pistols are universally recognized as being among the most historically significant weapons known to exist. Few firearms owned and used by founding fathers during the American Revolutionary War survive, and none that we know of (other than this pair) remain in private hands. Only two founders, Washington and Hamilton, served in the Continental Army with distinction.

It would appear that popular culture has a greater influence on prices at auction than historical gravitas.

"Untitled (Campbell's Soup Can)" by Andy Warhol

"Untitled (Campbell's Soup Can)" by Andy Warhol was 320 x 200 pixel digital artwork created on a Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels and sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 27 May 2021
"Untitled (Campbell's Soup Can)" by Andy Warhol was 320 x 200 pixel digital artwork created on a Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels and sold for $1,170,000 at Christie's on 27 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,170,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 27 May 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
This is the most expensive of the five controversial Andy Warhol artworks offered by Christie’s on 28 May 2021. All five lots were NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of digital artwork created by Andy Warhol on a Commodore Amiga Personal Computer in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was created at 320 x 200 pixels and once the floppy disks were excavated, the artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels by the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Club and subsequently turned into NFTs.

The authenticity of this entire exercise has been questioned, but thanks to the name Andy Warhol and his dominance of the art world, the reworked 320 x 200 pixel images sold for $1,170,000, $870,000, $562,500, $525,000 and $250,000. Christie’s overview and explanation of the sale can be found here.

First edition of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" - the first science-fiction novel

A first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein sold at Christie’s on 14 September 2021 for $1.17 million. The three-volume set broke the auction record for a printed work by a woman that had been set by Bonhams in 2008, when a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel Emma sold for £180,000. The record prior to Emma was also held by Jane Austen at £114,000 for a first edition of Wuthering Heights set in November, 2007.
A first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein sold at Christie’s on 14 September 2021 for $1.17 million. The three-volume set broke the auction record for a printed work by a woman that had been set by Bonhams in 2008, when a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel Emma sold for £180,000. The record prior to Emma was also held by Jane Austen at £114,000 for a first edition of Wuthering Heights set in November, 2007.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,170,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 September 2021
Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000
Official Auction Page
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is generally regarded to be the first novel of the science fiction genre, though just what propelled the novel to great heights this year isn’t clear.

In addition to the record-breaking Christie's sale, two more First Edition copies of “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” emerged this year, with one sold at Heritage Auctions on October 14 for $162,500 and another sold at Pierre Berge & Associes on June 18 for €113,738 ($135,200).

Christie's sold a First Edition that shattered expectations ($200,000 to $300,000) and smashed records, fetching $1.17 million and breaking the auction record for a printed work by a woman that had been set by Bonhams in 2008, when a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel “Emma" sold for £180,000. The record prior to “Emma” was also held by Jane Austen at £114,000 for a first edition of “Wuthering Heights” in November, 2007.

The story of Frankenstein came to life one night in 1816 in the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron's escape on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Bryon, the soon-to-wed Mary and Percy Shelley, John Polidori, and Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, passed three days there during the "Year Without a Summer" in 1816. The cold and rain kept the group sequestered in the house, keeping warm by the fire and challenging each other to craft new and thrilling horror stories.

From the gloom and shadows of this evening would be born the beginnings of Byron's unfinished vampire tale, Polidori's The Vampire (inspired by Byron's Fragment), and Frankenstein. Though at first the response to a friendly writing challenge, Mary went on to expand and develop the story extensively with insight from her husband, examining themes of loss, defying nature, guilt, and parental guidance, that played a significant role in her own life. Both the story and the preface of the first edition were published anonymously, though Mary was credited as the author in the second edition and she attributed the first edition preface to Percy in her introduction for the Bentley's Standard Novel edition (1831).

Jade Inset Bronze Ge-Halberd Blade, Circa 570-400 BC

This Jade-inset Bronze Ge-Halberd dagger, was made circa 570-400 BC and would have been used for ceremonial purposes. It sold for HK$9,850,000 ($1,263,460) at Christie's on 3 December 2021
This Jade-inset Bronze Ge-Halberd dagger, was made circa 570-400 BC and would have been used for ceremonial purposes. It sold for HK$9,850,000 ($1,263,460) at Christie's on 3 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$9,850,000 ($1,263,460)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 3 December 2021
Estimate: HK$1,800,000 to HK$2,500,000 ($230,886 to $320,675)
Official Auction Page
This one is a bit of a puzzle, as it is a GE-Halberd Blade that would normally be expected to be part of a dagger-axe weapon, but the jade yuan is only inserted about 0.5 cm. into the bronze nei, and together with the delicacy of the craftsmanship, this indicates it was probably created for ceremonial use as it would not stand up to use in combat.

1948 Patek Philippe 18K Pink Gold World Time Watch Ref. 605 HU with Polychrome Cloisonné Enamel Dial

This Pink Gold 1948 Patek Philippe World Time pocket watch is one of only four known. It sold for CHF 1,170,000 ($1,299,856) at Christie's on 10 May 2021
This Pink Gold 1948 Patek Philippe World Time pocket watch is one of only four known. It sold for CHF 1,170,000 ($1,299,856) at Christie's on 10 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CHF 1,170,000 ($1,299,856)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 10 May 2021
Estimate: CHF 550,000 to CHF 750,000 ($495,055 to $675,075)
Official Auction Page 
We live in a time when it’s just as easy and cheap to talk to someone on the other side of the globe, it may be difficult to imagine how things were very different not long ago. Standardizing global time, setting up time zones and facilitating the future so that long-distance trains could run on time wasn’t discussed seriously until the 1870s and things began to get moving at the International Meridian Conference in Washington in 1884, with the French the last to fall into line in 1911. This was a world without international telephone calls and international air travel.

Once we knew how to calculate the time in other parts of the world, the challenge became how to show those times on a pocket watch face and subsequently on a wristwatch face. It should be remembered that pocket watches outsold wristwatches until less than 100 years ago.

Deployant has an excellent article that traces the history of world time watches, featuring the genius of designer and watchmaker Louis Cottier and his invention of the moving bezel that enabled a watch to display real time in various cities around the globe.

Leica Black Paint MP-55

The Leica MP is among the rarest Leica models of all time. This Leica MP black paint no.55 is one of just 412 units made and sold for €1,200,000 ($1,354,320) at Leitz Photographica on 20 November 2021
The Leica MP is among the rarest Leica models of all time. This Leica MP black paint no.55 is one of just 412 units made and sold for €1,200,000 ($1,354,320) at Leitz Photographica on 20 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: € 1,200,000 ($1,354,320)
Auction House: Leitz Photographica | Date sold: 20 November 2021
Estimate: €300,000 to €350,000 ($338,580 to $395,010)
Official Auction Page
As photography site PopPhot quipped recently, “One of the few cameras that cost more than a new Leica is an old Leica.” Only one camera passed the million USD mark at auction this year, predictably selling at a Leitz Photographica auction In Vienna, and it was one of the 141 Leica MPs made in black-paint.

Glenfiddich The 1950s Collection (4 BT70)

This four-bottle 1950s Glenfiddich Collection is a "one-off collection from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959." It sold for £1,037,500 ($1,375,621) at Sotheby's on 3 December 2021
This four-bottle 1950s Glenfiddich Collection is a "one-off collection from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959." It sold for £1,037,500 ($1,375,621) at Sotheby's on 3 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,037,500 ($1,375,621)
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 3 December 2021
Estimate: £220,000 to £350,000 ($291,698 to $464,065)
Official Auction Page
The Worshipful Company of Distillers’ is a Livery Company of the City of London and was granted of a Royal Charter by King Charles I in 1638. These days the company exists mainly for charity and education purposes and an annual auction night has been a feature of the fund raising activities for many years. A new tie-up with Sotheby’s in 2021 has created the Distillers’ One of One auction, a concept quite similar to the “Only Watch” annual charity auction of unique watches.

The first Distillers’ One of One auction, comprising one-off, never-to-be-repeated lots specially created and donated by leading Scotch Whisky distilleries, took place at Barnbougle Castle on the outskirts of Edinburgh on 3 December 2021. This became the most valuable lot: a one-off collection from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959.

1982-83 Michael Jordan Game-Worn University of North Carolina Jersey

From little acorns … no-one could have known just how high Michael Jordan's star would soar when he wore this jersey in 1982-83. Michael Jordan's game-worn University of North Carolina Tar Heels Jersey from his first "NCAA Player of the Year" photo shoot sold for $1,380,000 at Heritage Auctions on 7 May 2021
From little acorns … no-one could have known just how high Michael Jordan's star would soar when he wore this jersey in 1982-83. Michael Jordan's game-worn University of North Carolina Tar Heels Jersey from his first "NCAA Player of the Year" photo shoot sold for $1,380,000 at Heritage Auctions on 7 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,380,000
Auction House: Heritage Auction | Date sold: 7 May 2021
No Estimate

Official Auction Page
In the final thirty-two seconds of Jordan's freshman season, Coach Smith was rallying the troops in the 1982 NCAA Championship Final at the New Orleans Superdome, the Tar Heels down by one and looking like deer caught in the headlights of the moment's immensity.

Assistant coach Roy Williams recalled the scene: "Coach Smith looked up at them and said, 'Ok guys, we are in great shape. We are going to determine who wins this game. We are exactly where we want to be." Williams admits he took a second look at the scoreboard to make sure he had seen it correctly.

"[Smith] said, 'I doubt they'll be pressing; they'll probably be playing a zone. So, let's run two and look for the lob. James [Worthy] you'll be going for the lob, let's look for that, and if we don't get that, let's penetrate and go on the weak side. James, if you don't get the lob, make sure you get weak side rebound position. Sam [Perkins] you'll be coming down from the foul line, you'll get middle rebound position. Even if we miss the shot, we'll get the rebound. And even if they happen to get the rebound, we are going to foul them immediately, and there is no way they are going to make a free throw in this circumstance.' All of a sudden, everyone's expression changed dramatically," said Williams.

Knowing that Worthy, the game's most dominant player with twenty-eight points, would likely be doubled, Smith changed Jordan's life forever with a heartfelt expression of faith in his freshman guard. "As they left the huddle," Williams recalled, "Coach Smith patted Michael on the backside and said, 'Michael, if you get the ball, knock it in.'"

What happened next is caught on this video.

Michael Jordan UNC Highlights - Narrated by Dean Smith & Woody Durham

"Up until that point, nobody knew who I was," Jordan told a journalist years later. "I was a college kid, and I was just known as Mike Jordan. When I hit that shot, my whole name became Michael Jordan. I think it resonated with a lot of people outside of UNC. I started piling on that name itself from the successes that I endured throughout the rest of my career. It wasn't about Mike, and it was more about Michael."

That's the name that would appear on the cover of The Sporting News almost exactly a year later, under bold text trumpeting, "Player of the Year."

The jersey Michael Jordan wore in THAT game and on the cover of the accompanying magazine went to auction in May at Heritage Auctions..

“Sun Flower” Kweichow Moutai in Original Wooden Crate 53.0 abv 1974

This lot consisted of 24 bottles of 1974 "Sun Flower" 53.0 abv Kweichow Moutai in an original wooden case. It sold for £1,000,000 ($1,385,800) at Sotheby's on 18 June 2021
This lot consisted of 24 bottles of 1974 "Sun Flower" 53.0 abv Kweichow Moutai in an original wooden case. It sold for £1,000,000 ($1,385,800) at Sotheby's on 18 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,000,000 ($1,385,800)
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 18 June 2021
Estimate: £200,000 to £400,000 ($277,160 to $554,320)
Official Auction Page
If you’ve never heard of Moutai (or Maotai), you’re not alone, though you’ll probably feel a little unworldly to find out it is the most widely consumed spirit on the planet … and the national liquor of the world’s most populous nation. The annual consumption of Baijiu (the generic term for the liquor that is made from red sorghum) is 10 billion liters, most of that consumed in China.

Only Moutai produced by Kweichow Moutai Co, Ltd. can be called Moutai and everything else is called Baijiu, and not surprisingly given the generic nature of the Moutai term, the company is booming, already China’s largest non-technology company and there are plans to take it to the world.

Moutai is also known as the “drink of diplomacy”, was used to welcome Richard Nixon when he visited China in 1972, and again it was used as a welcoming drink when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Barack Obama in America.

Moutai was also the favorite drink of Mao Zedong, is the primary drink served at Chinese State Banquets, and the most common Chinese diplomatic gift. It’s also very alcoholic, invariably over the 50 percent ABV mark and sometimes more than 60 percent, which is why the shots it is traditionally drunk in are a bit smaller than those we know in the West.

Like certain years when the wine is good but production is poor, Moutai has certain years that are highly sought after, and 1974 is such a year. Not only was the production low, but during the cultural revolution, the company’s “Flying Fairy” logo had to be changed and was replaced by a “Sun Flower” logo, making the sought-after years of low production quite visually distinctive.

It seems that once the taste is cultivated for quality Baijiu, it is difficult to replace, so for Chinese natives living overseas, it can often be very difficult to obtain the very best and this lot seemed to create the perfect storm as it was made up of 24 bottles of 1974 Moutai sold under the "Sun Flower" brand and housed in its original case. Sotheby’s maintained client confidentiality but did confirm that the case was sold to a native Chinese.

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,430,356 at Bring A Trailer on 2 July 2021, becoming the most expensive car sold on the online platform during 2021. That record has already been pushed to $1.9 million in the first week of 2022 and more elite cars will be sold online every year from now onwards.
This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,430,356 at Bring A Trailer on 2 July 2021, becoming the most expensive car sold on the online platform during 2021. That record has already been pushed to $1.9 million in the first week of 2022 and more elite cars will be sold online every year from now onwards.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,430,356
Auction House: Bring A Trailer | Date sold: 2 July 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
At $1.43 million, the result for this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster falls in the middle of the pack, but this particular sale is one of the most important car sales of 2021 because it was sold by auction-house newbie Bring a Trailer.

Bring A Trailer only started in 2014, so 2021 was its eighth year offering cars online, and when the clock ticked midnight on December 31, it had more than doubled its 2020 total to sell $828.7 million worth of cars and motorcycles. That was a major coup, because the big players in the automotive auction industry had annual totals considerably less than Bring A Trailer last year, having been seriously disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The internet has always promised to disintermediate inefficient systems and players, and with the tectonic shifts in the global consumer’s online behavior catalyzed by the pandemic, the elite auction industry is in for a rough time in 2022 and beyond, with sites such as Bring A Trailer offering a far more efficient method of buying and selling a car (or any other object that has been more-or-less commoditized).

The reason this car sale is so important is that the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster is unquestionably a collector car and a few years ago it would have been unheard of that a car of this caliber would be sold sight-unseen via the internet. Read on and you’ll see that Gooding & Co sold a very similar car like this for $3,085,000 a month later – that one was one of the best in the world and you pay a substantial premium to have the very best.

The other point we should make here is that a lot of mileage was had by well-known news services about the fact that Bring A Trailer had greater sales figures than Mecum, RM-Sotheby’s, Barrett-Jackson, Bonhams, Gooding & Co et al. The audiences are different, and in general the cars are a lot different and the news services were irresponsible in not pointing that out. By similar logic, Tiffany would no longer be viable because it was seriously outsold by Walmart last year.

The trend is clearly underway towards more streamlined sales processes than the current auction systems that consume 20-25 percent of the value of a sold object, but the elite end of the business is safe for the foreseeable future.

The legendary "à la française" hat of Emperor Napoleon I

Two of the signature Bicorne beaverskin hats worn by Emperor Napoleon I went to auction in 2021, no doubt because it was the 200th anniversary of his death. The more expensive of the two was worn during the Winter campaign of 1806-1807 and sold for €1,222,500 ($1,432,770) at Sotheby's on 22 September 2021
Two of the signature Bicorne beaverskin hats worn by Emperor Napoleon I went to auction in 2021, no doubt because it was the 200th anniversary of his death. The more expensive of the two was worn during the Winter campaign of 1806-1807 and sold for €1,222,500 ($1,432,770) at Sotheby's on 22 September 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €1,222,500 ($1,432,770)
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 22 September 2021
Estimate: €500,000 to €700,000 ($586,000 to $820,400)
Official Auction Page
In a year that marked the 200-year anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, two of his trademark sideways Bicorne hats went to auction, one selling for €1,222,500 ($1,432,770) at Sotheby's on 22 September, and the other selling for £200,250 ($275,224) at Bonhams on 27 October.

Napoléon Bonaparte is one of history’s best known figures. Military historians don’t agree on much, but nearly all will concede he had “one of the greatest military minds in the history of warfare" and a lot of those people will go a step further and bestow the title of “the greatest battlefield commander of all time."

To the people of the world, Napoleon is still instantaneously identifiable globally two centuries after his death, by his first name alone, and he was so influential in shaping modern Europe that a period of history was named after him.

The master of personal branding and public relations, long before those disciplines became an integral part of business science, Napoleon ran a well-oiled publicity machine and developed his very own killer-app visual signature – his distinctive visual trademark of the sideways beaverskin Bicorne hat – to make himself one of the most recognizable figures in history.

The Duke of Wellington finally beat him in the Battle of Waterloo, but admitted after the event that at the hottest point of the battle, it could have gone either way, saying “it was a close run thing.” The Duke is also on record as saying, “On the field of battle, his hat is worth forty thousand men!"

There has been a lot written about Napoleon’s military campaigns, but if you’re not familiar with just how intense they were, or how frequently major battles followed on from each other, and the speed with which they moved across the countryside, it is astonishing that there are believed to be around 19-20 hats still known that have Napoleon’s provenance.

Napoleon owned around 120 such hats between 1800 and his defeat at Waterloo in 1815. They once appeared at auction regularly. Half a century ago, such hats sold for $30,000 to $50,000 at auction, almost always challenging the world record price for a hat or any form of headwear. Nowadays, when the second hat sold for just $275,224 with irrefutable DNA proof that it had been one of Napoleon’s hats, well, all historical perspective seems lost.

United States House of Representatives (Bill of Rights) | The first separate printing of the Bill of Rights

The first separate printing of the United States House of Representatives Bill of Rights sold for $1,532,500 at Sotheby's on 23 November 2021
The first separate printing of the United States House of Representatives Bill of Rights sold for $1,532,500 at Sotheby's on 23 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,532,500
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 23 November 2021
Estimate: $700,000 to $1,000,000
Official Auction Page
Like “The Official Edition of the United States Constitution, the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution” that sold for $43,173,000, this document is part of the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Collection, and is the first separate printing of the amendments that became the “Bill of Rights” and the earliest printed version to enumerate the proposed amendments as clearly defined articles: a foundational document of the United States on a par with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Super Mario 64 - Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed, N64 Nintendo 1996 USA

This Super Mario 64 (Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed) N64 Nintendo 1996 sold for $1,560,000 at Heritage Auctions on 11 July 2021, becoming the most expensive video game in the world.
This Super Mario 64 (Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed) N64 Nintendo 1996 sold for $1,560,000 at Heritage Auctions on 11 July 2021, becoming the most expensive video game in the world.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,560,000
Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 11 July 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
There have been many consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic that could not have been foreseen, but surely the most bizarre outcome has been the explosion of video game prices at auction. When the pandemic began to make its presence felt in the first few months of 2020, the world record price for a video game was $75,000 (paid for a copy of Megaman in November 2019). It jumped to $114,000 (Mario Bros.) in July 2020, then $156,000 (SuperMario 3) in November 2020.

In 2021 however, things went nuts, with a new record of $660,000 (Mario Bros.) in April, followed by $870,000 (Legend of Zelda) and finally $1,560,000 (Super Mario 64) in July. That means the record progressed by an order of magnitude in 16 weeks, from $156,000 to $1.56 million.

With the 20-20 vision afforded by hindsight, we should have seen this coming because video games have been an integral part of life for children for four decades, and the sales figures of video games have been astronomical in comparison to the consumption of any other media.

All it needed was a “shelter in place” health mandate for those people who grew up with and loved gaming to recognize how important it is to them. This is the game that is currently the holder of the record price.

David Drake's 1858 25-Gallon Poem Jar

David Drake's April 12, 1858 25-Gallon Poem Jar sold for $1,560,000 at Crocker Farm on 7 August 2021. The jar is now on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR
David Drake's April 12, 1858 25-Gallon Poem Jar sold for $1,560,000 at Crocker Farm on 7 August 2021. The jar is now on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,560,000
Auction House: Crocker Farm | Date sold: 7 August 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page

The auction record for an item of American Pottery was smashed on August 7 at Crocker Farm in Maryland, when a “Twenty-Five-Gallon Four-Handled Stoneware Jar with Alkaline Glaze” sold for $1.56 million. The jar was signed “Lm. April 12 . 1858 / Dave” with the Lm standing for Lewis Miles, and Dave being the increasingly famous enslaved black potter David Drake. Lewis Miles was Dave’s owner, who operated a stoneware manufactory at Stony Bluff, located in the Horse Creek Valley region of South Carolina’s Edgefield District from 1840 to 1868.

Antiques and the Arts reports that the sale was the fourth artist auction record established for the potter since May 2020.

Dave is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work, during a time when most enslaved people were illiterate, forbidden from learning to read, and anonymous.

The items on this list are valuable for different reasons. Dave's jar is much more than a jar. From the auction description: Dr. Burrison's four-handled "Dave" poem jar embodies all of the characteristics one seeks in Drake's finest work, qualified by its poetic couplet, size, form, and glaze. With the rise in awareness of David Drake as one of America's leading African-American artists, this jar can, on a broader level, also be regarded as one of the greatest ceramic objects ever produced in this country. As a limited number of his poem vessels have survived, the majority of which are currently housed in the nation's leading institutions, our Summer 2021 auction offers an extremely rare opportunity that may never arise again. Provenance: Collection of Dr. John A. Burrison, Atlanta, GA; on loan to the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA since 1981. Exhibited: Atlanta History Center Folk Life Gallery, Atlanta, GA since 1981. Literature: This jar is among the most widely-published American ceramic works that we are aware of.

This extensive feature in the New York Times entitled “The Enslaved Artist Whose Pottery Was an Act of Resistance” charts the growing stature of Dave’s poetic jars as they begin featuring in art museums … and that’s exactly where Dave’s jar is going. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR has posted news of its latest acquisition.

2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package

2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package sold for $1,600,000 at RM-Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package sold for $1,600,000 at RM-Sotheby's on 14 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,600,000
Auction House: RM-Sotheby's | Date sold: 14 August 2021
Estimate: $900,000 to $1,100,000
Official Auction Page
The Lexus LFA was a vastly under-appreciated car, something that's easy to do when it comes from a country that had produced so few genuine supercars previously. The engine was developed in conjunction with Yamaha in order to take advantage of its expertise in small lightweight and powerful motorcycle engines, and it is an engineering masterpiece, being a 4.8 liter, 4-valve DOHC V10 utilizing lots of aluminum, magnesium and titanium alloy to be smaller and lighter than most V8s. The exhaust system in particular was developed in conjunction with Yamaha's music division, which accounts for the awesome sound it generates – it is one of the best sounding cars you will ever hear.

Only 500 were built, and a lot of time was spent making sure that the car would be ideally suited to the fabled Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack in Germany. When they'd done all their homework, they attacked the production lap record there and came up with 7:14.64 in 2011 – it was an unofficial record for a production car on non-competition tires, but it was enough to convince the public that the LFA was a genuine sports car (you cannot fake a fast time around "the Green Hell") and a perfect excuse to create a "hero car" in even more limited numbers.

Just 50 units were sold with the Nürburgring Package and starting from the $465,000 price tag, they have been climbing in value for several years. In the collectible car arena, there's an ideal number to build to ensure they come around regularly at auction, but they're scarce enough to ensure continual price growth. Going by the world's most valuable cars around 30-50 units looks about perfect in achieving that delicate balance of supply and demand.

Despite the very un-Japanese sticker price, the rumor persists that Lexus subsidized the price to keep it affordable.

In 2018 and 2019, the price at auction began to finally move towards the inevitable. In 2018, two sold for $825,000 and $770,000 respectively, and in 2019 three sold ($885,000, $912,500 and $918,500). You don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar to join those dots!

No LFA Nürburgring went to auction in 2020, and a lot of eyes were on the black LFA that went to auction during Monterey Car Week with 930 miles on the odometer. In the end, bidding breezed past the million dollar mark and set a new marque record of $1.6 million. Perhaps even more telling than the $1,600,000 sale figure for the Fox Collection Lexus LFA Nürburgring were the prices fetched by standard LFA models that went to auction in 2021.

RM-Sotheby’s sold a standard LFA on the same bill in Monterey for $819,000, bettering another LFA it sold earlier in the year at Amelia Island for $720,000, and a model with 6000 kilometers on the clock for CHF 540,000 ($579,312) in Switzerland.

Several other LFA base models went to auction during 2021, with Bring a Trailer selling a Yellow LFA for $808,000 in July, Collecting Cars Online selling a white LFA for $781,800 on August 13, and Bring a Trailer sold a black LFA for $725,000 in October. Two other LFAs that went to auction during the year received bids of $695,000 and $718,888 respectively but neither were accepted. Those numbers also support the premise that the standard LFA will be a million-dollar car before long too ... and one last point that might help convince you.

The new marque record holder that sold for $1.6 million in Monterey had been to auction before, selling for $918,500 at Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale auction in 2019. Exactly the same car with an extra 41 miles on the clock sold for $681,500 more, just over two and a half years later.

Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy sneakers - the original Grammy-worn prototypes

The black Nike Air Yeezy sneakers worn by Kanye West wore while performing at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2008 sold for $1,800,000 at Sotheby's on 26 April 2021
The black Nike Air Yeezy sneakers worn by Kanye West wore while performing at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2008 sold for $1,800,000 at Sotheby's on 26 April 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,800,000
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 26 April 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
A remarkable point in modern culture, music culture, the footwear industry and a masterful promotional campaign all came about on 10 February 2008, when Kanye West performed “Hey Mama” and “Stronger” to a global audience at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. The sneakers he wore were identifiable by a single swoosh, and the amount of social media groundswell these very cool and mysterious sneakers created will long be remembered.

From Sotheby’s essay on the sneakers: “It was a critical moment for Kanye’s career, in both music and fashion. In addition to giving one of the most memorable performances ever at the Grammys and winning in 4 categories (including Best Rap Album), Kanye’s introduction of the Air Yeezy at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards is considered to be one of the most important moments in the history of footwear, becoming a pillar in the advent of modern sneaker culture. Today the multibillion-dollar adidas Yeezy brand is an industry titan.”

An Achaemenid Gold Applique 404-359 BC

This Achaemenid Gold applique of a winged bull dates from between 404 BC and 359 BC so it is at least 2380 years old. It sold for £1,402,500 ($1,853,264) at Christie's on 8 December 2021
This Achaemenid Gold applique of a winged bull dates from between 404 BC and 359 BC so it is at least 2380 years old. It sold for £1,402,500 ($1,853,264) at Christie's on 8 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,402,500 ($1,853,264)
Auction House: Christies | Date sold: 8 December 2021
Estimate: £100,000 to £150,000 ($132,140 to $198,210)
Official Auction Page
Reputedly excavated in Hamedan, Iran in 1920, this magnificent winged-bull dates to the reign of Artaxerxes II (405/4-358 B.C.) over the Achaemenid (First Persian) Empire, the largest empire in history to that time. The winged bull is 24.4 cm (9 5⁄8 inches) high and has the distinctive style of Achaemenid (Persian) applied art. It was quite celebrated in the post-WW2 period, appearing as the cover feature of the Illustrated London News, 17 July 1948, and as a cover illustration for an article by the Shah of Iran in "Life" dated 29 July 1963.

Japanese Hishi Oban (10 Ryo), ND Tensho Era (ca. 1588)

This Japanese Hishi Oban (10 Ryo) was the world's largest gold coin when it was minted circa 1588, measuring 145.63 x 85.17 mm and weighing in at 165.83 grams. It sold for $1,920,000 at Stack's Bowers on 6 April 2021
This Japanese Hishi Oban (10 Ryo) was the world's largest gold coin when it was minted circa 1588, measuring 145.63 x 85.17 mm and weighing in at 165.83 grams. It sold for $1,920,000 at Stack's Bowers on 6 April 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $1,920,000
Auction House: Stack's Bowers | Date sold: 6 April 2021
Estimate: $700,000 to $900,000
Official Auction Page
Though we are moving quickly towards a cashless society, to cryptocurrencies and beyond, you actually don’t have to look too hard to see the beginnings of our previous domestic monetary systems. Stack's Bowers and Ponterio had a bumper year with consecutive “largest ever” auctions in Hong Kong, offering over 13,000 coins, medals, tokens, and currency lots across both auctions.

Though an 1825 pattern Russian Ruble established the record for the most expensive non-U.S. coin sold by an American auction house at $2,640,000, the most spectacular coin in the auction must surely have been this Japanese Oban from the Tensho Era which became the most valuable Japanese coin ever sold at auction when it crossed the block for $1,920,000.

The Gold Oban was first minted in 1588 and it was the largest denomination in the Tokugawa coinage system, which also used real silver and bronze coins. The Oban was used until 1862.

Not only was it the largest denomination, it was also the largest gold coin in the world, with this example measuring 145.63 x 85.17 mm and weighing in at 165.83 grams. The weight of the coin was standardized with a triangular gold plug which was supposed to bring it up to exactly 10 Ryo (165 grams), the exact weight of a bag of gold dust and approximately one carat, and the weight of the coin was then noted on the coin in Indian ink.

There are only six known surviving Obans, so it isn’t surprising that it fetched just shy of $2 million. The auction catalog notes that this coin “is offered so infrequently that when available, they invariably capture the attention of advanced collectors and institutions that desire custodianship of an iconic cultural artifact.”

1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1

This 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 is one of seven made, one of which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10 kilometers below sea level, on the outside of the deep-diving research bathyscaphe “Trieste” and continued to function flawlessly.It sold for CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513) at Christie's on 8 November 2021
This 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 is one of seven made, one of which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10 kilometers below sea level, on the outside of the deep-diving research bathyscaphe “Trieste” and continued to function flawlessly.It sold for CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513) at Christie's on 8 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 8 November 2021
Estimate: CHF 2,000,000 to CHF 4,000,000 ($1,827,400 to $3,654,800)
Official Auction Page
Now this is a fascinating watch, being accompanied to auction by black and white copies of images depicting a Rolex Deep Sea Special and Auguste Piccard's deep-diving research bathyscaphe “Trieste.”

The “Trieste” reached a record depth of about 10,915 meters (35,810 ft) in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench near Guam on 23 January 1960 – the lowest point on the planet. That's heading for seven miles underwater.

The watch is one of seven examples of the Deep Sea Special model made in stainless steel and fitted with stainless steel or stainless steel and gold bracelets. Other examples of these extremely rare watches are on permanent exhibit at the world's most prestigious technical and horological museums such as the Deutsche Museum in Munich, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Musée International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Clock & Watch Museum Beyer in Zurich.

The muscular side profile of the 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 gives a hint of why it was able to submerge 10,915 metres (35,810 ft) and continue to work flawlessly. At that depth, it experienced a pressure of 1,150 atm or 1,150 kgs per cm2.
The muscular side profile of the 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special №1 gives a hint of why it was able to submerge 10,915 metres (35,810 ft) and continue to work flawlessly. At that depth, it experienced a pressure of 1,150 atm or 1,150 kgs per cm2.

According to the vendor, this watch participated at one of Piccard's diving trials with the bathyscaph "Trieste" in the Mediterranean Sea. The entire story is in the auction description and while it has not been proven beyond doubt that this was the watch that participated in the trials, one of the seven made went to 3150 meters deep in 1953, strapped to the outside of the “Trieste” and continued to work flawlessly.

When the final descent to 10,915 meters (35,810 ft) was made some seven years later, one of these watches was again strapped to the outside of the “Trieste” and it continued to work flawlessly, holding up to a pressure of 1,150 atm or 1,150 kgs per cm2.

The following day Jacques Piccard (son of the bathyscaph's designer and one of the two men inside the “Trieste” in its journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench) sent a telegram to Rolex in Geneva that read "Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 meters your watch is as precise as on the surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard".

Even without proof this was the watch that participated in the trials, it still ran to CHF 1,890,000 ($2,068,513) at auction, but still much better than the last time it sold 16 years prior when it fetched CHF 322,400. If somehow it could be proven that it was THE watch, its value would almost certainly rise dramatically. It has been done before. In 2018 a motorcycle sold for $230,000 after it had previously sold for just $1500. The new owner had tracked down the evidence to prove it was the bike Steve McQueen rode in the movie “On Any Sunday.”

1988 Porsche 959 Komfort

This 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort sold for CHF 1,973,750 ($2,117,439) at RM Sotheby's on 17 September 2021, setting a new price record for the model.
This 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort sold for CHF 1,973,750 ($2,117,439) at RM Sotheby's on 17 September 2021, setting a new price record for the model.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CHF 1,973,750 ($2,117,439)
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 17 September 2021
Estimate: CHF 1,500,000 to CHF 1,700,000 ($1,609,200 to $1,823,760)
Official Auction Page
Porsche’s 959 Comfort is unquestionably one of the landmark sports cars in history, and although the 1980s techno wizardry is now firmly in middle age, the numbers seem just about right for its value to start appreciating on a steeper trajectory. There is a changing of the guard in the collector car marketplace, and the 959 is now among the hero cars that were on the bedroom walls of teenage boys who are now reaching financial maturity.

There are several variants of the 959, with the rare 29-units-only 959 Sport passing the $2 million barrier at auction back in 2017, and the much rarer 959 Paris-Dakar, one of which recently sold within a whisker of $6 million.

The standard 959 Komfort has been selling above a million dollars for a decade, but until 2021, had never cracked the $2.0 million mark. Still, with only 292 units built, the potential is definitely there for demand to exceed supply. This exceptional vehicle is the first to breach the $2.0 million mark – it had just 961 km on the odometer when it sold at St. Moritz in Switzerland in September, having been one of seven 959s that were ordered through the Porsche Exclusive division by the same member of the royal family of Qatar.

This market overview for the 959 by Hagerty examines the previous holder of the most valuable 959 trophy, a black beauty that fetched $1,732,500 at the 2015 Gooding & Co Pebble Beach auction.

30cm Bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha dated 539

This 30cm tall bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha is from the Western Wei dynasty, dated 539 AD. It sold for HK$17,115,000 ($2,199,278) at Sotheby’s on 12 October 2021
This 30cm tall bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha is from the Western Wei dynasty, dated 539 AD. It sold for HK$17,115,000 ($2,199,278) at Sotheby’s on 12 October 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$17,115,000 ($2,199,278)
Auction House: Sotheby’s | Date sold: 12 October 2021
Estimate: HK$5,000,000 to HK$7,000,000 ($642,500 to $899,500)
Official Auction Page
This important and unusually large inscribed votive bronze sculpture is one of only three known dated examples from the Western Wei dynasty. The inscription on the base records that the present sculpture was commissioned by Monk Huile of the Yongchuan Temple. It may be translated as: "On the second day of the sixth month of the jiwei year, the fifth year of Datong (corresponding to 539), Monk Huile of Yongchuan Temple commissioned this image of Shakyamuni Buddha in the hope that the Emperor, seven generations of ancestors, all relatives and all sentient beings in this world might live serenely in the Buddhist universe.”

Batman #1 (DC, 1940) CGC NM 9.4 White pages

This copy of “Batman #1” (DC, 1940) sold for $2,200,000 at Heritage Auctions on 14 January 2021
This copy of “Batman #1” (DC, 1940) sold for $2,200,000 at Heritage Auctions on 14 January 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,200,000
Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 14 January 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
The finest known issue of Batman #1, online bidding had surpassed the previous record for this comic a week before the auction closed, ensuring it would become the most expensive Dark Knight comic ever. This is the only copy ever to receive a 9.4 grade from the Certified Guaranty Company, besting the previous world record set for a Batman title in November 2020 when Heritage sold 1939’s "Detective Comics No. 27" for $1.5 million. That comic represented a lesser-quality copy of the comic that featured the first appearance of Batman.

15th Century Shirt of Mail and Plate

This elaborate 15th Century shirt of chain mail and plate armour from the Janissary Arsenal in Istanbul sold for $2,300,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 5 December 2021
This elaborate 15th Century shirt of chain mail and plate armour from the Janissary Arsenal in Istanbul sold for $2,300,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 5 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,300,000
Auction House: Rock Island Auctions | Date sold: 5 December 2021
Estimate: $200,000 to $500,000
Official Auction Page

This is the business shirt of one of the toughest sons-of-guns in recorded history and someone who deserves having a film made about him. It is what your most important soldier wore into battle 500 years ago, and as the Sultan of the biggest Empire ever ruled by a warrior-caste, Abu Al-Nasr Sayf ad-Din Al-Ashraf Qaitbay prided himself in getting amongst it on the battlefield. He ruled Egypt for 28 years and fought 16 military campaigns.

If you’re not a history buff, but watched “Game of Thrones,” the ”Unsullied” were loosely based on the Mamluks, being chosen from slave children and schooled in administrative skills and combat arts until adulthood. In the ultimate meritocracy, those who showed the most potential progressed into a disciplined civil administration and near unbeatable army. The only embellishment George Martin added to the "Unsullied" that wasn’t relevant to the Mamluks is that they were not castrated. Indeed, the Mamluks, like the Unsullied, rose up against their “owners” and took over their empire.

Qaitbay progressed from child slave, through the Mamluk system to the Palace Guard, then to the trusted advisor of several successive Sultans and finally to become Sultan of Egypt himself.

He was granted his freedom when Sultan Jaqmaq found out Qaitbay was a descendant of the equally remarkable Al-Ashraf Musa Abu'l-Fath al-Muzaffar ad-Din. Al-Ashraf (died 27 August 1237) was a ruler of the Ayyubid dynasty in Diayr Bakr (Mayyaafariqin and Jabal Sinjar) until the Mongol conquest of 1231.

Although Qaitbay was obviously a great administrator, he was also a visionary, and is best remembered for the wide-ranging and spectacular building projects he sponsored, leaving his mark as an architectural patron on Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, and every quarter of Cairo.

Thanks to Sultan Qaitbay's long and wise reign of Mamluk Egypt (1468–1496 CE), his helmet has also been preserved and is part of the Collection of the State Heritage Museum, St. Petersburg. At Right is Mamluk horse armour from the relevant period - it is most likely that the leader of a warrior caste going into battle would be heavily protected, and as the Sultan of an Empire, he was probably afforded some seriously capable close protection in addition to the armour.
Thanks to Sultan Qaitbay's long and wise reign of Mamluk Egypt (1468–1496 CE), his helmet has also been preserved and is part of the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. At Right is Mamluk horse armour from the relevant period - it is most likely that the leader of a warrior caste going into battle would be heavily protected, and as the Sultan of an Empire, he was probably afforded some seriously capable close protection in addition to the armour.

But make no mistake, it was because he was very good on the battlefield that enabled him to live to a ripe age. How good? The Mamluks beat the Mongols and were the only opposing force to the otherwise near unbeatable Mongol Empire to clearly have their measure.

This 15th Century Shirt of mail and plate has elaborate Gold-Koftgari-decorated plate-reinforcement, stamped as the property of the Janissary Arsenal at the Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul. The inscription bears the name of “Qaytbay Mamluk Sultan of Egypt 1468-1496”. This shirt is one of three known and identified as Qaytbay’s shirts of plate and mail, the others housed in the Topkapi Armoury Museum in Istanbul and another in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

World record Macallan 30-year-old whisky cask, complete with artwork and NFT

This cask of 30-year-old Macallan whisky, sold complete with artwork and an NFT, for $2,330,000 at Metacask on 22 October 2021. That's a new world record for a cask.
This cask of 30-year-old Macallan whisky, sold complete with artwork and an NFT, for $2,330,000 at Metacask on 22 October 2021. That's a new world record for a cask.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,330,000
Auction House: Metacask | Date sold: 22 October 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
The sale of whisky casks is a recent innovation, and one can understand why, when you realize that unlike wine, once whisky leaves the barrel and takes up residence in the bottle, its aging process ceases. Hence a bottle of 30-year-old Scotch won't get any older, but if it is sitting inside a cask, the aging process continues.

Buying whisky by the cask has massive advantages, not the least of which is that the ageing process continues, further leveraging your investment
Buying whisky by the cask has massive advantages, not the least of which is that the ageing process continues, further leveraging your investment

The addition of an NFT to the process in this particular instance appears to add cost, but not value. All of the casks on the price record list are still stored at the Macallan Distillery in Easter Elchies, Craigellachie where the rent and insurance will cost about £250 per year per barrel and if you want to sample the merchandise, there’s a paid service that can go to your barrel, siphon out the number of bottles you want and dispatch them to you.

In addition to the NFT, there’s the artwork NFT–- surely it makes more sense to get some artwork you like and negotiate the cost of using that instead. It is the Macallan 30-Year-Old (and counting) that matters in this instance, not someone else’s idea of what looks good.

"Nautilus Cup" (1628) by Jacob Claesz de Grebber (Amsterdam)

This Nautilus Cup (1628) by Jacob Claesz de Grebber (Amsterdam) sold for £1,769,500 ($2,344,411) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021
This Nautilus Cup (1628) by Jacob Claesz de Grebber (Amsterdam) sold for £1,769,500 ($2,344,411) at Sotheby's on 7 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,769,500 ($2,344,411)
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 7 December 2021
Estimate: £400,000 to £600,000 ($529,960 to $794,940)
Official Auction Page
While Nautilus shells were commonplace on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, they were exotic in Europe when they first returned to Amsterdam with the ships of the Dutch East India Company. For sailors, they were an easily-obtained treasure that could be turned into cash upon their return. The most commonplace use of the Nautilus Shell was to have it polished and used as the basis for a luxury drinking vessel for feasts and ceremonies and some gold and silversmiths turned them into wondrous objects such as this lot. There’s a fascinating backstory, including being commandeered by two of Hitler’s senior art agents, but the most important part of which is that this particular cup made in 1628 by Jacob Claesz de Grebber, also appears in a painting by Gerrit Willemsz. Heda (1624-1649) in the National Gallery in London.

Autograph manuscript of revisions to the first edition of Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica"

Sir Isaac Newton’s revisions to his greatest work, the Principia | Christie's

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,702,500 ($2,344,513)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 8 July 2021
Estimate: £600,000 to £900,000 ($826,260 to $1,239,390)
Official Auction Page
One of the most valuable scientific documents in history changed hands in July, when an autograph Isaac Newton manuscript of revisions to three sections of the first edition of the “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” sold at Christie’s in London for £1,702,500 ($2,344,513).

Newton’s "Principia" is arguably the most influential book in history. It was lauded by Albert Einstein as "perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make," so the manuscript of revisions was expected to fetch a princely sum. Christie’s official estimate ranged from £600,000 to £900,000 ($833,000 to $1,250,000), despite the fact the revisions didn’t appear in the second edition published in 1713, or the third edition in 1726.

The final price was well beyond expectations though, since the most expensive copy of a first-edition “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” ever sold fetched just $3,719,500 – and that was a Continental presentation copy bound in full inlaid Morocco leather. Indeed, this latest manuscript almost matched the price of the second-most valuable first-edition “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” ever sold, which was originally the King James II presentation copy. It sold in 2013 for $2,517,000, at a Christie’s auction in New York.

Hence it was the handwriting of Newton and the relationship to the most important book in history that appears to have fetched the massive price.

Written in Latin on one and a half pages of 220 x 189-mm paper, the heavily-corrected draft is dated from May to July, 1694. It features a total of 39 lines in Newton’s hand and 21 lines by Scottish mathematician and astronomer David Gregory, with whom Newton was collaborating.

Autographed scientific manuscripts by Newton are extremely rare and valuable, with a Newton handwritten document related to the Principia – just 1.625 x 7.25 inches in size – selling for $118,750 at University Archives on May 26th, 2021, and a previous Newton Principia-related manuscript fetching just over $230,000 in October 1999. Prior Principia autograph manuscripts also went to auction in 1991 and 1979, emphasizing their rarity.

"Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse" (2021) by Refik Anadol

"Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse" (2021) by Refik Anadol sold for HK$18,325,000 ($2,353,113) at Sotheby's on 4 October 2021
"Machine Hallucinations – Space: Metaverse" (2021) by Refik Anadol sold for HK$18,325,000 ($2,353,113) at Sotheby's on 4 October 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$18,325,000 ($2,353,113)
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 4 October 2021
Estimate: HK$3,500,000 to HK$5,500,000 ($449,435 to $706,255)
Official Auction Page
As the concept of art evolves, we’re going to be faced with some interesting platforms. This is the first immersive NFT artwork, and was sold with an artist-signed 3D physical certificate with backup source installation files, a custom computer with software, and a VR headset. The artist’s studio assisted the buyer with installation instructions and oversight.

The artwork is described thus in the catalogue: This first immersive NFT artwork based on an AI cinema experience in which the past and the future of space exploration are intertwined, was born from a complex narrative of spatio-temporal re-orientation. The work is a 3-chapter, 15-minute multidimensional cinema in metaverse that is tokenized in the form of VR and minted for collectors who would like to rebuild the experience in an architectural space where they can step into the mind of a machine and speculate an alternative perception of space. In order to attain this complex spatial structure visually, the experience is separated into three chapters, each focusing on vast datasets collected from the visual memories of the universe capture by the International Space Station and the Hubble and MRO telescopes.

Regardless of the source of the data they are based on, one of the fundamental questions that Refik Anadol’s body of work has been raising for more than ten years is the possibility of establishing relationships with memories, information, archives and histories – all of which he calls “the heritage of humanity.” His vision of the relationship between artificial intelligence, big data, and art is as follows: “With so many tools at our disposal, from artificial intelligence to machine learning, from the latest data visualization techniques to artistic creativity, it is both a responsibility and an unlimited trigger of imagination to preserve the data on space-machine-human relations as much as possible and carry it into the future.”

Central to this artwork is the ingestion of vast amounts of space-related digital data, similar to the radical and fully immersive data visualizations of digitized collective memories that Anadol and his Studio have accomplished in the last decade.

Much of Refik Anadol’s work is accessible from his website, which definitely worth a look. This particular artwork can be seen in a video hosted on the official Sotheby’s auction page.

2003-04 UD "Exquisite Collection" Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph (RPA) #78 LeBron James Signed Patch Rookie Card (#23/99) Basketball Card

A very similar card to this 2003-04 UD LeBron James "Exquisite Collection" Signed Rookie Patch Autograph #78/99 sold for $2,400,000 at Goldin Auctions on 24 October 2021. The new record holder is numbered #23/99 - LeBron's jersey number
A very similar card to this 2003-04 UD LeBron James "Exquisite Collection" Signed Rookie Patch Autograph #78/99 sold for $2,400,000 at Goldin Auctions on 24 October 2021. The new record holder is numbered #23/99 - LeBron's jersey number

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,400,000
Auction House: Goldin | Date sold: 24 October 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
In July 2020, a "2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James rookie autograph patch card" became the first basketball card to top the $1 million mark when it fetched $1.8 million at Goldin Auctions‘ 2020 Summer Auction. The card had been purchased at auction by OnlyAlt, one of the new fractional-investment services.

In September 2020, OnlyAlt announced it had just purchased a "Logoman Giannis Antetokounmpo signed 1/1 rookie card" for $1.812 million. Since then, just the highlights of 2021 basketball card sales include transactions for $5.9 million (Alt Fund II, an investment fund managed by alternative asset platform OnlyAlt, purchased a 51 percent stake in a “2009-10 Panini National Treasures Stephen Curry Logoman Autograph Rookie Card #206”), $5.2 million (PWCC announced brokering a private sale of a “2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James Rookie Patch Autograph AU/23 #78”), $4.6 million (privately announced purchase of “2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Dončić Logoman Autograph Rookie Card #127”) and $2.7 million (announced by Goldin Auctions private sales for a “1997-98 Upper Deck Michael Jordan All Star Game Used Jersey #GJ13S”). Those transactions did not occur at auction, though they were brokered by reputable auction houses.

There are more factors at play than just the public response to COVID-19 in what has become a cardboard gold rush over the last two years, and one of the primary reasons for the massive demand at the top end of the sports card marketplace has been the entry of “fractional purchase" services such as Collectable, OnlyAlt and Rally.

These apps enable individuals to purchase a fraction of a rare collectible card in a similar way to purchasing stock, and with those companies going after the very best cards to entice new members, they have jumped the queue by going direct to the auction houses and offering prices that guarantee them first crack at the prime stock. They then announce these fabulous new values, the media picks it up and the marketplace rises even more dramatically.

So while the record more than doubled from the beginning of 2020, and rose 30 percent in 2021, the highest price at auction for a basketball card in 2021 was really only the fifth highest sale of the year. It was obviously going to be the highest priced and most sought-after LeBron James card because of the 99 limited edition cards issued, it was the one with his jersey number # 23.

Several other basketball cards topped the million dollar mark this year, being a 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card that sold for $1,752,000, a 2004-05 Upper Deck "Ultimate Signatures Logos" #USL-LJ LeBron James Signed Logoman Game Used Patch Card (#1/1) sold for $1,291,500, and a 2003-04 UD "Exquisite Collection" Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph (RPA) #78 LeBron James Signed Patch Rookie Card (#32/99) that sold at auction for $1,272,000 in October at Goldin.

1967 Lamborghini Miura

This 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 sold for $1,902,500 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction on 14 August, setting a new world record for the model.
This 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 sold for $1,902,500 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction on 14 August, setting a new world record for the model.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,415,000
Auction House: Silverstone Auctions | Date sold: 25 November 2021
Estimate: Not Available 
Official Auction Page (removed from web)
To fully understand the impact of the Lamborghini Miura, you needed to have lived through its introduction. People who knew nothing about cars were discussing it in the street, and people who did know about cars were having heart palpitations looking at the mid-engined layout (1965 Turin Show) and its gorgeous design and outrageous 280 km/h top speed (1966 Geneva Show).

It rocked the automotive world to its core in the day, became the poster car of a generation, and it is still a benchmark at auction.

In 2021, the record price for a first-model P400 was reset twice (we think). Gooding & Co definitely set a world record when it sold a red 1968 P400 for $1,902,500 at Pebble Beach in August, and then Silverstone Auctions sold a blue 1967 P400 at the Riyadh Car Show Auction in Saudi Arabia on 25 November. Since then though, the entire results have been removed from Silverstone’s site and … clearly something isn’t right. So the short story is that the gorgeous red Lamborghini Miura above was the world model record holder for at least some of 2021, and the Lamborghini Miura marketplace looks to have regained any momentum lost due to COVID-19. MotorTrend did this succinct outline of the Miura that perfectly explains its place in automotive history.

Superman #1 (Summer 1939) Comic

NEVER BEFORE SEEN RARE SECOND HIGHEST GRADED SUPERMAN #1

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,604,705
Auction House: Comic Connect | Date sold: 17 December 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
This is the first titled Superman comic which published in 1939, mere months after the success of "Action Comics #1" convinced the publishers they had a major hit on their hands in the form of the "Man of Steel."

The story behind this comic book is quite extraordinary. The vendor at this auction was just the second owner of the comic, purchasing it in 1979 from the person who bought it off a newsstand in 1939. It has spent the last four decades in a temperature-controlled safe and was ungraded until recently. Indeed, watch the video above and you’ll see that even his wife didn’t know he had it.

1610 Elephant Automaton Clock

This 400-year-old Elephant Automaton Clock sold for $2,610,000 ($2,610,000) at Christie's on 13 October 2021
This 400-year-old Elephant Automaton Clock sold for $2,610,000 ($2,610,000) at Christie's on 13 October 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,610,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 13 October 2021
Estimate: $700,000 to $1,000,000
Official Auction Page
Automatons were a natural sideline for clockmakers in the 15th, 16th and 17th Century and some astonishingly complex clockwork machines were created, though usually as some form of performance to accompany the hour chimes of a clock. This silvered, bronze, enameled silver and gilt-bronze Elephant Automaton Clock was created in Augsburg, Bavaria circa 1600 to 1610.

Charles I Silver Inkstand (1639)

This Charles I Silver Inkstand (1639) sold for £1,942,500 ($2,675,017) at Christie's on 8 July 2021
This Charles I Silver Inkstand (1639) sold for £1,942,500 ($2,675,017) at Christie's on 8 July 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £1,942,500 ($2,675,017)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 8 July 2021
Estimate: $1,000,000 to $1,500,000
Official Auction Page
This truly exquisite Charles I Silver Inkstand and Standish (a stand for writing materials) set a world record when it last went to auction at Christie’s in 1970, fetching £78,000, almost twice the previous record price for a lot of silver sold at auction. The entire history of the magnificent piece is recorded in the auction description. It’s also much larger than it looks in the image, being 16 ½ inches (42 cm) long, 15 ½ inches (39.5 cm) wide, and 10 ¼ in. (26 cm) high and weighing 5.337 kg.

1994 Bugatti Automobili EB110 SS

This 1994 Bugatti Automobili EB110 SS sold for $2,755,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021
This 1994 Bugatti Automobili EB110 SS sold for $2,755,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,755,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 14 August 2021
Estimate: $2,750,000 to $3,000,000
Official Auction Page
Those unfamiliar with automotive history may be unaware that the great Bugatti marque has had three distinct and quite different eras. The first era under the stewardship of Ettore Bugatti finished in 1963 and the third era is well known under the stewardship of Volkswagen (and now Rimac), beginning in 1998. There was a previous modern revival of the marque that ran from 1987 to 1995 and the most desirable car that came from the company during that time was the EB110 SS. The exact number that were made is not available, but it is thought that around 30 were finally produced, with the final few made up from semi-finished cars under production at the time the company went bankrupt, plus spare parts.

The EB110SS is highly regarded, selling for more than $2.0 million (€2,030,000) for the first time at RM Sotheby’s 2019 Retromobile sale.

In 2021, two of the 30 EB110SS units sold, one at Bonhams’ Zoute Sale in Belgium for € 2,242,500 (US$ 2,546,358) and a new high watermark was set at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale at $2,755,000.

Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms by Nicolas-Noel Boutet

This magnificent Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms by Nicolas-Noel Boutet is among the most significant set of arms from the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars in private hands. It was sold for $2,875,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 3 December 2021
This magnificent Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms by Nicolas-Noel Boutet is among the most significant set of arms from the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars in private hands. It was sold for $2,875,000 at Rock Island Auctions on 3 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,875,000
Auction House: Rock Island Auctions | Date sold: 3 December 2021
Estimate: $1,500,000 to $3,500,000
Official Auction Page
The “Napoleon garniture” has been well known for over two centuries since it was first put on display in 1816 in London following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his final abdication and exile. There are few people in history who have commanded such respect and fear as Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose from relative obscurity to Emperor. As a warrior, there are few in history his equal, and all the works of art in this grouping of armaments originated from the renowned Versailles Manufactory led by the incomparable Nicolas-Noel Boutet. On a good day, each of these arms might have commanded more at auction than the entire grouping, with two previous Boutet pairs of pistols selling just shy of $2 million each. The auction description for this lot is a history book in its own right.

1992 Ferrari F40

This 1992 Ferrari F40 sold for $2,892,500 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021, becoming the new price record holder for the F40 model.
This 1992 Ferrari F40 sold for $2,892,500 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021, becoming the new price record holder for the F40 model.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,892,500
Auction House: Gooding & Co. | Date sold: 13 August 2021
Estimate: $1,700,000 to $2,200,000
Official Auction Page
The Ferrari F40 is the final supercar built under the supervision of Enzo Ferrari, with 1315 units produced between 1987 and 1992. Remarkably, given its killer looks and the massive global Ferrari following, the F40 began 2021 never having sold into the $2.0 million bracket other than its LM ("Le Mans" versions with racing modifications) variants. By the end of 2021, four F40s had exceeded $2.0 million and from the new record holder’s price, it seems the $3.0 million mark is within sight. That's a lot of supply to be commanding a price of that magnitude, which is probably a reflection on the fervent nature of the Tifosi creating such high demand.

The First Tweet by Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47) as an NFT at Valuables on 7 March, with Dorsey immediately donating the money to charity
Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47) as an NFT at Valuables on 7 March, with Dorsey immediately donating the money to charity

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47)
Auction House: Valuables | Date sold: 7 March 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
Bitcoin advocate, former CEO of Twitter and Square, now CEO of Block, Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT on the tweet’s 15th anniversary, collecting 1630.5825601 ETH ($2,915,835.47), immediately converting it into Bitcoin and donating the entire amount to GiveDirectly for its Africa Response.

The winning bidder was Sina Estavi, CEO of blockchain company Bridge Oracle, who said on twitter of the sale, “This is not just a tweet! I think years later people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting.”

1914 Stutz Model 4E Bearcat

This 1914 Stutz Model 4E Bearcat sold for $2,920,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
This 1914 Stutz Model 4E Bearcat sold for $2,920,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $2,920,000
Auction House: Gooding & Co | Date sold: 14 August 2021
Estimate: $2,750,000 to $3,500,000
Official Auction Page
When RM Sotheby’s curated its ground-breaking “Art of the Automobile” sale in November 2013, it hand-picked specific important automobiles, motorcycles and artworks to fit the theme and achieved a remarkable, market-changing result.

One of the cars chosen that day was a 1912 Stutz Model A Bearcat, which it billed as “the car that invented American performance.”

The auction description for that car began thus: “Art has always been about stretching boundaries. It is about starting with the acceptable and pushing it beyond its limitations. It is about taking expectations and blowing them away with audacious fervor. It is about provoking astonishment through unbridled creativity.

By these standards, Harry C. Stutz was an unlikely artist. Perhaps a few in the stands at Indianapolis in 1911 saw Stutz’s creation coming, but they were in the minority, as they were engineers and fellow veterans of the early automobile industry, and they knew Stutz’s genius. The car that he built under his own name averaged 62.375 mph for 500 miles in that first running of the 500, running with only minimal mechanical adjustment and 13 pit stops, with 11 of which being for tires. Though it did not win the race, its durable performance was considered outstanding for a first independent production effort. Stutz took advantage of the notice, promoting his car as “The Car That Made Good In A Day.”

The Stutz is really a car from a different era and over the last century, some wonderful writers have captured the essence of the Stutz particularly well and none moreso than the incomparable Tom McCahill writing in Mechanic Illustrated: “With its big, barrel sized fuel tank just behind the two leather bucket seats, with its waist-high wooden spoke wheels and its wide-open construction, it made you feel you were riding a Man ’O War on wheels... It could Waltz through a stone wall or the side of a house like a Sherman tank. It had pistons that resemble ash cans and a five and one half inch stroke that drew in enough air on the down breath to start a Kansas Tornado.” That quote was sourced from Classic Driver's preview of the 2021 auction.

The remarkable thing about this particular car is that when it rolled across the Gooding & Co stage at the official Pebble Beach auction in August 2021, it carried with it a low estimate higher than the world record price for a Stutz, yet it waltzed past the low estimate and into the record books … for a second time.

It seems that the last time this car went to auction was in Pebble Beach in 2006, where Gooding & Co sold it for a record $715,000, so little has changed in 15 years except for the price, costing more than $2 million more.

The car was in near perfect condition, but the biggest determining factor in this particular version of the car that “made good in a day” was the documentation. Every car has a story, and the better you tell that story, the more it will be worth. This car came with “an extraordinary history file”, period photos, correspondence and articles that linked it to prior owners such as “Hemp” Oliver, Winthrop Rockefeller, and William F. Harrah.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document (1975)

This "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stillborn movie sold for €2,660,000 ($3,002,076) at Christie's on 22 November 2021
This "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stillborn movie sold for €2,660,000 ($3,002,076) at Christie's on 22 November 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €2,660,000 ($3,002,076)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 22 November 2021
Estimate: €25,000 to €35,000 ($28,215 to $39,501)
Official Auction Page
One of the great scifi stories of 2021 was the surfacing of one of the promotional documents from the "greatest movie that was never made”, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel, “Dune” (1965) for the big screen. With Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 version of the film making remarkable post-COVID Box Office numbers a month after its theatrical release in the United States, Jodorowsky’s "Dune" Storyboard movie investment document sold for €2,660,000 ($3,002,076) at a Christie’s auction despite, or perhaps because of being one of the most famous doomed projects in movie history.

There was a documentary made about the still-born movie that premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. It was one of the best reviewed films of 2014, won numerous awards and was short-listed for a Best Documentary Oscar.

The most interesting aspect of this stand-out sale is that the Lot Essay in the Christie’s auction description mentions a copy had previously been auctioned, but whomever paid $3 million for it clearly didn’t read the fine print because it wasn’t hard to find the previous copy. That copy sold for $42,500 at Heritage Auctions in 2019.

1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

This 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster sold for $3,085,000 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021
This 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster sold for $3,085,000 at Gooding & Co. on 13 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,085,000
Auction House: Gooding & Co | Date sold: 13 August 2021
Estimate: $2,000,000 to $2,500,000
Official Auction Page
The $3,085,000 price of this car is effectively a record price for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, as only one car has ever sold for more than that and it was a freakish occurrence where the 11th-last-car made was gifted when new and hardly ever used. It had traveled 1372 km from new in 55 years when it sold in 2018 at Artcurial’s Le Mans Classic sale. The car presented as new, and fetched €3,143,440 ($3,693,856). This car is one of the final six produced and was sold with a pristine hardtop and matching luggage. There were 1858 Mercedes Benz 300 SL roadsters built, a much larger number than can usually support a million-dollar price tag and this has been adjudged by price as one of the two best in existence.

Action Comics #1 (June, 1938)

This copy of Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) - the first appearance of "Superman" - sold for $3,250,000 at ComicConnect.com on 4 April 2021 to become the world's most expensive comic book ... for a few months
This copy of Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) - the first appearance of "Superman" - sold for $3,250,000 at ComicConnect.com on 4 April 2021 to become the world's most expensive comic book ... for a few months

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,250,000
Auction House: ComicConnect.com | Date sold: 4 April 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
This is the comic that includes the first appearance of Superman and hence it's the comic that began the entire superhero genre. "Action Comics #1" has traditionally held the title of the most important and most expensive comic in history. It may well retain the most important tag, but five months after this sale it was surpassed ... read on.

2003 Ferrari Enzo

This 2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for $3,360,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021 and achieved the highest price of any Enzo that hadn’t been owned by the global head of a major religion.
This 2003 Ferrari Enzo sold for $3,360,000 at RM Sotheby's on 14 August 2021 and achieved the highest price of any Enzo that hadn’t been owned by the global head of a major religion.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,360,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 14 August 2021
Estimate: $2,200,000 to $2,450,000
Official Auction Page
Named after the founder of Ferrari and offered exclusively to existing customers who had purchased an F40 or F50, all 399 of the limited production Ferrari Enzo units were sold before production began, with a 400th unit built just for Pope John Paul II. This car is one of two examples of the model finished in Nero Black and not surprisingly, it fetched a remarkable price - the second-highest in the history of the model.

While second isn’t normally something to be celebrated, it is in this case because once Pope John Paul II had disposed of his car to channel the funds to charity, it went to auction in Monterey in 2015 as part of the Pinnacle Portfolio and sold for $6,050,000. Having a Pope in a car’s provenance is a more-than-useful selling feature so the result can be discounted as an outlier. More importantly, it’s an indication that the Ferrari Enzo’s value might be beginning to move upwards once more.

The Sienna Star' Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Ring

The Sienna Star' Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Ring sold for $3,408,000 at Sotheby's on 9 June 2021
The Sienna Star' Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Ring sold for $3,408,000 at Sotheby's on 9 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,408,000
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 9 June 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page
From celebrity designer/craftsman Glenn Spiro, the centrepiece of this ring is a 73 carat yellow diamond known as “The Sienna Star," one of the largest that has ever gone to auction.

“Amazing Fantasy #15” (Marvel, 1962): Spider-Man’s debut

This copy of "Amazing Fantasy #15" (Marvel, 1962) was the first appearance of Spider-Man. It sold for $3,600,000 at Heritage Auctions on 9 September 2021, deposing Action Comics #1 as the world's most valuable comic for the first time in history.
This copy of "Amazing Fantasy #15" (Marvel, 1962) was the first appearance of Spider-Man. It sold for $3,600,000 at Heritage Auctions on 9 September 2021, deposing Action Comics #1 as the world's most valuable comic for the first time in history.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,600,000
Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 September 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
Significance: All auction genres are subject to the whims of their stakeholders, and as the composition of the audience changes over time, the ever-changing tastes of the audience change the landscape.

The finest-known copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15” sold for $3.6 million on September 9 to become the most valuable comic book ever sold, overcoming the long-standing world-record run of “Action Comics #1” – the debut of Superman.

Graded "CGC Near Mint+ 9.6", the 1962 comic is one of only four copies ever to receive such a high grade, and there is not a single known copy in better condition.

Most significantly, “Amazing Fantasy #15” comes from the Marvel stable, and in many ways is the “Action Comics #1" (Superman's debut) or “Detective Comics #27” (Batman’s debut) of the next generation.

Featuring Spider-Man’s first public outing, the comic leaped over the world comic price record previously held for eternity by "Action Comics # 1," most recently reset when it sold for $3.25 million earlier in 2021. "Action Comics # 1" had become the first "million dollar comic" on February 22, 2010 when a CGC Grade 8.0 sold at a ComicConnect auction for US$1 million. The previous most expensive copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15” was a CGC Near Mint 9.4-graded copy sold in March 2020 for $795,000.

1996-97 Kobe Bryant Rookie Season Game Used and Signed Lakers Home Jersey

Kobe Bryant's Rookie Season (1996-97) game-used and signed Lakers Home Jersey sold for $3,600,000 at Goldin Auctions on 22 May 2021
Kobe Bryant's Rookie Season (1996-97) game-used and signed Lakers Home Jersey sold for $3,600,000 at Goldin Auctions on 22 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,600,000
Auction House: Goldin Auctions | Date sold: 22 May 2021
Estimate: $100,000 plus
Official Auction Page
Baseball, basketball, football and hockey trading cards selling for more than a million dollars happened, on average, better than once every nine days during 2021, and whenever sports reporters start writing about sports memorabilia, they can’t seem to see the forest because of the trees and miss all the non-card sports memorabilia. This Kobe Bryant jersey is the most expensive non-card basketball memorabilia sold in 2021, and one of four basketball jerseys that sold for more than a million. The two not on this list are Bill Russell’s Final NBA Game Jersey from 1969 that sold for $1,116,250 at Hunts on 10 December and Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers Jersey from Game Six in the 1980 NBA Finals when the 20-year-old rookie announced himself to the world with a near perfect game – it fetched $1,500,000 at Heritage. There’s always a lot more game-worn memorabilia sold each year than you think, with Michael Jordan’s earliest-known regular season Nikes selling for $1,472,000 at Sotheby's on 24 October to round out the top five game-worn basketball memorabilia of the year.

Book of Hours, use of Paris, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum

This Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript in Latin and French on vellum, sold for $3,630,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021
This Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript in Latin and French on vellum, sold for $3,630,000 at Christie's on 23 April 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,630,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 April 2021
Estimate: $1,500,000 to $2,500,000
Official Auction Page
A "book of hours" is a Christian devotional book that was so popular in the Middle Ages, that it is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript, with tens of thousands in collections across Europe. As every Book of Hours is personal and hence different, as it is the result of a collaboration between printer/publisher and patron, most "Books of Hours" have minimal decoration.

When Books were made for wealthy people, the amount of work involved was sometimes seen as an opportunity to demonstrate the piety of the individual with displays of wealth via the highest quality of illustration, ornamentation and Illumination. The most lavish and expensive "Book of Hours" sold to date was the Rothschild Prayerbook, which boasts 67 full-page miniatures by some of the best Flemish painters of the day. The Rothschild Prayerbook sold for $13,605,000 at Christie's on 29 January 2014, after it previously sold for £8,581,500 as part of The Collection of Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild by Christie's in 1999.

This book isn't as lavish as the Rothschild Prayerbook, but it is the work of one of the most respected craftsmen of all time in this genre, the Master of Paris Bartholomeus Anglicus (active 1430-1450), and is one of the most valuable Books of Hours ever sold at auction,

1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie - ice-hockey trading card

This 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3,750,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 May 2021, becoming the world’s most expensive Hockey Trading Card
This 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3,750,000 at Heritage Auctions on 27 May 2021, becoming the world’s most expensive Hockey Trading Card

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,750,000
Auction House: Heritage Auctions (Private) | Date sold: 27 May 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
At the beginning of 2020, the record price that had been paid for a hockey card was $465,000. The record price jumped to $1,290,000 in December 2020, then on 27 May 2021, Heritage Auctions sold one of only two known 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie cards graded Gem Mint 10 by Professional Sports Authenticator for $3.75 million.

1995 Ferrari F50

This 1995 Ferrari F50 sold for $3,965,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021, setting a new record price for the model.
This 1995 Ferrari F50 sold for $3,965,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021, setting a new record price for the model.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $3,965,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 August 2021
Estimate: $3,600,000 to $4,000,000
Official Auction Page
The Ferrari F50 was built to celebrate 50 years of motorsport and the aim was to produce as-close-as-possible, F1 performance in a road car. After four years of developing every aspect of the car, including a five-valves-per-cylinder 60-valve 4.7 liter V12 capable of revving to 10,000, it was unveiled at the 63rd annual Geneva Motor Show in 1995. Just 349 cars were built, selling new for $475,000. With very limited supply and much greater demand, F50 prices have been appreciating since they were new, progressing through the million then $2.0 million brackets until the only black F50 in America went to auction at RM-Sotheby’s 2017 Scottsdale sale, raising the record price for the model to $3,135,000. Another sold for $3,000,000 at RM Sotheby’s 2019 Monterey auction, another for $3,222,500 at Gooding & Co’s 2020 Scottsdale auction, and the two highest prices yet achieved both occurred at RM Sotheby’s in 2021: $3,772,500 at Amelia Island on 22 May and $3,965,000 in Monterey on 13 August, 2021.

2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 Football Card

2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 BGS 8.5 card sold for $4,300,000 in a PWCC-brokered sale on 28 July 2021
2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 BGS 8.5 card sold for $4,300,000 in a PWCC-brokered sale on 28 July 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $4,300,000
Auction House: PWCC-brokered | Date sold: 28 July 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
The first football trading card to break the million-dollar barrier was a Tom Brady rookie card that sold for $1.32 million at PWCC Marketplace in March 2021. The previous record was a signed Patrick Mahomes card that sold for $861,000 in February 2021. By year’s end 2021, a Tom Brady card had sold for $3,107,372 but Mahomes had grabbed the record back with a $4.3 million private sale for a 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Autographed Rookie Card #161 brokered by PWCC.

Inverted Jenny Plate Block

The famous "Inverted Jenny" Plate Block sold for $4,860,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
The famous "Inverted Jenny" Plate Block sold for $4,860,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $4,860,000
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 8 June 2021
Estimate: $5,000,000 to $7,000,000
Official Auction Page
The “Inverted Jenny” is most likely the best known philatelic error in history. Look at Wikipedia’s entry on the “Inverted Jenny” and you’ll see that a block of four Inverted Jennys was sold at a Robert A. Siegel auction in October 2005 for $2.7 million.

That block was secretly purchased by famous shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, a keen collector his whole life. In 2021, Weitzman unveiled his three treasures at a Sotheby’s auction. All legendary, it proved to be a fascinating triumvirate at auction, with the three totaling $32,039,000 on 8 June (see entry for Weitzman collection).

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon (2021)

This 2021 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon sold for $5,200,000 at private Audemars Piguet function on 10 April 2021
This 2021 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon sold for $5,200,000 at private Audemars Piguet function on 10 April 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,200,000
Auction House: Audemars Piguet | Date sold: 11 April 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
Commercial imperatives sometimes make for strange bedfellows.

"Black Panther" is a comic strip superhero created for Marvel Comics by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, first appearing in "Fantastic Four #52" (July 1966).

Along with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet makes up the “holy trinity” of Haute Horlogerie Swiss luxury watch brands that have traditionally made the most technologically sophisticated watches in the world.

Beginning in 1875, Audemars Piguet has been the first to a number of milestones, including creating the first minute-repeating movement for wristwatches (1892), the world’s first skeleton watch (1934) and extremely thin watches (1986).

On 11 April 2021, Audemars Piguet kicked off its new partnership with Marvel Entertainment with the unveiling of the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, a limited edition of 250 pieces selling at 150,000 Swiss francs apiece ($165,000).

At the same celebrity-studded, live-streamed launch party on the same night, a one-off white-gold version of the superhero watch was auctioned for charity, fetching $5.2 million. That’s the most that any Audemars Piguet watch has sold for at auction.

Success begets success, and within a few days, every mainstream media outlet in the world had run the $5.2 million "Black Panther" wristwatch story and all 250 of the limited edition "Black Panther" Flying Tourbillons were spoken for.

So successful was the launch in creating demand for a limited and fixed supply, that when the first of the 250-only limited-edition watches escaped captivity and went to auction five months later in Hong Kong, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Marvel Black Panther Flying Tourbillon fetched HKD 3,750,000 ($482,325).

"Source Code for the World Wide Web" NFT (1989/ 2021) by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned the original Source Code for the World Wide Web into an NFT and sold it for $5,434,500 at Sotheby's on 30 June 2021
Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned the original Source Code for the World Wide Web into an NFT and sold it for $5,434,500 at Sotheby's on 30 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,434,500
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 30 June 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page
In 1989, British Computer Scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and changed the world. On June 30, the now Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold an NFT to commemorate that moment.

The NFT has four elements: the original time-stamped files containing the source code, a moving visualization of the nearly 10,000 lines of code, a letter written by Berners-Lee reflecting on the code and the process of creating it, and a digital “poster” of the full code from the original files using Python. The lines of code referenced by the NFT include implementations of the three languages and protocols invented by Berners-Lee that remain fundamental to the World Wide Web today; HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), and URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers), as well as original HTML documents that instructed early web users on how to use the application.

In auctioning the files Tim Berners-Lee made this statement: “Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity. For me, the best bit about the web has been the spirit of collaboration. While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine. NFTs, be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”

"Stay Free" (2021) by Edward Snowden

NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden sold his first NFT this year, creating a mosaic from the paperwork of the 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision which ruled illegal the NSA mass surveillance Snowden first exposed. Entitled “Stay Free” the NFT sold for 2,224 ETH ($5,500,000) on foundation.app and Snowden donated the entire amount to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden sold his first NFT this year, creating a mosaic from the paperwork of the 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision which ruled illegal the NSA mass surveillance Snowden first exposed. Entitled “Stay Free” the NFT sold for 2,224 ETH ($5,500,000) on foundation.app and Snowden donated the entire amount to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: 2,224 ETH ($5,500,000)
Auction House: Self | Date sold: 16 April 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden sold his first artwork in 2021, having created an image entitled “Stay Free” as an NFT. The artwork incorporates a portrait of Snowden by the famed photographer Platon and a mosaic of pages from the landmark 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in ACLU v. Clapper, which ruled illegal the NSA mass surveillance Snowden first exposed.

Since those historic disclosures in 2013, Snowden has been a vocal advocate for pioneering uses of technology to empower and secure journalists, readers, and members of the general public.

"Emerging applications of cryptography can play an important role in supporting our rights. This auction will drive the development of valuable and privacy-protecting uses of encryption, to safeguard press freedom and serve the public," said Snowden.

The entire $5.5 million went to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden is the president and the board includes John Cusack, Daniel Ellsberg, and Glenn Greenwald.

Musical Table Clock With Automaton Waterfalls, Spinning Flowers And Acrobat (1735)

This splendid Chinese Quarter Striking Musical Table Clock with automaton waterfalls, spinning flowers and acrobat was made between 230 and 300 years ago. It sold for HK$35,000,000 ($5,489,050) at Poly Auction in Beijing on 5 December 2021
This splendid Chinese Quarter Striking Musical Table Clock with automaton waterfalls, spinning flowers and acrobat was made between 230 and 300 years ago. It sold for HK$35,000,000 ($5,489,050) at Poly Auction in Beijing on 5 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$35,000,000 ($5,489,050)
Auction House: Poly Auction | Date sold: 5 December 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
Some remarkable artistry originates in China that is rarely seen in the outside world, though this exquisite Chinese Gilt-Bronze, enamel and paste-set quarter-striking and musical table clock seems to have traveled internationally. It was last seen outside China at a Christie’s London auction a decade ago, when it sold for £2,505,250 ($4,003,640), popping up at Poly Auction Beijing again on 5 December.

On the hour, the acrobat lifts himself over the bar twice in each direction, the automaton flowerheads revolve and the waterfalls flow, while music plays. For those who can’t wait for the hourly spectacle, the show can be tripped by pulling a release cord.

Though no markings exist to specify its origins, it was most likely made in the clockmaking workshops of Guangzhou. During the middle of the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) Guangzhou became a focal point for trade between China and the West and became established as a clock-making centre. During the Qianlong reign (1711-1799) it became a fully-fledged production base for chiming clocks. Early Guangzhou clocks were crude in comparison with their European counterparts but by the middle of Qianlong's reign onwards quality soared and clocks from the city were once again sent as tribute to the Emperor.

Standing just eighteen inches high overall, the present clock is unusually small for a Chinese musical and automaton clock, but the design of the "clock" itself most closely resembles a Guangzhou-made automaton "umbrella" clock in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

“Spider V” by Louise Bourgeois

“Spider V” by Louise Bourgeois sold for $5,550,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
“Spider V” by Louise Bourgeois sold for $5,550,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,550,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 11 May 2021
Estimate: $4,000,000 to $6,000,000
Official Auction Page
In 2015, Louise Bourgeois' “Spider” (1996) became the most expensive sculpture by a contemporary female artist, selling for $28,165,000. In 2019, another edition of the limited edition of six of the same sculpture sold for $32,055,000. Both those works are monumental in size, (326.3 x 756.9 x 706 cm) and have made a huge impression on the public from Tate Modern in London to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. “Spider V” is a much smaller, but a unique version of the artist’s now iconic arachnid art forms, and almost certainly a gold chip investment.

1929 Bugatti Type 35B

This 1929 Bugatti Type 35B sold for $5,615,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021
This 1929 Bugatti Type 35B sold for $5,615,000 at Gooding & Co on 14 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,615,000
Auction House: Gooding & Co | Date sold: 14 August 2021
Estimate: $3,500,000 to $4,500,000
Official Auction Page
The Bugatti Type 35B is often referred to as the world’s most successful racing car, partly because it won a lot of major European Grands Prix, but mainly because it was the first readily available Grand Prix class racing car that could be purchased by the public, so Type 35s ended up winning races every weekend all over the world.

This car ticks every box in regard to quality, matching numbers, and well-documented provenance, having been used by the factory Bugatti team to win two Grands Prix at the highest level: the 1929 French Grand at Le Mans driven by William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams and the 1929 Spanish Grand Prix in the hands of Louis Chiron.

Gooding & Co has a particular affinity with Bugatti T35s, and when this car became the most expensive T35 ever sold, Gooding has now sold the top four most valuable Bugatti Type 35s in history.

Nimba Baga Shoulder Mask (Guinea)

This Nimba Baga Shoulder Mask (Guinea) sold for €4,700,000 ($5,612,270) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
This Nimba Baga Shoulder Mask (Guinea) sold for €4,700,000 ($5,612,270) at Christie's on 23 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €4,700,000 ($5,615,270)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 June 2021
Estimate: €800,000 to €1,200,000 ($955,280 to $1,432,920)
Official Auction Page
This is a fascinating lot, being a Nimba (aka D’mba) mask, the “great mother” figure and most iconic symbol of the Baga West African ethnic group. This is a shoulder mask in that it is worn on the shoulders of a male, with the mask on top of the head. The shoulders of the mask are then covered, leaving an 8 ft tall female figure to take part in ceremonies and celebrations. Though these masks have been highly prized by museums and galleries, this is easily the most expensive Nimba mask to have sold at auction, having come from the exquisite Michel Périnet collection of masterpieces of African, Oceanic and American art.

One interesting aspect of this lot is that Wikipedia’s entry on the Nimba mask, and the Lot Essay, both make mention of the influence of the Nimba mask on Pablo Picasso.

Christie’s Lot Essay reads: “The Guinean invention was also a determining one for the adventure of Western modern art. According to William Rubin, Picasso's purchase of a Nimba during the 1920s inspired his execution of a series of portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter.”

The most expensive painting on this list – Picasso's "Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)" is such a painting and there's a great article on how Picasso portrayed both his lover (Marie-Therese) and his wife in his art. Can you see any resemblance between Picasso's portrayal of Marie-Thérèse and Nimba?

1929 Duesenberg Model J torpedo convertible

This 1929 Duesenberg Model J torpedo convertible sold for $5,725,000 at RM Sotheby's on 22 May 2021
This 1929 Duesenberg Model J torpedo convertible sold for $5,725,000 at RM Sotheby's on 22 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,725,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 22 May 2021
Estimate: $3,500,000 to $4,000,000
Official Auction Page
When this car was purchased at RM-Sotheby’s Scottsdale 2016 auction, it was finished in red and cost the purchaser (the vendor at the 2021 auction) a not-inconsiderable $3,000,000. It was one of just six original examples of the Model J Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe by American coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy.

What followed was a complete, concours-quality restoration at RM Auto Restoration, the original company that spawned the world's largest collector car auction empire, RM-Sotheby’s. The aim was to take the car back to the condition in which it was first delivered and proof that the objective was achieved would be the results of the two major public outings the car has had since it was replenished to originality using surviving Murphy factory records and period photographs.

The thoroughly-authentic restoration debuted at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (the toughest gig on the global calendar), where it was judged Second in Class. It then appeared at the 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it achieved Best in Class. This is a perfect before-and-after example of an iconic design, and a blueprint on how to make collecting cars pay.

Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Vase, Qianlong Period, 1736-1795

This Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Vase from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) sold at Polyauction HK on 21 April 2021 for HK$45,600,000 ($5,873,280)
This Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Vase from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) sold at Polyauction HK on 21 April 2021 for HK$45,600,000 ($5,873,280)

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$45,600,000 ($5,873,280)
Auction House: Polyauction HK | Date sold: 21 April 2021
Estimate: HK$35,000,000 to HK$42,000,000 ($4,508,000 to $5,409,600)
Official Auction Page
The provenance of this vase is listed in the auction description, so it isn’t hard to follow its fortunes at auction over the last 15 years. It was the “Cover Lot” (Lot 169) at a Christie's New York sale of “Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art” on 29 March 2006, but failed to sell. It then sold for HK$29,780,000 (US$3,832,686) as Lot 3106 at a Sotheby's Hong Kong sale for “Chinese Ceramics & Works Of Art” on 8 April 2011, and it again sold for HK$49,037,500 (US$6,311,126) as Lot 3618 at a Sotheby's Hong Kong sale for “Important Chinese Art” on 5 April 2017. Over the last four years, it lost $500,000, but over the last ten years, it has gained 53 percent in value.

1965 Shelby American Cobra 427

This 1965 Shelby American Cobra 427 sold for $5,940,000 at Mecum on 16 January 2021
This 1965 Shelby American Cobra 427 sold for $5,940,000 at Mecum on 16 January 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $5,940,000
Auction House: Mecum | Date sold: 16 January 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
While there have been tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of Shelby Cobra replicas produced, just 998 were created between 1961 and 1968 and Cobra tragics seem to know where every single one of the CSX-prefixed Cobras lives.

This car is CSX3178, and any serious Shelby fan will tell you what that means – it was Carroll Shelby’s personal car. He took it as his when it was first made in March 1966, and he kept it as his personal car until his passing.

The car was purchased from Carroll Shelby’s estate via RM-Sotheby’s Monterey sale for $1,375,000 in August 2016, then subjected to a concours restoration and returned to its original Charcoal paint color and its original 427 configuration. In the world of collectible cars and automobiles, authenticity is one of the key variables in any equation. Just look at what it did to the value of this car.

Imperial Lianzhu-Style Qin

This Imperial Lianzhu-Style Qin sold for RMB 38,000,000 ($5,959,540) at Polyauction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the front and back of the same Qinglong Period, Qing Dynasty (1745) instrument.
This Imperial Lianzhu-Style Qin sold for RMB 38,000,000 ($5,959,540) at Polyauction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the front and back of the same Qinglong Period, Qing Dynasty (1745) instrument.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CRMB 38,000,000 ($5,959,540)
Auction House: Polyauction Beijing | Date sold: 5 December 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page
No guitars topped the million dollar mark at auction this year, but even when there are big guitar sales, it is no guarantee that the instrument of the Western guitar Gods will be the most expensive musical instrument of the year. This is the most expensive of four Qins to have sold this year for the equivalent of more than US$1.0 million.

The Qin (also called Guqin) is an ancient Chinese fretless seven-stringed musical instrument similar to the zither, though this one dates only to 1745. For the record, the most expensive guitars of 2021 were the 1965 Mosrite Ventures II of Johnny Ramone (John Cummings of “The Ramones”) that fetched $937,000 on 25 September at RRAuction, and the 1952 Number One Les Paul Artist's Prototype that sold for $930,000 at Christie’s on October 13, 2021.

The only other musical instrument to get near the million dollar mark was Sir Elton John's Steinway, which sold for $915,000 at Heritage Auctions on 17 July 2021. Provenance is an intangible that usually counts for a lot, but in this case it seems to be remarkably cheap.

Pianos don't carry the same multiplication factor as guitars at an auction. Elton John's Steinway has consistently played some of the largest live audiences in history, but film and television audiences count for more these days.
Pianos don't carry the same multiplication factor as guitars at an auction. Elton John's Steinway has consistently played some of the largest live audiences in history, but film and television audiences count for more these days.

It's the piano Elton John had worked over by Steinway for his long-term use, including "re-weighting the keys to provide a very light and responsive touch." It was used in hundreds of Sir Elton's gigs over two decades, including John Lennon’s final live show where he appeared on stage with Sir Elton at Madison Square Garden in November 1974 and two sold-out gigs at Dodger Stadium in October 1975, when Elton John played to more than 100,000 people. It’s also the same piano Paul McCartney used during “Let it Be,” the Live Aid finale witnessed by a billion TV viewers worldwide in 1985, and Freddie Mercury borrowed it for Queen’s entire “A Day at the Races” tour in 1977. The piano has had a remarkable and action-packed 50 years in the hands of contemporary superstar performers.

By comparison, Guqins often surface at auction that are more than a thousand years old, and although the history of the instrument dates back many thousands of years, it did not standardize to the current size and shape until the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 AD), approximately 2000 years ago. Bonhams sold a lacquered fengshi-style jingtao qin in early December that was at least 1100 years old, fetching HK$ 9,852,500 ($1,263,962).

The Guqin is not only the most valuable musical instrument sold at auction most years, it is also the most valuable musical instrument of all-time. In 2010, a Guqin owned by Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty sold for RMB 136 million (about US$22 million), making it more expensive than the Vieuxtemps Guarneri ($16,000,000) and the Lady Blunt Stradivari ($15,900,000) violins. Lady Anne Blunt is the daughter of the world's first computer programmer (Ada Lovelace) and granddaughter of Lord Byron.

Pat Garrett's Colt Single Action Army Revolver used to kill “Billy The Kid”

Sold for $6,030,312 at Bonhams on 27 August 2021, the gun that killed Billy The Kid. Insets: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Sold for $6,030,312 at Bonhams on 27 August 2021, the gun that killed Billy The Kid. Insets: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Final price including Buyers’ Premium:  $6,030,312
Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 27 August 2021
Estimate: $2,000,000 to $3,000,000
Official Auction Page

Just 14 firearms have ever sold for more than a million dollars at auction, and until this sale, no gun had ever sold for more than $2.0 million. The world record now stands at $6,030,312 following the sale of Sheriff Pat Garrett's Colt Single Action Army Revolver that he used to kill "Billy The Kid" on July 14, 1881.

The Bonhams' auction in Los Angeles on August 27 featured an array of famous early west guns from “The Collection of Jim and Theresa Earle,” with a Whitney Shotgun used by “Billy the Kid” during his famous courthouse escape selling for $978,312, the Colt Revolver used to shoot John Wesley Hardin fetching $858,312, Hardin's Smith & Wesson Revolver selling for $625,312 and Wild Bill Hickok's Springfield Trapdoor Rifle fetching $475,312. There were other items in the auction associated with Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, Billy Wilson, Bob Dalton, Jesse James, Texas Ranger George Herold, Kid Curry, the Dalton Brothers, Bass Outlaw, Wyatt Earp and a host of other prominent names from the early west, and the assembly of such an authentic and comprehensive collection would be nigh on impossible now.

The $6 million world record is extraordinary for several reasons, most obviously in that it more than triples the world record price. The record price for a single firearm prior to this sale was the $1,840,000 paid for a Colt Model 1847 "Walker" at a Rock Island Auction on 15 April 2018.

The best known record for a firearm is held by a pair of saddle pistols that sold for $1,986,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2002. Those pistols are amongst the most important of American historical firearms, having been originally presented by the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington during the American Revolution and the pair was subsequently owned by Andrew Jackson.

The price of the Pat Garrett Colt Revolver is fascinating in that it appears to be more a product of popular culture than historical significance. Beyond America’s own revolutionary leader George Washington, other names associated with the provenance of guns that have sold for more than a million-dollar guns in the past include several instances of South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar, President Theodore Roosevelt, founding father Alexander Hamilton and the "Tiger of Mysore," the enlightened Tipu Sultan. These were good men, fighting for a higher cause.

In terms of historical significance, the name of Sheriff Pat Garrett seems out of place in such exalted company, and Billy the Kid most certainly does not belong.

Thanks to a catchy media-bestowed nickname, the wave of interest in “Billy the Kid” was generated by newspapers attempting to sell copies, and resulted in an extraordinary number of media constructs that have adopted the old adage, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

No other individual has been portrayed in more movies than Billy the Kid.

Handsome male leads such as Buster Crabbe, Paul Newman, Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, Emilio Estevez, Roy Rogers, Robert Vaughn, and Robert Taylor have played Billy the Kid, and in many of these movies he has been played not just sympathetically, but as a Robin-Hood-style hero. Perhaps the most ridiculous portrayal of Billy the Kid was in Howard Hughes' 1943 movie "The Outlaw" where Jack Buetel played Billy with heartthrob Jane Russell playing Billy’s fictional love interest.

In addition to approximately 70 feature movies, countless books, comics, games, radio and TV series, "Billy the Kid" has also had songs recorded about him by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Marty Robbins, Billie Joel, Charlie Daniels, Tom Petty and Ry Cooder, and in almost all of these movies, books, comics ad infinitum, Billy has been portrayed as an unjustly-accused and noble human and not the nasty, cowardly, cattle-rustling, cop-killer he actually was.

Tiffany-Blue Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-018

This 2021 Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A-018 “Tiffany Blue” sold for $6,503,500 at Phillips on 12 December 2021
This 2021 Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A-018 “Tiffany Blue” sold for $6,503,500 at Phillips on 12 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $6,503,000
Auction House: Phillips | Date sold: 12 December 2021
Estimate: in excess of $50,000
Official Auction Page
This limited edition watch was announced just a few days before Phillips' first live New York watch auction in two years, and at the last minute, one was added to the auction schedule with all proceeds going to charity. We love charity auctions, because they really do create a win-win-win dynamic if the lot is so hyper-exclusive, uber-desirable and unavailable anywhere else that it brings the big boys out to play. It's a spectacle of the highest order, and whatever the Captains of Industry splurge goes to a worthy cause. Phillips auctioned it for free, Tiffany and Patek Philippe lose a watch but get priceless global publicity plus the good-corporate-citizen seal-of-approval, and the Nature Conservancy gets $6.5 million.

Only 170 watches are available of the new Tiffany-Blue Nautilus and it doesn't matter what your relationship is like with Patek Philippe, those watches are only available at the New York, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco Tiffany boutiques where Patek Philippe is sold. Hence, it was only natural that in the very place where wearing such a readily-identifiable watch really counts, the bidding went all the way to $5,350,000. Just to prove it was a genuine no-holds-barred cashectomy, Phillips added a buyers' premium of $1,150,300 and that went to charity too, making it the ninth most expensive watch ever purchased at auction.

2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1

The 2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1 car that was driven to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix sold for £4,730,000 ($6,511,791) at an RM-Sotheby's single-car auction on 17 July 2021.
The 2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1 car that was driven to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix sold for £4,730,000 ($6,511,791) at an RM-Sotheby's single-car auction on 17 July 2021.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £4,730,000 ($6,511,791)
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 17 July 2021
Estimate: $5,000,000 to $7,000,000
Official Auction Page
Most likely the most advanced internal combustion engine automobile ever sold, this was Lewis Hamilton's 2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 Formula 1 car and the auction was another collaboration between RM Sotheby’s and Formula 1 that enabled things to happen that simply don't normally happen.

For starters, demonstrating a Formula 1 car is difficult, so the demonstration laps were organized for Saturday afternoon, just after the first-ever sprint qualifying race for the 2021 Pirelli British Grand Prix, then the auction was held on the winners' podium in front of 140,000 spectators where it fetched $6.5 million.

So while the McLaren-Mercedes failed to take the record price for an F1 car (held by Juan Manuel Fangio's 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R at £19,601,500 |$29,633,548), or even the price record for a modern F1 car (held by Michael Schumacher’s 2001 Ferrari F2001 at $7,504,000), it did smash all records for the size of the audience at an auction.

The irony about cars such as this, is that if you decide you want to drive it rather than just look at it, the price goes up considerably. It'll cost you thousands of dollars an hour just in tires, and that's before the battalion of support crew and array of gadgetry required to run the car at its optimum. Indeed, though the audience may have measured in the hundreds of thousands, the global target audience for buyers of a car like this would number in the hundreds.

1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card

This 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card sold for $6,606,296 at Robert Edwards Auctions on 15 August 2021, becoming the most valuable baseball card in history (again)
This 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card sold for $6,606,296 at Robert Edwards Auctions on 15 August 2021, becoming the most valuable baseball card in history (again)

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $6,606,296
Auction House: Robert Edwards Auctions | 15 August 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
The world's most expensive baseball card is a perfect reminder that the amount of materials, the type of materials, amount of workmanship, cost of manufacture and the overall presentation have absolutely nothing to do with an item's price at auction.

It's simply supply and demand, and there are millions of sports cards collectors out there who reconnected with their childhood passion during COVID-19 lockdown and the sports card industry spiked like never before.

More than 50 different sports cards sold for more than a million dollars each in the period since COVID-19 arrived in early 2020, and where baseball cards were the only ones to have topped a million bucks before COVID-19, NBA (basketball), NFL (football) and NHL (ice-hockey) cards have now broken through the million-dollar barrier and soccer and Pokemon cards are within sight of that goal too.

The PWCC Trading Card Marketplace tracks the prices of a selected group of cards to produce the PWC 100, PWC 500 and PWC 2500 Vintage Trading Card Indices.
The PWCC Trading Card Marketplace tracks the prices of a selected group of cards to produce the PWC 100, PWC 500 and PWC 2500 Vintage Trading Card Indices.

The PWCC Trading Card Marketplace tracks the prices of a selected group of cards to produce the PWC 100, PWC 500 and PWC 2500 Vintage Trading Card Indices. The indices aren’t updated all that frequently, but they do give a crystal clear indication about the trading card marketplace in 2021.

From the above PWCC Vintage Trading Card Indices, it’s quite obvious that the marketplace has massive depth and the growth is at all levels. What's more, there are many different trading platforms, and one of the largest is eBay.

A month from now in February 2022, we can expect to see the “eBay 2022 State of Trading Cards Report” which offers a lot of insights into activity on the eBay network.

The first such report came out last year as the “eBay 2021 State of Trading Cards Report” and it showed 142 percent growth in domestic sales in 2020, with an additional four million more trading cards sold in 2020 than in 2019.

The largest known Triceratops skeleton and the world's biggest head

The world's largest known Triceratops skeleton sold for €6,651,100 ($7,494,459) at Binoche et Giquello on 26 October 2021
The world's largest known Triceratops skeleton sold for €6,651,100 ($7,494,459) at Binoche et Giquello on 26 October 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €6,651,100 ($7,494,459)
Auction House: Binoche et Giquello | Date sold: 26 October 2021
Estimate: €1,200,000 to €1,500,000 ($1,352,160 to $1,690,200)
Official Auction Page

The numbers made “Big John” a compelling contender for the dinosaur of the year at auction long before he crossed the block: 66-million-years-old, 8 meters long with a 2.6 meter skull.

Sure, Triceratops may be herbivores, but they are almost certainly the most recognizable animal that has ever lived, “Big John” is one of the most complete that has ever been found, and most importantly, there were no $31.8 million Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons to contend with this year.

For our part, “Big John” almost certainly has the world’s biggest known head. Triceratops skulls are the largest of any known land animal, and Big John’s is the biggest of his kind – his head is 2.62 m (8.6 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) wide. His formidable horns alone are each 1.1 m (3.6 ft) long, and 30 cm (11.8 in) wide at the base, allowing them to withstand 16 tons of pressure.

Dinosaurs are obviously starting to be appreciated a little more at auction these days, as “Big John” blew way past his expected €1.2 million to €1.5 million and last year Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex was expected to fetch “only” $6 million to $8 million.

"Dragon" Carpet from Ming Dynasty Throne Room in Imperial Palace. XVIth Century

This Imperial Dragon Carpet that once adorned the throne room of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace, sold for €6,881,000 ($7,741,125) at Christie's on 23 November 2021. The carpet at left is as it sold at auction, having faded over time. The carpet at right is how it would have appeared when used in the ancient Beijing Palace.
This Imperial Dragon Carpet that once adorned the throne room of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace, sold for €6,881,000 ($7,741,125) at Christie's on 23 November 2021. The carpet at left is as it sold at auction, having faded over time. The carpet at right is how it would have appeared when used in the ancient Beijing Palace.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €6,881,000 ($7,741,125)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 November 2021
Estimate: €3,500,000 to €4,500,000 ($3,937,500 to $5,062,500)
Official Auction Page

This wool carpet on a hemp and silk base measures 507 x 451 cm (16 ft 7 in x 14 ft 7 in) and is one of the oldest complete Ming Dynasty palace carpets known. It is believed to have adorned the dais of the Chinese Imperial throne and it has faded somewhat since its heyday.

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione

This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021
This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby's on 13 August 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $7,705,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 August 2021
Estimate: $8,000,000 to $10,000,000
Official Auction Page

Sometimes when you’re dealing with cars in the outer price stratosphere, the stars don’t align when it comes time to sell , and that appears to have happened with this car.

Only 12 Ferrari 275 GTB Competiziones were ever built, being graced with a Tipo 213 Competition engine, thin gauge aluminum coachwork, and lightweight everything else.

This car went straight from Maranello to Scuderia Filipinetti, where it began its racing life by winning its class in the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. Over the next few years it also won its class in the 1969 1000 KM of Spa-Francorchamps, and 1969 500 KM of Imola.

When it last went to auction, it sold for $9,405,000 at Bonhams’ 2015 Scottsdale Auction and in 2018 it was restored and optimized for vintage racing.

Only two other GTB/Cs went to auction in the intervening period, with one fetching $14,520,000 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction in 2017 and another failing to sell against a $12,000,000 to $14,000,000 estimate at Gooding & Company’s 2018 Pebble Beach Auction. Based on those numbers, this car looked set to become an eight-figure car. Sometimes there just aren’t a lot of people looking for a $10 million dollar toy, and don’t forget that racing a car such as this is not for the faint of wallet.

1953 Patek Philippe Two-Crown Worldtime Ref. 2523 Eurasia

This 1953 Patek Philippe Two-Crown Worldtime Ref. 2523 with Eurasia dial sold for CHF 7,048,000 ($7,828,502) at Phillips on 8 May 2021
This 1953 Patek Philippe Two-Crown Worldtime Ref. 2523 with Eurasia dial sold for CHF 7,048,000 ($7,828,502) at Phillips on 8 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CHF 7,048,000 ($7,828,502)
Auction House: Phillips | Date sold: 8 May 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page

Louis Cottier’s invention finally reached its ultimate implementation in a single watch – the Patek Philippe Ref 2523 – which sported a secondary crown that allowed independent adjustment of the city ring.

Patek Philippe ref. 2523 and 2523-1 world timers are extremely rare watches, having been purchased in the 1950s by only the world’s wealthiest people – somewhere between 25 to 36 are believed to have been produced.

The number of Ref. 2523 that were produced in yellow gold is three, one of which is in the Patek Philippe museum. One of the three, previously unrecorded, surfaced at auction in May and … that’s why we’re listing a $7.828 million wristwatch as significant.

"Pumpkin" (2013) by Yayoi Kusama

"Pumpkin" by Yayoi Kusama sold for HKD 62,540,000 at Christie's on 1 December 2021
"Pumpkin" by Yayoi Kusama sold for HKD 62,540,000 at Christie's on 1 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK $62,540,000 ($8,020,467)
Auction House: Christies | Date sold: 1 December 2021
Estimate: $HKD 45,000,000 - HKD 65,000,000
Official Auction Page
Success has been a long time in coming for 92-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who first came to prominence in 1960s New York. Her outrageous antics of 60 years ago still make great reading.

Kusama has slowly but surely been moving towards superstardom for the last decade, and although her work has always been commercial and successful, it is now moving into the next realm. This painting, sold at the end of 2021, is her most valuable at auction to date, but the volume and value of her work left her in previously unknown territory on December 31.

She finished 2021 in the 10 most valuable artists of the year! That is, her artwork sold during 2021 put her in the top 10 of all artists, sharing the stage with Picasso, Basquiat, Warhol, Monet and van Gogh – the first time that has ever been achieved by a woman. She also finished the year ranked third amongst living artists, again a position never before achieved by a woman. Artsy’s Alexxa Gotthardt article entitled “6 Works That Explain Yayoi Kusama’s Rise to Art World Stardom” was written in mid-2018, but it still achieves its objective.

British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta

The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta postage stamp sold for $8,307,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021
The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta postage stamp sold for $8,307,000 at Sotheby's on 8 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $8,307,000
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 8 June 2021
Estimate: $10,000,000 to $15,000,000
Official Auction Page
The rarest stamp in the world, the sole-surviving example of the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, has been the “holy grail” of stamp collecting for more than a century. It had sold at auction four times prior to the sale in 2021, each time smashing the world record price for a single stamp. The first time at auction in 1922 it fetched $32,500, making world headlines at its enormous price, then followed $280,000 in 1970, $935,000 in 1980, and $9,480,000 at a Sotheby’s auction on 17 June 2014.

The fifth time at auction was unlucky, as it didn’t make the price that Weitzman had paid in 2014 – just the same, $9.48 million is nearly one billion times its original face value. See also: the Weitzman collection.

1972 Matra MS670

The winner of the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Matra MS670 sports car sold for €6,907,200 ($8,321,795) at Artcurial on 5 February 2021
The winner of the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Matra MS670 sports car sold for €6,907,200 ($8,321,795) at Artcurial on 5 February 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €6,907,200 ($8,321,795)
Auction House: Artcurial | Date sold: 5 February 2021
Estimate: €4,000,000 to €7,500,000 ($4,819,200 to $9,036,000)
Official Auction Page
Matra (Mécanique Aviation Traction) was a French technology company that produced cars, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry. In 1964 it began producing cars, and using innovative construction and technology from its aviation subsidiary, it began a motorsport program that rocked the world. Inside five years it won the Formula One Drivers and Constructors Championships in 1969, then continued onward, winning the Tour de France Automobile (1970, 1971) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1972, 1973, 1974).

It's hard to say what created the most national pride, but winning the world's most important race in its own backyard certainly endeared the French people.

This year, the Matra MS670 that took the first 1972 victory in the marque’s famous three-peat in the most famous race in the world went up for sale. It had been inside the Lagardère Group museum since it last raced in 1973, having never left the hands of its creators, the Lagardère Group.

It was sold at auction wearing the same livery and the same No 15 with which it won the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans with Graham Hill and Henri Pescarolo behind the wheel.

17th-Century Chinese Imperial "Huanghuali" Camping Chair

This 17th-Century Chinese "Huanghuali" Imperial Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021
This 17th-Century Chinese "Huanghuali" Imperial Camping Chair sold for HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370) at Christie's on 28 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: HK$65,975,000 ($8,502,370)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 28 May 2021
Estimate: HK$65,975,000 to HK$65,975,000 ($8,497,580 to $8,497,580)
Official Auction Page
This is one of those lots that made global headlines in May when a “camping chair” sold for US$8.5 million. It was indeed an extraordinary result, because as the numbers of any item in private hands dwindle below a handful, the price at auction will dramatically rise, though this result was quite unexpected. This chair last sold at a Christie’s auction in New York on 21 March 2002 when it fetched $248,000, becoming part of the Heveningham Hall Collection – a X 30 increase in value in 20 years is a stellar investment, and the final price was more than five times the high estimate.

Similar chairs sold at Christie’s New York for $424,000 in 2001, and at Sotheby’s for $408,000 in 2007 and Christie’s New York offered a very similar chair on 13 September 2019 that failed to sell against an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.

Perhaps the biggest difference here was the Hong Kong venue, because as The Value reports, when bidding opened at HK$7,000,000 at least six bidders in the room joined online and phone bidders in the fray, with the final two bidders fighting it out for 10 minutes before the hammer came down.

"Beast Man" Luba Mask

This “Beast Man” Luba Mask sold for €7,224,500 ($8,626,775) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
This “Beast Man” Luba Mask sold for €7,224,500 ($8,626,775) at Christie's on 23 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €7,224,500 ($8,626,775)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 June 2021
Estimate: €1,500,000 to €2,000,000 ($1,791,150 to $2,388,200)
Official Auction Page
From the Collection of Michel Périnett of African, Oceanic and American art, this masque is now the second-most-valuable human headwear ever sold at auction, with the most-valuable sold on the same day from the same collection.

The masque comes from the Malemba-Nkulu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and according to the Lot Essay, this masterpiece of Luba art belongs to the category of “beast-men” of which fewer than 10 examples have been recovered. Several theories clash over their enigmatic function.

"Submarine Christmas Tree" (1947) by Alexander Calder

"Submarine Christmas Tree" (1947) by Alexander Calder sold for £6,567,500 ($9,057,896) at Christie's on 23 March 2021
"Submarine Christmas Tree" (1947) by Alexander Calder sold for £6,567,500 ($9,057,896) at Christie's on 23 March 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £6,567,500 ($9,057,896)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 March 2021
Estimate: £4,000,000 to £6,000,000 ($5,516,800 to $8,275,200)
Official Auction Page
Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976) was an American sculptor known both for his innovative mobiles (kinetic sculptures powered by motors or air currents) that embrace chance in their aesthetic, his static "stabiles" and his monumental public sculptures. Calder preferred not to analyze his work, saying: "Theories may be all very well for the artist himself, but they shouldn't be broadcast to other people."

The record for a Calder sculpture was achieved when Christie’s sold “Poisson volant” (Flying Fish) for $25,925,000 on 13 May 2014.

Tête Fang (Gabon)

Tête Fang (Gabon) sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021
Tête Fang (Gabon) sold for €7,682,500 ($9,173,673) at Christie's on 23 June 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €7,682,500 ($9,173,673)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 June 2021
Estimate: €2,000,000 to €3,000,000 ($2,388,200 to $3,582,300)
Official Auction Page
From Christie’s Lot Essay for this remarkable lot: “Few people remember the name of Germaine van Parys, but she became the first female photo journalist of Belgium in 1913. Despite her brilliant long-term work, her reputation is little-known outside her native country. However, African art aficionados recognise the value of the historical photo that she shot in November 1930 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels. Despite the modest backdrop, she managed to capture a deeply moving image, on a level with those by Walker Evans. That day, three iconic artworks from Gabonese Fang art were being exhibited under the aegis of Henri Lavachery.

These immortal works were associated with prestigious names such as Paul Guillaume, André Derain, Jacob Epstein and Maurice de Vlaminck. While this was already well after the movement that brought Fauvist painters to see things differently, Brussels was just discovering that art could also come from Africa, and that in any case, that was where it originated.

This historic image was taken in 1930 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels by the first female journalist in Belgium, Germaine van Parys. It shows three Gabonese Fang artworks that were being exhibited by famous collector, Henri Lavachery.
This historic image was taken in 1930 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels by the first female journalist in Belgium, Germaine van Parys. It shows three Gabonese Fang artworks that were being exhibited by famous collector, Henri Lavachery.

Nearly a century later, two of these figures were proudly displayed in the African art gallery of the Metropolitan Museum. The third, and perhaps most delicate, is from the collection of the painter Maurice de Vlaminck; it appears on the left of the document. Kept respectfully among the collections by connoisseurs because of its importance, it is resurfacing today. 

"An Imperial Portrait Of Consort Chunhui" attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione

"An Imperial Portrait Of Consort Chunhui" attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione sold for CNY 60,000,000 ($9,409,800) at Poly Auction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the portrait of Consort Chunhui at right and a portrait of the famous Italian Jesuit, diplomat and painter Giuseppe Castiglione at left.
"An Imperial Portrait Of Consort Chunhui" attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione sold for CNY 60,000,000 ($9,409,800) at Poly Auction Beijing on 5 December 2021. The image shows the portrait of Consort Chunhui at right and a portrait of the famous Italian Jesuit, diplomat and painter Giuseppe Castiglione at left.

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CNY 60,000,000 ($9,409,800)
Auction House: Polyauction Beijing | Date sold: 5 December 2021
Estimate on request
Official Auction Page
Paintings looted during wartime are a perennial issue at auction and this extremely important painting was originally taken from the Imperial Palace around 1900. Commander Henry Nicolas Frey was the French commander of the Eight-Nation Alliance which was waging an aggressive war against China. The French headquarters were located at the "Hall of Imperial Longevity" within the Imperial Palace compound, and this painting was taken from there at that time, later to surface in France as part of the Frey family possessions.

The painting is an Imperial portrait of Consort Chunhui. From Bonhams’ Lot Essay of 2012: “The current painting depicts Consort Chunhui, the daughter of Su Zhaonan. Born during the Kangxi reign, Lady Su entered the Forbidden City during the Yongzheng period and became a concubine of the Yongzheng emperor's fourth son, Hongli, the future Qianlong Emperor. On his acendancy in 1736, she became his official consort, granted the title of Imperial Concubine Chun. In 1737, she was promoted to the rank of Consort Chun, and in 1745 was elevated to the status of Noble Consort Chun. In 1760, she was conferred the title of Imperial Noble Consort Chun, making her second only to the Empress in the Imperial harem.”

Of even greater importance historically, the painting is attributed to one of history’s most fascinating missionaries and diplomats, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766). Born in 1688 in Milan, Castiglione joined the Jesuit order in Genoa in 1707 at the age of 19. As a novitiate, he had time to develop his interest in painting, so that by the time he received orders from the Society to spread the faith in China in 1714, he was already proficient. The Milanese missionary arrived in China in 1715 and would never see his native land again before his death in 1766. Prevented from preaching his faith, he spent most of his life in the Forbidden City as a portrait painter for three Qing emperors, including Qianlong.

Much of the information surrounding the background to the painting can be found from when it appeared at auction in 2012 at Bonhams in Hong Kong. At that time, it sold for HK$39,860,000 (US$ 5,109,757), so it has appreciated considerably in value in the last nine years.

“Martin, into the corner. You should be ashamed of yourself” (1989) by Martin Kippenberger

“Martin, into the corner. You should be ashamed of yourself” (1989) by Martin Kippenberger sold for $9,520,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021
“Martin, into the corner. You should be ashamed of yourself” (1989) by Martin Kippenberger sold for $9,520,000 at Christie's on 11 May 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $9,520,000
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 11 May 2021
Estimate: $10,000,000 to $15,000,000
Official Auction Page
From the Christie's Lot Essay: "Martin, ab in die Ecke und schäm dich" (Martin, Into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself) is a landmark sculpture that stands among the most iconic works to emerge from Martin Kippenberger’s complex, irreverent and wildly inventive practice. Executed in 1989—during which year it was acquired directly from the artist by the present owner—it is the first of a series of six sculptural self-portraits made in response to an article by the critic Wolfgang Max Faust, who had decried Kippenberger’s activities as cynical and infantile. Rather than contesting the charges, Kippenberger gladly incorporated this hostile reception into his self-image, furthering the daring, all-out conflation of art, life and performance that defined his artistic strategy. Striking the pose of a naughty schoolboy—facing the corner of the room, hands clasped behind his back—the Martin sculptures implicitly mocked the bourgeois values of his critics, while also playing with romantic ideas of the artist as a misunderstood outsider."

1948 Pink Gold Patek Philippe Ref. 1518

This pink gold 1948 Patek Philippe Reference 1518 sold for $9,570,900 ($9,570,900) at Sotheby's on 9 December 2021
This pink gold 1948 Patek Philippe Reference 1518 sold for $9,570,900 ($9,570,900) at Sotheby's on 9 December 2021

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $9,570,900
Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 9 December 2021
Estimate: $1,000,000 to $2,200,000
Official Auction Page
The Patek Philippe Reference 1518 was the first serially-produced perpetual calendar chronograph. Only 281were made between 1941 and 1954, and the owners of Ref. 1518 included Henry Graves Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, King Michael I of Romania and King Farouk I of Egypt.

Only 13 examples were known to have been made with a pink gold case and a salmon dial … until this year when the Estate of Prince Tewfik Adil Toussoun of Egypt was examined and it was found that he had purchased a Ref. 1518 with pink gold case and a salmon dial new in 1951 and it had spent its entire life in a safe deposit box – the paperwork was with the watch. It sold for just shy of $10 million. Five years ago a stainless steel Ref. 1518 came up for auction at Phillips in Geneva and that went for even more.

(Most of) The cars from "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - The chase begins (1/10) (slightly edited) [4K]

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: unknown but we think around $10 million
Auction House: Lloyds | Date sold: 26 September 2021
No Estimate
Official Auction Page
The thought of society breaking down is one of humankind’s oldest and most palpable fears, rating right up there with the fear of snakes, or being eaten or burned alive. It is hence a favorite subject for horror movies and at the core of the most popular sub-genre of science fiction, the Apocalyptic genre in which civilization is collapsing or has collapsed. The Apocalyptic genre is actually the oldest sub-genre of all recorded fiction, having been the subject of Epic of Gilgamesh, written 3800 years ago, and mankind’s oldest surviving notable literature.

Hence, although the movie Mad Max (1979) did not invent the Post Apocalyptic genre of entertainment, it certainly defined the look which has spawned an entire sub-culture.

The Post-Apocalyptic genre is in vogue right now, with talk of new TV shows and movies and the planning of a prequel to 2015's “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which will center on Charlize Theron's character “Furiosa” in her younger days.

The success of “Mad Max: Fury Road” led to one of the biggest auction stories of the year receiving global coverage as Australian Auction House Lloyds promoted the sale by tender of (most of) the cars from the movie.

Things fell a bit flat once the deadline date for tenders was reached and not another word was written anywhere. It took us ages to dig to the bottom of it, but it seems the auction house signed an NDA that forbids it from discussing the price achieved or even the result of the tender, or even whether there was a price achieved. Reading between the lines though, such an NDA would not exist if a sale hadn’t been finalized, and hence all those rumors that circulated prior to the tender closing (such as Mad Max Fury Road theme parks) are still in play.

It was pitched by Lloyds as the "Mad Max Fury Road Collection" and it will be interesting to see where it finally stands compared to the value of other vehicle collections of the modern era if the price should ever get out. Just what constitutes a collection is difficult to define, but for “single-vendor auctions” that record currently stands at $75.4 for the sale of the 25-car Pinnacle Portfolio at Monterey in 2015 – that collection averaged $3.0 million per car which is too high for this collection, and neither the massive 817-lot big-boys-toys Duemila Ruote (cars here | bikes here) auction in Milan in 2016 ($54.8 million) or the $53.9 million Andrews Collection seem relevant.

Probably the biggest wild card in buying a collection such as this, is replacing the bits that are missing, and there are several important pieces that did not survive filming.

There aren’t nearly as many cars in the Mad Max Fury Road Collection, but the 13 vehicles that survived the most brutal movie production in history have enough latent potential to power all sorts of business models. As for a price, well we just guessed.

2021 Patek Philippe Complicated desk clock - 27001M-001

Patek Philippe Complicated Desk Clock Only Watch 2021 Ref. 27001M-001

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: CHF 9,500,000 ($10,416,667)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 6 November 2021
Estimate: CHF 400,000 to CHF 500,000 ($364,800 to $456,000)
Official Auction Page
The Annual Only Watch Charity Auction always draws some spectacular offerings. Two years ago, Patek Philippe created the Grandmaster Chime reference 6300A-010 especially for Only Watch 2019 and the result was the most expensive watch in history – 31,000,000 Swiss francs ($31.2 million). This year it stepped well away from its comfort zone by creating a desk clock. Not surprisingly, it was again the top earner at the auction, fetching more than twice the second-highest earner.

Mortlock Islands Mask (date unknown, Caroline Islands): the world’s most expensive headwear

This Mortlock Islands mask (date unknown, Caroline Islands)sold for €9,171,000 ($10,951,091) at Christie's on 23 June 2021, becoming the most expensive headwear ever sold at auction
This Mortlock Islands mask (date unknown, Caroline Islands)sold for €9,171,000 ($10,951,091) at Christie's on 23 June 2021, becoming the most expensive headwear ever sold at auction

Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €9,171,000 ($10,951,091)
Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 June 2021
Estimate: €500,000 to €700,000 ($597,050 to $835,870)
Official Auction Page
If you’d been told that our round-up for the 2021 auction year would feature the most expensive headwear in history, you’d have assumed it would be one of the two Bicorne Beaverskin Hats worn by Napoleon that went to auction. Not even close!

This mask was procured in the Mortlock Islands in the 1870s among other ethnographic artefacts for a German museum, then onsold when the museum closed, eventually finding a place in the Michel Périnet Collection of African, Oceanic and American art. Christie’s sold the Michel Périnet Collection in Paris in June 2021, fetching an astonishing €66,069,250 ($78,893,291) and breaking all sorts of records.

The Caroline Island and the Mortlock Islands are part of the vast Micronesian Islands chain, and are so remote that they were rarely visited. It seems that the masks are part of an ancient mask tradition on the remote islands.

This excerpt from Christie’s Lot Essay might serve to explain the price: Ancient masks from the Mortlock Islands are rare. This noteworthy rarity is hardly surprising, considering the living conditions on these islands. The Mortlock Islands - the Western name, since the inhabitants call it Nomoi - includes three atolls, Lukunor, Etal and Satawan. There were just 765 inhabitants living there in 1909 according to a survey of the time. Life there is hard, as it is on any atoll. The scarcity of crop species requires strict resource management. The most important are coconut trees and breadfruit trees: they are a source of both food and all the materials necessary for day-to-day life. On these atolls, only limited types of objects are produced, and these are made in limited numbers. For example, there are no known sculptures from the Mortlock Islands. However - and inexplicably so - the Mortlock Islands are the only islands in Micronesia to have a mask tradition.

There are several items from the sale that are included in this list, including the two most valuable pieces of headwater that have ever sold at auction.

"Head of a Bear" by Leonardo da Vinci