1. Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" Dress
Sold for: $4.8 million in 2016
In May 1962, Marilyn Monroe showed up at a Democratic Party fundraiser wearing the now iconic but then scandalous sheer glittering dress designed by Jean Louis. The movie icon sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in this very gorgeous gown. The original cost of the dress was $1,440, but the historic circumstances in which it was worn instantly elevated its value, ultimately rendering it the most expensive dress ever sold at auction. In 2016, the gown was sold to Ripley's Believe It or Not! at an auction in Los Angeles for a whopping $4.8 million.
2. The Harry Garner Reticulated Vase
Sold for: $9 million in 2020
This precious imperial treasure was created for China's Qianlong Emperor in the 18th century, but until not so long ago, it was thought to be lost. The vase was rediscovered in 2020 in the country home of a European woman, who purchased the vase in 1954 for 56 USD and decided to sell it. This Imperial Vase was auctioned off at Sotheby's for a more fitting price - $9 million in July 2020. Learn more about the history of this treasure in the video above.
3. The Lady Blunt
Sold for: $15.9 million in 2011
Stradivarius violins are some of the most treasured musical instruments in the world, with only 650 surviving to this day. Designed in the 18th century by master Antonio Stradivari, each of these meticulously-crafted instruments is believed to have its own sound, character, and even name.
One of the most well-preserved Stradivarius violins is the Lady Blunt, which was designed in 1721 and owned by the granddaughter of Lord Byron whose name was Lady Anne Blunt, from whom the precious instrument got its name. In 2011, the violin was sold for $15.9 million at an online auction by the Nippon Music Foundation in Japan, which donated all the proceeds to benefit the victims of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan.
4. Grandmaster Chime Patek Philippe Watch
Sold for: $31 million in 2019
In 2017, a number of luxury watchmakers had created one-of-a-kind wristwatches to collect funds for research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy in children, a debilitating and poorly understood genetic disorder. During the auction, one of these wristwatches, the steel Grandmaster Chime by Patek Philippe, broke all prior records, becoming the most expensive watch ever auctioned. According to CNBC, "the watch’s most unique feature is front and back dials — one salmon-colored, the other black — that can be flipped or reversed".
5. Marie Antoinette's Pearl Pendant
Sold for: $36 million in 2018
Initially part of a three-string pearl necklace owned by the infamous French queen, Mary Antionette's Pearl is a pendant that includes a large natural teardrop-shaped pearl that hangs from a string featuring a large oval diamond and a bow encrusted with smaller diamonds. In 2018, the enormous famous pearl became the most expensive natural pearl ever sold when it was auctioned off for $36 million at Sotheby's.
6. The Ferrari 250 GTO from 1962
Sold for: $48.4 million in 2018
Breaking all previous records for the priciest cars ever sold at auction, the Ferrari 250 GTO from 1962 was purchased for a mind-boggling 48.2 million USD in August 2018. The model is considered incredibly valuable, as only 36 of 250 GTOs were produced between 1962 and 1964, and only 33 of these magnificent vehicles have survived to this day.
7. The Oppenheimer Blue
Sold for: $57.9 million in 2016
Behold the world's priciest blue diamond, the Oppenheimer Blue. The 14.62-carat vivid blue diamond was initially cut into a square shape by the order of Sir Philip Oppenheimer, who gave it as a present for his wife. The 2016 Christie’s auction in Geneva was the auction debut of the magnificent diamond, and it instantly broke all records, remaining the most expensive diamond for a little over a year before being surpassed by the next feature on our list.
8. The Pink Star Diamond
Sold for: $71.2 million in 2017
Considered one of the largest clear pink diamonds ever found, the 59.6-carat Pink Star Diamond broke all records when it was sold in Hong Kong in 2017 for an unbelievable 71.2 million US dollars! The incredible gem was mined in 1999 in South Africa, weighing an incredible 132.5 carat in the rough.
9. Rabbit by Jeff Koons
Sold for: $91.1 million in 2019
This shiny stainless steel sculpture of a rabbit munching on a carrot was created by Jeff Koons in 1986. The minimalistic sculpture is said to be inspired by a child's inflatable toy. The Rabbit became the most expensive work of art created by a living artist in 2019 when it was sold for 91.1 million dollars, surpassing yet another of Koons' sculptures in price, "Balloon Dog (Orange)", previously sold for 58.4 million.
10. Chariot by Alberto Giacometti
Sold for: $101 million in 2014
Alberto Giacometti is known as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century. This very sculpture titled 'Chariot' by the Swiss sculptor was created between 1951 and 1952, and it is considered one of his best works and a milestone piece in 20-century art. The sculpture was sold for a whopping 101 million in 2014 at the New York City Sotheby's auction of Impressionist and Modern Art. To learn more about the sculpture, watch the video above.
11. Meules by Claude Monet
Sold for: $110.7 million in 2019
Claude Monet and his artistic style need no introduction, as it's a well-known fact that the French artist is one of the founders of impressionism. The artwork in question titled 'Meules' is one of the most prominent works of the famous artist belonging to the haystacks collection. It was sold at Sotheby's in 2019 for 110.7 million dollars.
12. Elizabeth Taylor's Jewelry Collection
Sold for: $116 million in 2011
The Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor was well-known for her extensive collection of incredible jewelry. Probably the most noteworthy item in the diva's collection was the La Peregrina pearl, which is one of the most famous pearls in the world, the history of which goes back for more than 500 years. It, too, was sold along with the remainder of Taylor's collection for 116 million to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor Foundation, which raises funds and awareness to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
13. The Scream by Edvard Munch
Sold for $120 million in 2012
First things first, let's clarify that there are four versions of the world-famous painting in existence, two in pastels and two in paint. One of the painted versions is exhibited at the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo, but one of the pastel versions was auctioned off at Sotheby's in 2012. The famous painting instantly broke all records and was sold for nearly 120 million, nearly 40 million more than initially estimated, becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold. The record lasted for 3 years in a row.
14. Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') by Pablo Picasso
Sold for: $179 million in 2015
The artwork that managed to surpass the record set by 'The Scream' in 2012 was Picasso's painting 'Les femmes d'Alger' (Version 'O'), a prime example of cubism. The painting was created in 1955 and is one of the later works of the art icon. The masterpiece was valued at $179 million at a Christie's auction in 2015.
15. Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
Sold for: $450.3 million in 2017
The last and hence most expensive item on this list is a painting called 'Salvator Mundi', painted sometime in the early 16th century. But what makes this painting worth nearly half a billion dollars? Well, the painting actually has quite an interesting history, but most importantly, it is considered to be one of only about 20 surviving paintings by the ultimate Renaissance man and most famous artist in the Western World - Leonardo da Vinci.
Initially believed to be a replica of Leonardo's work, the painting was confirmed to likely belong to the grandmaster himself, rediscovered and restored in the early 2000s. It remains the only work by Leonardo da Vinci in private possession.
Share this article with others if you enjoyed learning about all these pricey items!