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The most expensive painting in the world (sold at auction) is of rather-disputed provenance. The most expensive sculpture ever sold was "Plan B" for its creator. And the most expensive empire may be the Roman Empire, if you'll allow us some poetic (historic?) license.

Justin breaks down 15 of the most expensive "blanks" ever, from kidney stones to comic books.

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Did you know that the most expensive manuscript ever sold at auction, adjusting for inflation, was The Codex Leicester, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks full of scientific musings and sketches?

The codex, which owes its name to onetime owner Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester, was sold to Bill Gates in 1994 for over 30 million dollars. It’s pretty easy to see why an inquisitive guy like Gates might have been attracted to the book: It was written in Leonardo’s signature mirror-writing style, and it provides a glimpse into his unique way of thinking.

The ultimate renaissance man’s wandering mind takes him to some fascinating places in the diary: looking to explain the presence of maritime fossils on hilltops, he broke from contemporary explanations that either misidentified them as something entirely inorganic or tried to account for their location through a one-time event like the biblical deluge. In its place, he suggested a more gradual process like the type that occurs over years of sedimentary rock formation, and even laid out an incipient understanding of what we’d eventually call trace fossils. He realized, centuries before other scientists, that creatures had once burrowed their way through a soft sea bottom that had, over time, become rocky mountain top material.

Leonardo also thought the moon was covered in water, but hey, for just 30 million dollars not every idea is gonna be a winner. Hi, I’m Erin McCarthy, and welcome to The List Show. Hmm, that didn’t sound right, but it IS on the teleprompter so, I guess I am Erin, this feels right.

The Leicester Codex is just the first of many most expensive “blanks” ever that I’m going to share with you today, from the priciest painting to the costliest kidney stone. Let’s get started. Hi I’m Justin Dodd, and welcome to The List Show.

The Leicester Codex is just the first of many most expensive “blanks” ever that I’m going to share with you today, from the priciest painting to the costliest kidney stone. Let’s get started. INTRO Leonardo is also responsible for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. …Maybe.

Salvator Mundi, which depicts Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb, sold in 1958 for just 45 pounds. After art speculators Robert Simon and Alexander Parrish bought it in 2005, though, they helped instigate a critical reevaluation of the piece that eventually convinced many experts that the piece was an original painting from Leonardo da Vinci. Some skeptics, like art critic Jerry Saltz and Renaissance specialist Charles Hope, pegged it as a likely copy.

Others felt that Leonardo may well have played a legitimate role in its creation, but that extensive conservation efforts over the years muddied the painting’s value. In the end, their doubts proved no match for a more believing set of experts and the excesses of the art market: The piece sold in 2017 for $450 million, including buyer’s premium. The most expensive sculpture ever purchased?

Alberto Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt, or “Man Pointing.” The piece, by the influential Swiss sculptor, was originally designed to include a second figure that the pointing man would have his arm around. That plan was scrapped, but it didn’t affect the piece’s eventual value. Decades later, hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen coughed up over $140 million to own the lonesome pointer, setting a record for a piece of sculpture sold at auction.

A hundred and forty million is chump change compared to another famous Cohen acquisition: The New York Mets. When he purchased the team in 2020 for $2.4 billion, it was the highest recorded purchase price for a professional sports team. Or…any sports team, I guess.

I mean, no one’s scraping 3 billion together to own Fairbanks own Alaska Goldpanners, even if their Midnight Sun Game is absolutely something I would attend. Owning a sports team comes with some nice perks—you get the best seats in the house, the players have to pretend to like you—but what about owning an entire Empire? Calling it “the most expensive empire” ever might be a bit of a stretch, since I’m not really sure how many empires have been put on the open market, but I had to include the fact that The Roman Empire once sold at auction for 25,000 sesterces per soldier.

The Praetorian Guard had killed the previous emperor, Pertinax. Didius Julianus was the highest bidder for the let’s say “well-used” empire, and was briefly installed as the head of state. For his troubles, he received a prompt civil war and an eventual beheading.

Really puts the buyer’s remorse I felt after purchasing a nice sweater in perspective. The highest price for a single auction lot of guns belongs to George Washington’s set of saddle pistols, which were sold for nearly $2 million back in 2002. The pistols were actually in Andrew Jackson’s possession for a number of years, but Hamilton lovers will especially appreciate their original source.

They were a gift from everyone’s favorite fighting Frenchman, the Marquis de Lafayette. I always knew he was good at procuring guns….and ships. And so- (cut away) Some of the most expensive underwear ever purchased once covered the royal cheeks of Queen Victoria.

I say “some of the most expensive” because it can be a little difficult to pin down the world’s most expensive undies—you’ve got your most expensive bras, your most expensive dresses that sold with underwear… The royal underwear in question, though, were embroidered with the initials VR, for Victoria Regina, and were especially prized because their noticeable alterations allowed royal enthusiasts to peg the undies to the last decade of the Queen’s life, when her shrinking stature necessitated a tailor’s intervention. I can’t really tell you why this is so desirable to royal collectors, but I can tell you the underpants went for a little over $16,000. Even the considerable passion of royal fans pales in comparison to the fervor of Trekkies.

That may be why, when William Shatner wanted to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, his passed kidney stone was able to fetch twenty-five grand from GoldenPalace.com. Amazingly, the online casino originally offered $15,000 but Shatner held out for more, because it’s important to know your own worth, and/or the worth of the small hard deposits produced by your renal system. Let’s keep it weird: the most expensive hair sold at auction went for a staggering one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars in November 2002 and belonged to Elvis Presley—maybe.

According to the federal indictment, which are never the words you want to hear after plonking down a hundred and fifteen grand, a few months after that purchase, in April 2003, the same auction house sold more hair advertised as Elvis’s. After DNA testing, that second hair’s authenticity was called into question. The auction house refunded the purchase and then, according to the indictment, resold it, causing “false representations and material omissions to be made . . . concerning the authenticity of the Purported Elvis Hair.” For this and other issues, the Chairman of the auction house was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

I should point out that, as far as we’ve been able to tell, the veracity of the November 2002 purchase has not been questioned, and the April 2003 purchase isn’t necessarily faux Elvis hair—it’s just a matter of contention. The world’s most expensive beetle—non-John/Paul/Ringo/George category—was a three-inch Stag Beetle sold in Japan for $89,000. Some of the earliest typewriters looked something like this—totally cool—and featured hand-engraved letters.

One sold for over $140,000 back in 2019, but that’s not the most expensive typewriter ever purchased. That distinction may belong to Cormac McCarthy’s light blue Olivetti Lettera 32 , which sold for over a quarter of a million dollars back in 2009. The most expensive comic book ever sold was a pristine copy of the famous first issue of Action Comics, featuring the debut of a little character called Superman.

The purchase price of $3.2 million was a clear rip-off: it says right on the cover that it should only cost 10 cents. One of the world’s most expensive coins took a winding path to the auction block, so stick with me here. It begins with my problematic fave, Theodore Roosevelt, who, in late 1904, labeled the United States’ existing coinage “ …artistically of atrocious hideousness.” The Colonel’s coin complaint eventually led to, among other things, the $20 double eagle coin designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Fun and/or sacrilegious fact, depending on your point of view: With TR’s support, the phrase “In God We Trust” was left off the initial design. Twenty-four “Ultra High Relief” pieces were struck as models for the coins in a labor-intensive process, and a variety of gold coins eventually ended up in circulation. Then, in 1933, Theodore’s distant cousin (and then the President of the United States) Franklin issued an executive order with an eye towards ending the general bank crisis: it stipulated that citizens were required to turn many gold coins into the government.

While production of the gold double-eagle coins was eventually halted, some of the 1933 Double Eagles did secretly make their way out of the mint. Federal agents tracked down and destroyed nine of the ten then-known copies in the wild, with the lone outlier belonging, by the mid-1940s, to King Farouk of Egypt (a world leader who also collected old razor blades and antique aspirin bottles, apparently). In 1944, Farouk’s representatives were awarded an export license for the coin, despite the fact that it technically should have been considered contraband stolen from the U.

S. mint. It’s believed that Farouk’s coin eventually ended up in the hands of Stephen Fenton, a British coin dealer. When he brought it to New York City to sell it in 1996, he was busted in a sting operation carried out by the Secret Service.

The coin was seized and Fenton was arrested. After a lengthy legal battle, it was determined that the export license meant the United States Government had made an out-of-court deal to sell the coin and split the proceeds, and for a mere 20 dollars—its face value—would even monetize the coin. Including auction house fees and that 20 dollars, the coin sold for around $7.6 million, the highest auction price for any coin at the time.

Since then that number has been surpassed on a couple of occasions, including a record $10 million purchase price for one of the first—if not the very first—silver dollars ever struck by the U. S. mint, a so-called “Flowing Hair” dollar. That’s a lot of coin for a coin, but in June 2021 the Double Eagle is actually going to be auctioned again with an estimate of 10 to 15 million dollars.

A pricey piece of postage will actually be at that same auction. An 1856 stamp from then-British Guiana has set four separate sales records in transactions over the years. Like many of the objects on the list, it derives its value from a combination of rarity and a great story.

In 1855, the local postmaster of British Guiana was expecting a shipment of 50,000 1-cent and 4-cent stamps from Great Britain. When only 5,000 of each arrived, he eventually had to improvise, enlisting the local newspaper’s printing press to create a limited-edition stopgap stamp in 1 and 4 cent values. The 1-cent versions were used for newspapers, and therefore especially likely to have been promptly discarded.

In fact, just a single copy of the 1-cent Magenta has trotted the globe in the decades since, including a period when it was part of the collection of one of the most renowned stamp collectors of all time, Philipp de la Rénotière von Ferrar. The stamp also played a role in a diplomatic tussle between France and Germany and was sold back in 2014 for $9.5 million from the estate of chemical company heir and convicted murderer John E. du Pont. The world’s most expensive album may not have gone for that much, but it’s got to be one of the more ridiculous items on the list.

The single copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was sold to pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli for $2 million. Shkreli did not exactly cover himself in glory with his public behavior, and I’m sure inspired a fair bit of schadenfreude when he was convicted for securities fraud in 2017. After his conviction, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was reportedly seized by the Feds—no word on if they gave it a spin, though.

What is the most expensive obscure item that you own? For me, it’s the first print of an old discontinued board game from the 60s, but I’m not here to brag, I just wanna hear your weird pricey thing. Let us know in the comments.

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