16 Highest Selling Items in Auction History

  • August 18, 2010
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Highest Selling Piece of American Furniture

John Goddard Desk

The Townsend and Goddard families were two Quaker families that were part of a large cabinetmaking community centered in the Easton's Point neighborhood of Newport, Rhode Island. The Townsend and Goddard families have a long history of cabinet making in the Newport area. In fact, twenty-one members of successive generations of these two intermarried families worked as cabinetmakers over a period of 120 years. The family’s most famous desk was created by John Goddard in the 1760s and sold to the merchant Nicholas Brown. The item is a six-shell desk-bookcase. It is a bonnet-topped mahogany secretary, robustly carved with a block-and-shell front.

The desk is 113 inches (287 cm) tall and is one of the nine six-shell Newport secretaries known to survive. The item is one of the most prestigious pieces of American furniture in the world. In 1989, the desk was sold by the family of Nicholas Brown for $12.1 million. At the time, the desk set a record for the highest selling auction item that was not a painting. After taking the cost of inflation into account, the 1760s John Goddard Desk is almost topping the list of the most valuable pieces of furniture in the world.



Highest Selling Coin

1794 American Silver Dollar

In May of 2010, a 1794 American Silver Dollar set a world mark when it was auctioned off for $7.85 million. The coin surpassed the record that was previously held by a 1933 Double Eagle that was sold for $7.59 million in 2002. The 1794 Silver Dollar is a rare coin. In 1792, the U.S. Coinage Act was passed and it authorized the production of silver dollars. In 1794, the first silver dollars were coined and there were precisely 1,758 of them made, with approximately 150 remaining.

The 1794 Silver Dollar is unique to others, as it features a flowing hair design. The coin that set the auction record was in great shape and rated MS-66 (PCGS). It has been determined that it is the earliest struck example of the 1794 Silver Dollar still in existence. The coin was purchased by the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation of California. The foundation plans to display it at various locations and museums in the world.



Highest Selling Musical Instrument

Ex-Vieuxtemps - Giuseppe Guarneri Violin

Giuseppe Guarneri was an Italian luthier from the Guarneri house of Cremona. He lived from 1698 to 1744 and is highly regarded as one of the finest violin makers to ever live. The only other man to rival his work was the Italian crafter Antonio Stradivari. In 1741, Guarneri created his most prized violin. A piece that was once owned by famous Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. The instrument also has a connection with Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini. It was Paganini that first heard Vieuxtemps play the violin at the age of 14, and predicted that “the boy would definitely become a great man.”

In 2008, Ex-Vieuxtemps became the highest selling musical instrument of all time when it was auctioned off for $3.9 million. The violin was purchased by Russian lawyer and violinist Maxim Viktorov. A few months after buying the violin, Viktorov held a private concert and hired musician Pinchas Zukerman to play the famous instrument in front of a group of Russian socialites. Prior to the sale of the Ex-Vieuxtemps, the highest selling musical instrument was a violin named The Hammer, which was made by Antonio Stradivari and sold in 2006 for $3.54 million.



Highest Selling Baseball Card

T206 Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner was a professional baseball player who was a member of the National League from 1897 to 1917. He was nicknamed the Flying Dutchman due to his speed and German heritage. During his career, Honus Wagner won eight batting titles and led the league in stolen bases five times. He was one of the first five members elected into the baseball hall of fame and received the second highest vote total, behind only Ty Cobb. Most baseball historians consider Honus Wagner to be the best shortstop to ever play the game of baseball. The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) from 1909 to 1911 as part of its T206 series. Honus Wagner did not like the card’s distributer and demanded that it not be sold, so only 50 to 200 T206 Honus Wagner baseball cards were ever produced.

There is one particular T206 Honus Wagner card that has a long and controversial history. It has become known as the "Gretzky T206 Honus Wagner" card because in was purchased by the hockey legend in 1991. In 1995, Gretzky resold the card to Wal-Mart and Treat Entertainment for $500,000. Wal-Mart used the card as the top prize in a promotional contest, which was eventually won by a Florida postal worker. The man ended up auctioning the card off at Christie's auction house and it was purchased by collector Michael Gidwitz for $640,000. In 2000, Gidwitz sold the card on eBay for $1.27 million. In 2007, the T206 Honus Wagner was auctioned off once again and this time it raised $2.35 million. Six months later it was sold to a California collector for $2.8 million.



Highest Selling Stamp

Treskilling Yellow

In 1855, Sweden issued its first postage stamps and they were used as currency. It total, five stamps were produced and they depicted the Swedish coat of arms, with denominations ranging from 3 to 24 skillings banco. The 3-skilling banco stamp was printed in a blue-green color, while the 8-skilling note was printed in a yellowish orange shade. It is unclear how the error occurred, but it seems that at some point the 8-skilling printing plate was mistakenly replaced with a 3-skilling plate. This caused a very small number of 3-skilling stamps to be printed in the yellowish orange shade that usually represented an 8-skilling stamp. In 1886, the first and only Treskilling Yellow was discovered. The stamp became internationally known in 1894 when it was purchased by Philipp von Ferrary for an astounding 4,000 gulden. At least, we’re told it’s astounding.

As time passed, no other "yellows" surfaced. It has become clear that the stamp is not only rare, but quite possibly the only surviving example. The Treskilling Yellow has been sold numerous times in its history and currently holds the world record sales price for a postage stamp. In 1996, the stamp was sold for 2.5 million Swiss francs. Similar to other high price auction items, the selling party and buyer are not required to release their names or the sale amount. This makes it difficult to report on these sales, but in May of 2010 the Treskilling Yellow was sold by David Feldman auction house in Geneva, Switzerland. The company released a statement saying that the stamp sold "for at least the $2.5 million price it set a record for in 1996.” The buyer was an "international consortium" and the seller was a financial firm looking to settle the debt on a foreclosed estate. All bidders in the auction were sworn to secrecy.



Highest Selling Comic Book

Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)

Detective Comics is an American comic book published monthly by DC Comics. The story is the longest continually published comic in the United States and has been in existence since 1937. Detective Comics is best-known for introducing the iconic superhero Batman in the May 1939 issue #27. For this reason, Detective Comics #27 has become one of the most valuable and sought after comic books in the world. The issue features a great adventure of the Crimson Avenger, with the Byzantine crime fighter taking on a gambling ring that kills everyone who doesn't pay their debts.

In February of 2010, a copy of Detective Comics #27 was offered in a Heritage comic book auction. It was in pristine condition and the issue sold for the amount of $1,075,500. That made this copy of Detective Comics #27 the highest selling comic book in history, more than tripling the previous auction record, which was held by a copy of Action Comics #1. The auction price far exceeded published estimates and it was a historic moment when a single comic book sold for more than $1 million.



Highest Selling Action Figure

1964 G.I. Joe Prototype

G.I. Joe is a line of action figures that is produced by the toy company Hasbro. The term G.I. stands for Government Issue and the first G.I. Joe toy was released in 1964. In developing the toy, Hasbro wanted to create a realistic action figure, so they decided to represent the four branches of the U.S. armed forces, including the Soldier (Army), Action Sailor (Navy), Action Pilot (Air Force) and Action Marine (Marines). The original G.I. Joe toy was approximately 12 inches tall and their development directly led to the coining of the term "action figure." It was an attempt by Hasbro to create a toy that was targeted towards boys, to match the high success of Mattel’s Barbie, which was first released in 1959.

In the United Kingdom, the G.I. Joe toy line was licensed to Palitoy and their figures were known as Action Man. In July of 2003, a 1964 G.I. Joe action figure prototype was auctioned off in San Diego for $200,000. The toy is hand crafted and with the sale it became the most valuable action figure in the world. In comparison, the most valuable Barbie doll fetched $17,000 dollars in 2008. One of the most remarkable things about the G.I. Joe prototype is how closely the head resembles what the actual toy ended up looking like.



Highest Selling NES Video Game

Stadium Events

Stadium Events is the English title given to the Japanese video game Running Stadium. The game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The North American version of Stadium Events is universally accepted as one of the rarest licensed NES games in the world. In 1987, Nintendo released the Power Pad and subsequently stopped production on all Family Fun Fitness-branded games. This is why only 2000 copies of Stadium Events were made in North America, of which an estimated 200 reached consumers before being recalled. On February 26, 2010, a brand new factory sealed copy of Stadium Events was sold on e-bay for $41,300. The unexpected amount nearly doubled the previous sales record for a NES game.


Got some more cool records that deserve their spot on the list? Let's hear about it in the comments!

Written by Bryan Johnson – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Highest Selling U.S. Government Auction: http://pauloadams.org/Auctioneer%20clipart/auctioneer%2010.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Painting: http://stylecrave.frsucrave.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/nov-fifth-1948-by-jackson-pollock-140mil_msp1.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Sculpture: http://robinrile.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/giacometti-hommequimarche.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Piece of Furniture: http://majikthise.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/badminton_cabinet.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Car: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/writing/images/bugatti.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Book: http://www.universalleonardo.org/media/100/0/codexleicester1b36v36r.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Chair: http://heapsgood.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/yves-sait-laurent-chair-1.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Diamond: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_v6Vx4TUIw6Y/S0XwLjuJY2I/AAAAAAAACbQ/tWpBqS26E_U/s400/wittelsbach+diamond.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Piece of American Furniture: http://www.projo.com/news/content/L_IMAGE.101688cd0b5.93.88.fa.7c.94674381.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Coin: http://www.bestcoin.com/images/silver_dollar_1794_obv.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Musical Instrument: http://elitechoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Ex-Vieuxtemps.JPG
  • - Highest Selling Baseball Card: http://images.forbes.com/media/2008/08/25/0825pow_420w.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Stamp: http://www.luoyang2009.cn/system_dntb/upload/Treskilling%20Yellow.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Comic Book: http://momento24.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/detective-comics27.jpg
  • - Highest Selling Action Figure: http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2009/0908/gi_joe_0806.jpg
  • - Highest Selling NES Video Game http://image3.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID27134/images/Stadium.jpg