These are some of the most expensive items in the world.
Interior of the “Supercomplication”
One of the most complicated watches ever created, and by far the most complex design conceived without computer assistance, this 18 karat gold pocket watch was born out of a competition between American banker Henry Graves and James Ward Packard, founder of the Packard Motor Car Company, to obtain the most complex personal timepiece. It took three years to design the watch, and another five years to manufacture it, before being delivered to Graves in 1933. The Supercomplication had long been the world’s most complicated timepiece ever assembled with a total of 24 different functions, including Westminster chimes, a perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, and a celestial map of New York as seen from the Graves’s apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and contains 920 individual parts. That record was not bested until 1989 when Patek Philippe again released yet another, even more complicated pocket timepiece known as the Patek Philippe Calibre 89. The watch was sold in a 2014 auction by Sotheby’s on behalf of a member of the Qatari royal family to an anonymous bidder.
Most Expensive Car: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
Price: $34,650,000 (though likely higher)
One of just 107 examples, the Ford GT40 is considered America’s most successful foray into European racing (though several of the models were assembled in England, the engines were American-made), emerging out of a grudge match between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari following a failed acquisition of Ferrari by Ford. The GT40 would displace European powerhouses at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for four years, from 1966 to 1969 and become the only vehicle to win Le Mans multiple times using the same chassis, until Porsche would at last overcome the American obstacle. This particular example benefited from its role as the camera car in Steve McQueen’s 1971 film “Le Mans” and had a substantial racing history, all of which contributed greatly to its final price.
Most Valuable Coin: Australian 2011 One Tonne Gold Kangaroo
Price: ~$54,000,000 (when created; gold value has decreased in the interim)
With a legal tender value of $1,000,000 (AUS), the 2011 One Tonne Gold Kangaroo follows in the tradition of Australia’s gold bullion series, which features a kangaroo on one side and the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the opposite. The only difference is that most of the “Kangaroos” have a weight of one ounce when made, while this one weighs more than a metric tonne, tipping the scale at 1012 kilograms (over 2230 pounds) of 99.99% pure gold. While it has never been sold, being retained by the Australian Mint, spot gold price still grants it recognition as the most valuable coin in the world.
Most Expensive Coin (Outside of Inherent Value): United States 1794 Silver Dollar
The first metal dollar struck by the U.S. Mint, the 1794 Silver Dollar is considered among the rarest U.S. coins, and was sold for $10,016,875 (US) at Stack’s Bowers Galleries in 2013. The sky-high price has catapulted the 1794 Silver Dollar to the leader of the pack over the 1933 Double Eagle ($20 gold piece, of which only one is currently legal for sale, with another ten in legal disputes, as they were all technically stolen from the Mint) at $7,590,020, and the 1787 Brasher Doubloon, a gold coin minted privately by the firm of Blanchard and Co., at $7,400,000. Graded “Specimen-66” out of a 70-point scale by the Professional Coin Grading Service, by far the finest known, and being one of between 120 and 130 pieces remaining in existence, this coin represents the pinnacle of achievement to American coin collectors.
Most Expensive Non-U.S. Coin (Outside of Inherent Value): 723 (A.D.) Umayyad Gold Dollar
The only non-United States coin in the top ten most valuable (besides the one-tonne Kangaroo) is the Umayyad dinar, dated A.H. 105 (an Islamic dating system, standing for “After Hijra”, meaning after the migration of Muhammad from Makkah to Madina in 620 A.D.). One of the earliest Islamic gold coins, this example is composed of gold from the mine of the caliph, considered the political and spiritual successor to Muhammad, and is thought to possibly have been minted during the caliph’s pilgrimage to Mecca. The coin was purchased in 2011 at a Morten & Eden auction by an anonymous buyer, purported to be a major European collector, and has not been exhibited in public since its purchase.
Most Expensive Man-Made Object: International Space Station
Price: $160,000,000,000 (and rising)
Conceived in 1985 and designed over the next decade, the ISS was eventually recognized as an international initiative following the fall of the Soviet Union, during which time U.S. President Bill Clinton oversaw an agreement with principal partners Russia, Japan, and Canada to fund the project. To date, the United States government has spent approximately $100,000,000,000 on the project, with the partner nations contributing the additional funds. Current cost of maintenance is a mere $3,000,000,000 per year.
Most Expensive Airplane/Jet: B-2 Spirit “Stealth Bomber”
First developed by Northrop Grumman in 1989, in use since 1993, and with a recent upgrade that projects service to continue through 2058, the B-2 Spirit is a heavy strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, and can carry sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. Only 21 have been produced, and all (minus one crash) are still in service.
Most Expensive Private Airplane/Jet: Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s Airbus A380
While the Airbus is conventionally a commercial airliner, when you’re a Saudi prince worth about $22 billion, you can afford to make it your own. Despite something of a scandal regarding the Prince’s purchase of the plane, including defaults on payments to Airbus and a rather quick resale, the aircraft still retains the spot as the most valuable plane bought privately.
Most Expensive Boat/Yacht: CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier
The newest class of supercarrier of the United States Navy, replacing the Nimitz-class, is the Ford-class; the first example, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is shown here. At a length of 1106 feet, containing 25 decks, a carrying capacity of more than 75 aircraft, and maintaining a pair of A1B nuclear reactors as a power source, CVN-78 is the most expensive seafaring vessel in history. Updates from previous generations of aircraft carriers include the implementation of an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, eliminating the need to store steam for more conventional launches.
Most Expensive Stamp: 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta
This unique stamp has broken the world record for most valuable stamp at four different sales, commanding nearly eight figures at its most recent sale. Not bad for a 1 inch by 1.5 inch piece of colored paper. This stamp has a legend unmatched in the world of collectors: Issued as an emergency substitute for low numbers of official stamps by a newspaper in what is now Guyana, the piece was first sold by a Scottish boy named Vernon Vaughn after finding it in his family’s papers, for a price of six shillings (then equivalent to approximately $1.50). From there it has been in several famous collections, was part of World War I reparations from Germany to France, and was underbid by English King George V, today remaining the only major rarity that is not represented in the Royal Family’s heirloom collection of British stamps. It was sold most recently for the record-breaking price at a 2014 Sotheby’s auction as part of the collection of John E. DuPont (of Foxcatcher infamy) to an anonymous bidder.
Most Expensive Movie Poster: 1931 “Metropolis”, International Version
Price: $690,000 – $1,200,000
One of four copies of the international version of this poster believed to exist, advertising Fritz Lang’s influential science fiction film about a highly stylized futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers, was auctioned by the United States Bankruptcy Court in 2012. Of the remaining three examples of this, the “crown jewel of the poster world”, only one is in private hands (anonymously held, though popularly believed to be Leonardo DiCaprio), the other two residing in the United States Museum of Modern Art and the Austrian National Library. In the early days of cinema, movie posters were considered to be common advertising equipment rather than a collectible, and were often thrown out. Pristine examples of classic films are today in high demand with relatively low supply; no original examples exist today of the classic 1922 “Nosferatu” or large versions of the original 1931 “Dracula”, which would stand a decent chance of breaking the record if discovered. This piece was bought for $690,000 individually in 2005, and was part of a group lot containing classic movie posters as well as the original art for the poster advertising Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” which together brought the $1,200,000 high value and were sold to poster dealer Ralph DeLuca, accounting for the range in price seen above.
Most Expensive Musical Instrument: 1721 “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius Violin
Earning its name from the 30 years spent in the possession of Lord Byron’s granddaughter, Lady Anne Blunt, this instrument more than quadrupled the record for a Stradivarius when it was auctioned in 2011, though the price is assumed to have been inflated as the sale benefitted the Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund following the devastating events of the months prior. Considered to be exceptionally well preserved, the Lady Blunt was poised to be knocked off its pedestal in 2014 by the sale of the “Macdonald”, a 1719 Stradivarius viola (one of just 10 violas left in existence by the master (Stradivarius created just 1100 instruments in his lifetime, of which nearly 650 survive. Of these, 512 are violins, making a Stradivarius viola more than 50 times rarer than a Stradivarius violin). Given the desire to obtain a full Stradivarius string quartet, which consists of a first and second violin, a cello, and a viola, the estimate for the piece was placed at $45,000,000 by Sotheby’s, but failed to sell in the sealed-bid auction.
Most Expensive Sculpture: “L’homme au doigt”, Alberto Giacometti
Considered one of the most important sculptors in history, with three of his works holding positions on the top ten most valuable pieces of art of all time, Giacometti is in a category all his own, called both a Surrealist and a Formalist, and this piece (translated to “Man pointing” or “Pointing Man”) is considered to be his most iconic and evocative sculpture. As a sculpture, six casts of this 1947 piece were made in addition to an artist’s proof, though the record-setting example here is believed to be the sole copy painted by hand to heighten its expressive impact. Two of the casts reside in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and London’s Tate Gallery, but this example, one of a handful in private hands, had resided in the same collection for nearly half a century prior to its sale.