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The Top 10 Record-Breaking Auctions of 2019

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2020-01-03

For some wealthy collectors money is no object, and they’re willing to pay whatever it takes to get what they want.

And if that means rewriting the record books, all the better.

Here are 10 of our favourite record-breaking auction lots sold in 2019 – from luxury items such as watches and whisky, to vintage toys, video games and a pigeon called Armando.

The World’s Most Expensive Video Game

(Image: Heritage Auctions)

In 2019 the market for vintage video games soared, as nostalgic gamers began collecting the classic titles they grew up with in the 1980s.

And there are few more important titles in the history of gaming than the original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The game features the most iconic video game character of all-time, helped save the industry upon its release in 1985 and sold over 40 million copies around the world.

This highly rare copy was only available in New York and Los Angeles, as Nintendo test-marketed the NES in 1985, and is believed to be the only unopened copy from that early release in existence.

Still bearing its original factory sticker seal, and in almost mint condition, the game sold through Heritage Auctions in February for $100,150 – making it the most expensive vintage video game ever sold, and the first in the hobby to break the six-figure mark.

The World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Whisky

(Image: Sotheby’s)

A highly rare bottle of 1926 Macallan 60-year-old became the world’s most expensive whisky at Sotheby’s in October.

The whisky was part of the distillery’s ‘Fine and Rare’ series, of which there are only 12 bottles in existence.

The bottle was one of only 40 produced at the Macallan distillery in Scotland, and left to age for 60 years in the now-legendary ‘Cask 263’ before being bottled in 1983.

Twenty-four of those bottles were given specially-designed labels by artists Sir Peter Blake and Valerio Adami, and today they regularly fetch upwards of $1 million at auction.

Another bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon to depict the manor house on the Macallan distillery estate, and sold in 2018 for $1,528,800.

But the bottle sold at Christie’s surpassed them all as it sold for a world record $1.86 million – which works out at around $90,000 per shot!

It was the first bottle from the ‘Fine and Rare’ series to appear on the market in over a decade, but at that price it would be no surprise if another hit the auction block in 2020.

The World’s Most Expensive Television Costumes

(Image: Profiles in History)

Holy screen-worn tights!

The original Batman and Robin outfits worn by Adam West and Burt Ward in the classic 1960s show sold in December 2019 for $832,000 (including buyer’s premium), making them the world’s most expensive television costumes.

The costumes were part of the Azarian Collection, the world’s finest private collection of vintage TV memorabilia that hit the block at Profiles in History in California.

Auctioneers were stunned, as prior to the sale they had only been expected to sell for up to $200,000.

Although it only ran for three seasons from 1966 until 1968, the Batman TV show became an icon of pop culture with generations of fans thanks to constant reruns around the world.

The show already held the auction record for a piece of television memorabilia, after the original Batmobile sold back in 2014 for $4.6 million.

And now the Dynamic Duo’s costumes have their own place in the record books too. Kappow!!!

The World’s Most Expensive Racing Pigeon

(Image: Pipa.be)

His name is Armando, and he’s been compared to Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lewis Hamilton. Which isn’t bad, for a pigeon.

Armando became the world’s most valuable racing pigeon in March 2019 when he sold during an online auction for a staggering $1.4 million.

He was sold by Joël Verschoot, a Belgian enthusiast and former abattoir manager who now rears some of the world’s fastest and most successful pigeons.

In 2018 Armando’s racing record was the greatest in Europe, and his breeding potential meant two Chinese pigeon fanciers became locked in a battle to own him.

Verschoot had dreamed that Armando may fetch up to $600,000, but was stunned when the price flew to more than double the estimate.

“The two Chinese had told me in advance that they absolutely wanted Armando,” he said. “But I didn’t see this coming.”

The World’s Most Expensive Star Wars Toy

(Image: Hake’s Auctions)

Bounty Hunter Boba Fett didn’t say much in the original Star Wars movies, but he still became one of the most iconic characters of the series.

And back in 1980, he was even deemed too dangerous for toy stores.

When Kenner originally designed the Boba Fett figure, he featured a spring-loaded rocket which fired out of his backpack.

But during testing it became clear the rockets were a choking hazard, and the firing mechanism had a habit of going of unexpectedly, increasing the chances of someone losing an eye.

Kenner fixed the rockets firmly in place before the Boba Fett figures ever hit the stores, and since then early unreleased prototypes with the firing rocket still intact have become the most sought-after action figures in the hobby.

Around 100 of these hand-painted prototypes were produced, but the majority were destroyed by safety tests which including heating, freezing and smashing them to pieces.

Today less than 30 are believed to have survived, and in November one high-grade figure sold at Hake’s Auctions for $185,850, making it the world’s most expensive Star Wars toy.

The World’s Most Expensive Guitar

(Image: Christie’s)

In June 2019 Pink Floyd legend David Gilmour placed his guitar collection up for sale at Christie’s, and set numerous world records in the process.

The collection included more than 100 guitars and achieved a total of $21.5 million, making it the most valuable private collection of musical instruments ever sold at auction.

And following the auction, Gilmour incredibly donated the entire sum to the climate change charity ClientEarth.

Leading the collection was a 1969 Black Fender Stratocaster, known simply as ‘The Black Strat’, which Gilmour used to record classic Pink Floyd albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

It was also Gilmour’s main stage guitar between 1970 and 1986, and when Pink Floyd famously reformed for the Live 8 concert in 2004 he played it again, after reclaiming it from a display case at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas.

The Black Strat was acquired for a world record $3,975,000 by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who added it to his collection of famous instruments played by The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia.

The World’s Most Expensive Marvel Comic

(Image: Heritage Auctions)

Today the Marvel universe of superheroes dominates the world of blockbuster movies and television, but it all started back in 1939 with a single comic book.

Marvel Comics #1 was first published in August 1939, and featured the debuts of characters such as the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner.

At the time ‘Marvel’ was just the name of the book itself, published by Timely Comics, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that the company rebranded itself ‘Marvel Comics’ after its most popular title.

The book was originally owned by a Pennsylvania mailman, who had collected the first issue of every new comic book and magazine from his local newsstand for 30 years.

Eight decades on it remained in almost pristine condition as the world’s finest-known copy, which meant wealthy collectors were fighting each other to own it.

And it eventually sold at Heritage Auctions for $1.26 million, making it the most expensive Marvel comic ever sold and one of only four comic books in history to fetch a seven-figure sum.

The World’s Most Expensive Sports Jersey

(Image: Hunt Auctions)

Everything about Babe Ruth was big, from his personality and his notorious appetite, to the size of his home runs and his legacy as the man who changed baseball forever.

And today, more than 70 years after his death, he remains the biggest name when it comes to baseball memorabilia as well.

In June 2019 Hunt Auctions hosted a landmark sale of Babe Ruth memorabilia at Yankee Stadium, with many pieces offered for the first time from the Ruth family collection.

And leading the sale was a highly rare New York Yankees road jersey worn by Ruth during the peak of his powers in the late 1920s.

Just six Ruth game-worn Yankees jerseys are known to exist, including those in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame and other major collections. So when a high-grade authenticated jersey appears on the market,

The last example to hit the auction block in 2012 sold for $4.4 million, a record that stood unbeaten until this year and the discovery of the new Ruth road jersey.

Bearing Ruth’s name still sewn into the collar, the prime piece of vintage grey flannel became the world’s most expensive sports jersey with a final price of $5.64 million.

“The legacy and significance of Babe Ruth to the game of baseball and American popular culture is unmatched by any other figure in the history of this country,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions.

“While the record-setting prices attained today are certainly astonishing, I am not surprised at all given the incredible materials and the mythical status the Babe holds in the history of this country.”

The World’s Most Expensive Lunch Date

Warren Buffet is an American billionaire and philanthropist known as the ‘Sage of Omaha’ due to his shrewd investments, which have netted him a fortune of more than $88 billion.

But despite being the fourth-wealthiest person in the world, he doesn’t always pick up the check at lunch.

Each year Buffet auctions off a private lunch to raise funds for the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco charity that supports the poor, homeless and people fighting substance abuse.

Since 2000 Buffet’s lunch dates have raised $34 million for the project, as many of the world’s top business leaders seek to pick his brains over a bite to eat.

Buffet says he is happy to discuss any subject during lunch except one – his next investment.

The price of the lunch has continued to rise over the years, and in 2019 one anonymous bidder paid a record sum of $4,567,888 to sit down with Buffet at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan.

At that price, you hope the food is as good as the financial advice.

The World’s Most Expensive Watch

(Image: Christie’s)

A Patek Philippe watch described as “the most complicated wristwatch ever made” rewrote the record books in November, when it sold at Christie’s for a stunning $31 million.

The timepiece was created specially by the Swiss watchmaker for the 2019 Only Watch charity auction in Geneva, which benefits research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

It was the only Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime watch ever made in stainless steel, and completely smashed its original estimate of $2.5 – $3.5 million.

The watch included 20 different complications, an alligator skin bracelet and a reversible rose gold and black enamel dial featuring the inscription “The Only One”.

The record had previously been held by a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Oyster wristwatch owned by Hollywood star Paul Newman, which sold back in 2017 for $17.75 million.


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