Auction houses are meccas for the rich and famous and those willing to shell out large amounts of cash for rare pieces of history. Sotheby’s auction house is free and open to the public with no obligation to bid, but many of the world’s most rich and powerful people love to get into bidding wars during high-stakes auctions. The following is a list of the most expensive items to ever sell at auction:
The Most Expensive Manuscript: $30,802,500
Pictured: the da Vinci Codex Hammer
In 1994, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Hammer for a record breaking $30,802,500. Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci meticulously recorded his life through musings and sketches in journals. Of the 30 remaining diaries, the most famous is the Codex Hammers, named for the British Nobleman who purchased the 72-page journal in 1717. After Gates purchased the Codex Hammer he released a digitally scanned version for the public to enjoy.
The Most Expensive Musical Instrument: $3.9 million
Pictured: Guarneri del Gesù violin
In 2007, a Russian lawyer purchased a Guarneri del Gesù violin for $3.9 million. Bartolomeo Guiseppe Antonio Guarnieri, grandson of one of Antonio Stradivari’s apprentices, built the $3.9 million violin over 250 years ago. There are only 250 Guanieri instruments in the world, but it was this violin that fetched the highest price. While it is normally on display, it was recently played by Israeli maestro Pinchas Zukerman during a private concert in Moscow.
The Most Expensive Car: $12.2 million
Pictured: 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
In 2009, RM Auctions and Sotheby’s organized a record-breaking Ferrari auction where they sold a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa for $12.2 million. The Testa Rossa won 10 of the 19 international races they entered from 1958 to 1961 except for this particular vehicle, which never placed better than fourth. This car is prized for its exceptional beauty, not its speed. The body was designed by Sergio Scaglietti and has exquisite pontoon fenders that add to its unique design.
The Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia: $3 million
Pictured: Mark McGwire
In 1999, Todd McFarlane the comic-book creator, and record producer, purchased Mark McGwire’s record-breaking 70th-home-run baseball to add to his collection. McFarlane has a collection of 1998 seasons Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire baseballs. In 2003, McFarlane purchased Barry Bonds’s 73rd-home-run baseball for $450,000. The price of sports memorabilia decreases in the wake of a steroid scandal.