Dead or alive, the DNA of celebrities and notable historical figures brings in more dough than anyone could have imagined. They are not actual objects, personal items they once owned that can be used again, but are simply clumps of hair, teeth, and even used tissues, all with an intriguing story behind them. They are small, minuscule actually, light as a feather, and yet so very valuable in the eyes of those who would go to any length to buy them.
The roots of the practice of hair collecting can be traced to Victorian England, when Queen Victoria used to wear mourning jewelry made from locks of hair from her deceased loved ones. She even had rings made from Prince Albert’s tresses, which she wore throughout her mourning. Hair obtained from collectors is even more valuable as it helps historians rewrite history. Locks of Thomas Jefferson’s hair proved that he fathered a child with one of his slaves, and a strand of Beethoven’s hair showed that he suffered from lead poisoning.
Nowadays, selling celebrity DNA has become a thriving business. What may seem weird, macabre, or even gross to some, cashes in tens of thousands. That’s a lot of money for a fraction of an inch of a dead man’s hair. Believe it or not, such memorabilia is in great demand, and there are many buyers out there. Some do it for money, as they see a great investment opportunity in them, but most do it for love. Some even hope to clone their late idols in the near future using their precious DNA.
10. Scarlett Johansson’s Used Tissue: $5,300
Most people throw away their tissues as soon as they’re done with them. So who in the world would even consider buying a used one? The answer: a true and dedicated fan would do anything to have a little something of their idol at home, even if it is just a dirty hanky. In 2008, the luscious blonde was invited at Jay Leno‘s The Tonight Show. Scarlett Johansson showed up with a cold, and Jay Leno offered her a hanky. After blowing her nose a couple times, she signed the tissue and put it in a bag. Immediately after, a fan dropped $5,300 for Scarlett Johansson’s lipstick, mucus, and germs preserved in the signed tissue during a U.S.A. Harvest charity auction.
9. Mick Jagger’s Clump of Hair: $6,000
Mick Jagger guards his hair and any evidence to his DNA with extreme caution, as he has been subject to quite a few paternity suits in the past. However, it seems he was unable to prevent the unpredictable auction held by Bonhams house in 2013 in London. The curls were snipped by one of Mick Jagger’s former girlfriends, Chrissie Shrimpton, some 50 years ago, before the band became famous. Although it was speculated that Jagger paid off an anonymous telephone bidder in his behalf, the auction house only declared that it was sold to a private collector who paid more than double the pre-sale estimate, and that the proceeds were donated to Changing Faces, a charity that supports people with disfigured faces.
8. Beethoven’s Lock of Hair: $7,300
Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers, suffered from strange illnesses all his life. On March 26, 1827, he passed away in Vienna, aged 56. The very next day, a twelve-year-old boy cut a lock of hair from the composer’s head as a souvenir. In the years that followed, the curls exchanged numerous hands, and were even used to bribe a Nazi officer. In 1994, they were sold during a Sotheby’s auction in London to four members of the American Beethoven Society, who only kept a small portion of the hair and donated the rest to the Center for Beethoven Studies. After thorough research, it was used to prove that the composer’s lifelong illnesses, constantly accusing abdominal cramps, abscesses, rheumatic fevers, eye pain, gouts, and diarrhea may have been caused by lead poisoning, as each hair contained 100 times more lead than that of an average person.
7. John Lennon’s Tooth: $30,000
It is any dentist’s dream, who also happens to be a Beatles fan, to get their hands on one of John Lennon‘s teeth. Michael Zuk, a Canadian dentist, is living the dream, after he purchased a rotten tooth in 2011 for $30,000. The rotten molar had been passed on by the artist to his Weybridge housekeeper. However, at the time when it was auctioned by Omega Auctions, sellers claimed that the tooth was too fragile to undergo DNA testing. Nevertheless, Michael Zuk is convinced of its authenticity and believes that he can convert the tissue cells into stem cells and recreate the Beatles legend. He declared that he already began sequencing the DNA from his tooth, and plans on cloning John Lennon by 2040.
6. Babe Ruth’s Lock of Hair: $38,000
Sold by in 2007 Robert Edwards Auctions, a strand of Babe Ruth‘s hair fetched a whopping $38,000. Nicknamed the Bambino, the famous outfielder and pitcher played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball. In 1987, Barry Halper declared that he obtained a lock of Babe Ruth’s hair from a collector in Iowa. The strand of hair was mounted on a type-signed letter from Ruth, in which he himself authenticates the locks. Although he sold most of his collection, Barry Halper stayed true to the baseball legend’s lock of hair, which he kept in his basement, until it was finally sold by his widow two years after his death.
5. Justin Bieber’s Tuft: $40,668
Justin Bieber‘s floppy hair is just as famous as the young singer himself, and it is already a well-known trademark. In 2011, he decided to cut it off, and presented the locks to Ellen Degeneres, who previously declared that all she wanted for her birthday was a tuft of Justin Bieber’s hair. After offering his tresses on live television, the TV show host decided to auction the tufts on eBay and donate the proceeds to charity. The winning bidder was the online casino company GoldenPalace.com, which dropped $40,668.
4. John Lennon’s Lock of Hair: $48,000
Sold in 2007 by Gorringes auction house during a Beatles memorabilia auction collected by the band’s personal hairdresser, John Lennon’s lock of hair was presented inside an autographed copy of Lennon’s book A Spaniard in the Works. The lock of hair and the book were offered as a gift by the artist himself to the band’s hairdresser, Betty Glasow. He wrote “To Betty, Lots of Love and Hair, John Lennon xx.” The signature gives the tresses authenticity and even more value. Betty Glasow decided to sell the lock of hair, as well as other valuable Beatles memorabilia because she felt that these personal items belong in the hands of passionate fans, and the lock of hair fetched seven to eight times the pre-sale estimate, all paid by an anonymous Beatles lover.
3. The Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton Locket: $73,300
We are all suckers for love stories, and all those who know how to sell them right are bound to fetch a fortune. This 18th century gold locket contains tresses from Lord Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton’s hair. Lord Nelson was a famous British flag officer who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, and who drew negative attention due to his scandalous affair with Lady Hamilton. The lock of hair on the obverse is his, and was mounted on the locket shortly after Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Between 1798 and 1799, he stayed in Naples as the guest of Sir William Hamilton, where he developed strong feelings for his daughter, Emma. Hence the romantic theory that the darker lock of hair on the obverse of the locket belonged to Lady Hamilton.
2. Elvis Presley’s Tresses: $115,000
Elvis was one of the legendary figures that left a permanent mark on the 20th century, and who continues to fascinate generations to come. However, his distinctive voice, romantic songs, and frenetic dance moves would be nothing without the hairdo. All Elvis Presley fans like to dream that the King is still alive, but since there’s no proof to this theory, they’ll just have to settle with a lock of his hair. In 2002, MastroNet Inc held an online auction and sold Elvis Presley’s tresses, which were previously owned by the King’s personal barber. The locks were cut off in 1958, when Elvis was drafted into the United States Army.
1. Che Guevara’s Lock of Hair: $119,500
Snipped just before Argentina’s Marxist revolutionary’s burial in 1967, Ernesto Che Guevara’s lock of hair was sold in 2007 for $119,500, making it the most expensive tress and DNA sample ever. The tuft was taken by Gustavo Villoldo, a former CIA agent who was involved in Che Guevara’s capture, who did not want the body to be returned to Cuba where it would receive a hero’s funeral, and he supervised a burial in a common grave. He wanted proof to his completed mission, so he cut off a lock of the Cuban revolutionary’s hair. It was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries to Bill Butler, a bookstore owner, and an admirer of the Cuban revolutionary, together with fingerprints, photos, captured documents, intelligence intercepts, all valuable pieces of history with an exciting story to tell.