The wonderful thing about human nature is its diversity. Some people like playing video-games, while others prefer reading novels, and then there are the select few who like to spend their time and money collecting strange items that once belonged to famous figures. The buying and selling of such things has been going on for hundreds of years, and it is not uncommon for millions of dollars to change hands in auctions and private sales for the past belongings of celebrities.
Certain collectors are willing to pay crazy amounts of money to own anything that may have been worn, used or even simply touched by an important person. While internet sites such as eBay and Craigslist have made it easier than ever to buy used tissues or items of clothing, it is still worth looking at more traditional auction houses that can sometimes have even stranger lots up for bidding. This list counts down the weirdest and most obscure items that at one time, were owned by a famous figure to have ever gone on sale around the world.
10. J. D. Salinger’s Toilet
Catcher in the Rye is one of the most famous and controversial novels of the 20th century, selling tens of millions of copies worldwide. Its author, J. D. Salinger, became increasingly reclusive in his later years and so, very few items belonging to him have ever been made public, with the exception of several letters and signed books.
However, in 2010, an odd item made its way to eBay that the seller claimed was a toilet that had belonged to the late author. According to the vendor, the commode was acquired from a couple who had moved into Salinger’s old house and had a letter attesting to the authenticity of the item from the current owners. Advertised as “uncleaned and in its original condition” the toilet went on sale for an asking price of $1 million, though it is unclear whether anyone actually managed to buy the toilet.
9. Queen Victoria’s Bloomers
During her lifetime, Queen Victoria was possibly the most powerful and influential on the planet. As Britain’s longest ever-serving monarch and Empress of India, she has become a hugely significant historical figure. As such, her belongings can often be in demand and can fetch unusually high prices, take for example a mourning gown that went on sale last year, that was expected to bring in around $5000.
The most peculiar royal item ever sold at auction though, has to be a pair of bloomers once worn by Queen herself. They attracted a winning bid that was three times over the estimated price, selling for $15,000. The bidder remained anonymous, but he is now the proud owner of a pair of silk 50-inch waist underwear, big enough to fit at least two or three people in them at a time.
8. Hitler’s Secret Reading Glasses
Adolf Hitler is another figure that the vast majority of people will have heard. Unsurprisingly, due to his place in world history, auctions that have Hitler themed listings can attract huge attention and sell at huge prices. Items such as writings desks, signed copies of Mein Kampf and even a bed slept in by the dictator, have sold for thousands of dollars. These are all items that people knew Hitler possessed though, they directly saw him use them regularly, or photographic evidence exists.
On the other hand, his reading glasses are not well documented and he was rarely ever seen wearing them. Even though he began to wear them before the war began, very few photographs exist of him wearing them, as he believed that the allies would see his need for spectacles as a sign of weakness and was determined to keep them a secret. Despite this, the so-called “secret” glasses sold in 2011, for a record $7,500.
7. Picasso’s Picture Taking Camera
Pablo Picasso, alongside Vincent Van Gogh, is one of the most famous artists of all time and his work regularly sells for millions of dollars. In fact, eight of his paintings feature in the list of the most expensive paintings, some even reaching fees as high a price as $150 million.
Of course, thanks in part to the popularity of his artwork, other objects related to him can also attract the attention of collectors and fans. The strangest thing that ever went to auction is a camera used to take a number of photos of Picasso that sold for $2.19 million, in 2012. The camera model was something of a collector’s item itself, due to its rarity, but was only originally expected to sell for somewhere in the region of $300,000.
It is important to remember here that this was not Picasso’s own camera, he had no association with it apart from the fact it had been used to take some photographs of him. The actual owner was the relatively unknown professional photographer, David Douglas Duncan, who documented much of Picasso’s life.
6. X-Ray Of Marilyn Monroe’s Breasts
Marilyn Monroe was perhaps the world’s first true star and global celebrity. Collectors of the prolific star look in particular for things like clothing and jewelry, that can sell for millions of dollars, like her famous white dress worn in Seven Year Itch that cost the winning bidder in excess of $4 million.
In 2010 though, an auction listing appeared which included a number of things related to Monroe that were previously unknown to the public. It was a series of medical records from when she spent time in hospital, and the item with the biggest interest was an X-ray of her chest. A junior doctor working at the hospital had apparently swiped it before passing it down to his daughter, who had then decided to sell it. Despite an initial estimate of only $3,000, it eventually fetched a price of $45,000.
5. Winston Churchill’s Cigar
A major figure in British history, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister during World War II. Because of his importance during that period, items used or that once belonged to him, are of interest to collectors and dealers worldwide. Letters, diaries and official documents have all sold for thousands of dollars, while more unique items such as his Land Rover or personal railway chair, have also gone to auction.
What made a 2010 listing so bizarre though, was that it was a half-smoked cigar. A member of staff quickly jumped to grab it before later sending it to his friend. It continued to pass down through the family, until it came to someone who thought they would rather have the cash than what amounted to a piece of rubbish, and off it went to auction. In the end, an anonymous bidder paid $7000 for it.
4. Elvis’ Hair
The King of Rock n’ Roll is one of the most famous people of all time, and it should come as no surprise that memorabilia once belonging to him can fetch a high price at auction. Personal items in particular are in high demand. Some examples include a bible once owned by the artist, selling for $94,000 in 2012, or a pair of his blue suede shoes achieving a staggering price of $80,000.
However, a 2009 listing offered a sample of hair that had reportedly belonged to the late singer. The vendor claimed that the hair was genuine and originated from when Elvis spent time in the army, where due to preparing for national service in 1958, his head had to be shaved. Experts in the field of celebrity hair, yes that actually is a thing, stated that the sample was real when it went to auction. Weirdly enough, this isn’t even the only time someone has sold hair belonging to Elvis, as in November of 2009, when another sample sold for $1500.
3. John Lennon’s Tooth
It should come as no surprise that there is good demand for anything related to the legendary John Lennon. Over the years, collectors have sought instruments, letters, unknown songs and many other things and generally auctions have tended to include at least a couple of bizarre items. Previous listings have included detention slips from his time at school, as well a caravan that once belonged to the singer/songwriter.
Even stranger than those though, was a 2011 sale that offered one of Lennon’s teeth. The molar had been given by the frontman to his housekeeper, rather than thrown away, with the suggestion that she give it to her daughter as a piece of memorabilia, as he knew she was a fan of The Beatles. A Canadian dentist, who now plans to display it in his surgery, as well as take it on tours to other dental practices, purchased it for $31,000.
2. Lee Harvey Oswald’s Coffin
There is a huge market for items relating to John F Kennedy, due to a combination of his controversial presidency and his infamous assassination. His death was one of the major events in modern times. Harvey Oswald was the man widely believed to have killed Kennedy, and this led to one of oddest auction listings of all time.
Oswald was fatally shot two days after being arrested, and was then buried. However, conspiracy rumors continued that the man killed was actually a soviet imposer, and not Oswald himself. In order to prove his identity and put the rumors to rest once and for all, his wife had his body exhumed. The undertaker who was responsible, reburied him in a brand new coffin rather than the original. Seeing the chance to make some money, he kept the original for himself. Although badly damaged, it still managed to sell for a price of $87,000.
1. Napoleon’s Penis
Arguably, one of the greatest and well-known military leaders in world history, Napoleon has amassed an army of collectors since his death. Every conceivable item that was ever used by the Emperor is considered valuable and sought after. Without a doubt, the oddest Napoleon auction was in 1977, when Dr John Lattimer purchased the shriveled penis of the late general for $3,000.
According to sources, the doctor performing the autopsy on Napoleon following his death, saw an opportunity to remove the penis and grab himself a gruesome souvenir, later passing it on to a priest named Vignali. Passing down through family and friends, it eventually wound up as a display item in New York before being sold to Lattimer. The urologist didn’t make a big deal out of the purchase, instead, he simply kept the item in a drawer under his desk.