From a single Chinese dish worth more than $37 million to rare hunting decoys selling in excess of two-hundred thousand each, read about some of the most valuable, record-breaking antiques and collectibles ever to sell at auction.
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Ru Guanyao Brush Washer Bowl
A little dish like this used for washing small brushes might not look like much, but it set a world record for Chinese porcelain in 2017. From the Northern Song Dynasty, this 900 year-old dish measuring just 5.125 inches was listed as "highly important and extremely rare" in the auction catalog.
"Such 'Ru guanyao' wares–known for their intense blue-green glaze and “ice-crackle” pattern–are extremely rare because the kiln in China’s central Henan province had a brief... production run of only around two decades," stated a Reuters report on the sale.
After a 20 minute bidding battle, the small vessel brought the equivalent of $37.68 million in a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong. This broke the previous record held by the famed "chicken" cup set in 2014.
02 of 10
Record-Breaking Persian Rug
With a pre-auction estimate of $5 to $7 million, this antique rug far exceeded sale expectations. This was one of the important carpets from the William Andrews Clark estate sold at auction in 2013. The final hammer-down price, including buyer's premium, was the amazing sum of $33.76 million.
The rug was described by Sotheby's as follows: a Sickle-Leaf, vine scroll and palmette 'Vase'-technique carpet, probably Kirman, Southeast Persia. Condition and rarity played a part in... bringing this record-breaking sum.
03 of 10
Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch
This rare pocket watch made by Patek Philippe in 1932 broke its own world record. Known as the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication, it is named after "a New York banker who competed with the car manufacturer James Ward Packard to commission the most elaborate watch possible in the early 20th century," according to the Wall Street Journal.
The pocket watch sold for $24 million at auction in 2014, breaking its previous record of $11 million set in 1999 as the most valuable timepiece in... auction history.
04 of 10
Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina Pearl Necklace by Cartier
This extravagant necklace is special for a number of reasons. First, it was made by Cartier, a name known for producing some of the world's finest and most coveted jewelry. Then you have the provenance, since it was designed for actress Elizabeth Taylor to hold a very special bauble: the amazing 16th century La Peregrina Pearl purchased for her by Richard Burton in 1969.
Given all that this grand piece of jewelry has going for it, it's no surprise that Christie's reported that it set... two auction records: one for a historic pearl and another for a pearl jewel–bringing $11,842,500 at auction.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Robby the Robot Movie Prop
Measuring 7 feet tall, this remarkable movie prop (sold along with its futuristic Jeep) broke a world record as the most expensive ever sold at auction in late 2017.
Robby the Robot, from the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet released in 1956, sold for $5.375 million through Bonhams in New York. This shattered the previous record for a non-automotive movie prop formerly held by the Maltese Falcon that sold for $4 million in 2013, also by Bonhams.
06 of 10
Honus Wagner Baseball Card
The most valuable baseball card of all time dates to the early 1900s. With only nine known to exist, Honus Wagner examples in excellent condition like this one are extremely rare and valuable.
This example sold for $3.12 million in 2016, breaking the previous record of $2.8 million set with a different Wagner card in 2007. Note that there are many reproductions on the market due to the high value.
07 of 10
Dracula Record-Setting Movie Poster
This Dracula movie poster from 1931 broke the world record for the most expensive ever sold at auction. Heritage Auctions sold the poster in 2017 for $525,800. It is one of two of the only known surviving examples.
"The poster surpassed the previous auction record of $478,000, which was also set (twice) by Heritage Auctions. Heritage had just sold the only known surviving Italian issue movie poster from 1946 for Casablanca in July 2017, which matched their own previous world record from... November 2014 for an only-known 1927 copy of the poster for London After Midnight," according to a Heritage Auctions press release.
08 of 10
Chippendale-Style Kentucky Desk
Most often when antique furniture records are broken, the origin of the piece is Rhode Island, New York, or perhaps Pennsylvania. But in late 2017, an antique desk made in Kentucky took the auction spotlight.
The elaborately-carved Chippendale-style desk made of walnut was built for Capt. John Cowan by an unknown maker. It sold for $498,750–the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of Kentucky furniture and second-highest for a piece of Southern furniture, according to a report in the Lex...ington Herald-Leader.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
World Record Antique Doll
In January of 2018, Theriault's Auction House broke a world record, selling a notable French doll. The record-setting antique doll was created by Antoine Edmund Rochard. It sold for $333,500, and will reside in the Barry Art Museum of Norfolk, Virginia.
According to Theriault's, a leader in doll auction sales, this Rochard example "symbolizes the golden age of French dolls." It also appeals to scholars of photography and French culture and history since the breastplate of the doll... was decorated with an elaborately painted necklace. Hidden inside 24 of the tiny jewels are micro-photographs depicting historic scenes in France, such as Fontainebleau, the Louvre, and the Hotel de Ville of Paris, among others. When held closely to the eye, each image is magnified 160 times.
10 of 10
Carved Decoys by Important Makers
As part of the most successful auction of decoys ever held, the example shown here broke a record not only for this particular carver, but for any Canadian decoy maker. This Thomas Carver creation sold by Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC for $270,000.
In the same sale, a number of other decoys broke records for their makers, 19 in all, including a John English pintail drake and Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler Canada goose, selling for $246,000 and $198,000 respectively.