10 of the world's most valuable antiques and expensive vintage items
Every now and again, an antique or vintage item surfaces that’s either so rare, beautiful, or unusual that it changes hands for a huge sum of money. From exceptional Qing Dynasty Vases, through to flawless Pink Diamonds, and Leonardo’s ethereal Salvator Mundi, all of them have one thing in common - an eye-watering price tag. We have created this blog post for the curious amongst you to show you the most valuable and expensive antiques & vintage items we know of.
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is an incredibly rare car with only 39 ever being made. It was built specifically for racing in the 1963 FIA World GT Championships, which the 250 GTOs won that year (as well as the next). A combination of its prowess on the track and its beauty, helped it to achieve $38,115,000 at Bonhams in 2014.
This Vincent Black Lightning was originally built for Tony MacAlpine, an Australian racer, and it’s likely to be the best example of this motorcycle in the world. MacAlpine later sold the superbike to a dealer, Jack Ehret, who set the Australian land speed record on it, reaching 141.5mph.
It’s in unrestored condition with only five owners and just 8500kms on the clock, so it’s no wonder that it came close to achieving $1million at auction.
At Sotheby's in 2017, it took just five minutes of bidding before the 59.6-carat 'Pink Star' or 'CTF Pink' reached a staggering $83m. The 'Internally Flawless, Fancy Vivid pink diamond' is the largest ever graded by the GIA and its price exceeded the previous gemstone record of $50m, which had been set by the Oppenheimer Blue.
Image: Getty Images
It’s hard to imagine that in 1958 Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi was sold for just £45 at Sotheby’s. At the time, the original work was heavily disguised with overpaint and unrecognisable to most as an autograph piece by the great master. After six years of research, it was finally granted its status as a genuine da Vinci and became the only painting of Leonardo’s to be privately held.
Image: Cody Bell
On the subject of Leonardo, his allure is such that he also held the record for the highest amount ever achieved for a book. In 1994, Bill Gates paid $30.8m for da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, which is a 72-page notebook containing sketches, diagrams, and the early iterations of ideas.
This record remained in place until 2017 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the Book of Mormon for $35m. The document is a handwritten copy of the original manuscript dictated by Joseph Smith who Mormons believe translated ancient Egyptian texts with the help of God. The subsequent writings are seen by Mormons as a companion to the Bible.
A print of ‘Rhein II’ by German artist, Andreas Gursky, achieved $4.3 at Christie’s, New York, in 2011. It’s a beautifully crisp image that features a river flowing horizontally across your view in a linear fashion under an overcast sky. But perhaps one of the most well-known photographs to achieve a vast sum at auction was the tintype of Billy The Kid that reached $2.3m in June 2011.
The metallic photo, which was taken around 1879, depicts Billy clutching the barrel of a Winchester carbine, while a Colt 45 is strapped to his hip.
Reaching £19m at Christie’s in 2004, the Badminton Cabinet still holds the record for the world’s most expensive item of furniture. It’s no wonder, given that it took 30 craftsmen six years to make, after being commissioned in 1726 by Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort. The 18th-century Florentine ebony chest stands at over 12 feet tall and features lavish adornments of precious stones.
When you purchase a bottle wine for $500,000, would you dare to drink it? The ‘Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992’ is a six-litre bottle of Cabernet from Napa Valley that achieved $500,000 at a charity wine auction in 2000.
The most expensive watch ever sold at auction may not be what you expect. It’s perhaps surprisingly not a Patek Philippe, as it's in actual fact a 201 Carat Chopard that sold in 2000 for $25m. This hugely elaborate and decorative timepiece features a total of 201 carats of diamonds, including a 12k blue diamond, an 11k white diamond, and 163 carats of white and yellow diamonds.
In 2010, a beautiful 18th century Pinner Qing Dynasty Vase, sold at Bainbridges for over £53.1m, some way over its £800’000 - £1.2m estimate. The owners had discovered the item after clearing their parents’ home following a bereavement and had no idea how much it was worth.
The elaborately decorated item is said to have belonged to Chinese royalty and dates to around 1740. At the auction, it was sold to a Beijing-based agent but sadly a payment was never made. It was subsequently later sold for a lower sum in 2013.
So, now you know the answer to the question; What are the most valuable antiques in the world? These are just a collective of a few of the most expensive antiques we found, we are certainly in awe at some of their beauty and we hope you found them just as fascinating as we do!