There is something exciting and a bit unfathomable about elite art auctions. Mostly anonymous bidders shell out record-breaking millions of dollars to acquire a Picasso or Kahlo or Basquiat of their very own—or at least their latest very own.
But the masters of old and new aren’t the only things offered up for sale throughout the year. Every once in awhile, the Christie’s and Sotheby’s of the art world list items that are a little, well, peculiar. Even more puzzling is the willingness of the Richie Riches to shell out some serious dough to acquire these questionable treasures.
We may never know what the lucky winners do with their new locks of famous hair, random pieces of historical detritus, or just plain strange objects, but just knowing they exist and that they caught the eye and wallets of some new buyer is entertaining enough. Without further ado, here are six of the craziest items auctioned off in 2016.
Truman Capote’s Ashes — $45,000
When Truman Capote imagined his final resting place, it’s hard to believe he pictured his ashes would be interred in a carved Japanese box and put up for auction as lot 517.
But that’s exactly what happened this past September at Julien’s Auctions in L.A. When Capote passed away in 1984, he was staying at the famous late-night don Johnny Carson’s house.
When Carson’s ex-wife, Joanne, passed away last year, her estate put many of her possessions up for auction, including her aforementioned portion of her dear friend’s remains.
While this may seem like a gruesome and perplexing purchase to some, the president of Julien’s Auctions thinks this turn of events wouldn’t have entirely displeased the man himself. “[Capote] loved to create press opportunities and to read his name in the paper. I think he would love it that he’s still grabbing headlines today,” Darren Julien told the Guardian.
He would also probably be pleased by the dollar amount that ended up attached to what is arguably his most prized possession. While the starting bid was set at $2,000 and the item valued at around $6,000, one lucky anonymous bidder won Capote’s ashes for a whopping $45,000.
Locks of Hair from Abraham Lincoln & John Wilkes Booth — $62,500
While Capote set a record for the first time human ashes have been sold at auction, human hair hasn’t enjoyed quite the same scarcity. In fact, in fine art terms, there seems to be a downright epidemic in the number of people trying to get their hands on the locks of the famous.
While 2016 offered the rich and hair-obsessed a chance to acquire strands from John Lennon, David Bowie, and even the man of the year, Alexander Hamilton, the strangest offering may have been at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, where locks of not just Abraham Lincoln, but also of his assassin John Wilkes Booth went head-to-head.
The result was a draw, with the tresses secretly stolen from Booth during his autopsy going for the same sum of $31,250 as the log cabin curio made out of Lincoln’s locks.
While these may seem like a strange pair of auction items to us today, apparently it was quite so unusual a century ago. “In the 19th century it wasn’t considered creepy to take a lock of someone’s hair. It was socially acceptable, indeed a calling card of a president or celebrity to honor their fans. After someone died, it was an act of remembrance or tribute,” Eric Bradley, a spokesperson for Heritage Auctions told The Daily Beast.
Unused Nazi Toilet Paper — $300
When Whyte’s of Dublin listed a roll of “1939-1945 German Third Reich, Wehrmacht-issued Toilet Paper” in their September World War II auction, they made sure to specify that it was “in remarkable unused condition.” Whew.
Sure enough, the single roll of toilet paper wrapped in an Edelweiss branded wrapper was sold for $300, a bit higher than the $90-$135 value placed on it prior to the sale. While this is quite the random historical artifact to acquire for one’s collection—albeit one that was considered a “wartime luxury” according to a Whyte experts—it makes a little more sense in context.
According to the BBC, the auction was the result of a private collector’s efforts for over two decades to collect everyday items used by German soldiers during the war.
Still, that doesn’t explain who would want to shell out $300 to own it. “In all my years of studying fine arts valuation, I never thought I’d be dealing with toilet paper,” Stuart Purcell of Whyte’s told Business Insider.
A Piece of Queen Victoria’s Wedding Cake — $1,855
Wanting to acquire something that once belonged to royalty is understandable, but a 176-year-old moldy piece of wedding cake?
One woman’s trash really is another’s treasure given that this very item sold for the impressive sum of nearly $1900 in September.
The slice made its grand debut at the 1840 nuptials of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert. While it’s unclear who originally saved it and set it on its path to eventually be auctioned off by Christie’s of London nearly two centuries later, the presentation suggests it became an officially sanctioned party favor. The slice was sold in a box stamped with an official-looking script reading “The Queen’s Bridal Cake Buckingham Palace, Feby 10, 1840.”
Also included was a paper with Queen Victoria’s signature.
At nearly two grand, the buyer best save this no-longer-sweet treat for a special occasion.
Whitney Houston’s Master Card — Unknown
In June, Heritage Auctions staged a major sale in Beverly Hills of prized possessions and memorabilia once belonging to Whitney Houston. There were glittering costumes and awards statues. There was a pair of Nike Air Jordans gifted to the singer by the shoe’s namesake himself. There were pieces of art and jewelry, and more than a few framed record-breaking albums.
But among these precious objects from one of our era’s most famous divas were a few rather interesting inclusions. If your heart’s wildest desire has always been to own a MasterCard Business Card issued by The Bank of New York to one Whitney E. Houston, Nippy Inc., we regret to inform you that you missed your chance.
While this may have been one of the odder items in the collection, it was by no means the only one. In addition to the expired bank card (that line of credit was terminated in 1999), other gems on the auction block included her first passport, a Japanese work visa, and a partially colored coloring book.
The entire auction earned over $500,000, although it’s unclear the amount shelled out for this particular piece. But whether bidders went home with Houston’s wedding gown or her old, expired MasterCard, the experience of possessing something once owned by Whitney Houston: priceless.
“Naked Trump” Statue—$22,000
Starting on Inauguration Day in January, we will have at least four years to stare at our new President. But that wasn’t enough for one lucky winner, who paid a hefty $22,000 to win the infamous “Naked Trump” statue, or—as it is officially titled by its creator, the art collective INDECLINE—“The Emperor Has no Balls.”
While it is an indisputably funny piece that received a wave of attention when it popped up on Hollywood Boulevard earlier this year, it’s hard to imagine wanting to spend several thousand dollars for the chance to have a naked Trump stare at you while you eat your breakfast.
Regardless of who won the special lot or what they intend to do with it, it will continue to contribute in a small way to the greater good. Julien’s Auctions is donating a portion of the piece’s profits to the National Immigration Forum, a D.C.-based immigration advocacy organization.