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One of the best things about going to an auction is finding treasures. Things might be on the block that are rare, unique, or sometimes just a little quirky. The thing is you never know what appeals to auction buyers. Some unusual items sell because of their charm, or they appeal to the buyer’s art taste. Similarly, other auction buyers might be interested in something with an historical value. Generally speaking, one of the biggest reasons to bid can be tied to celebrity fandom or a connection to a specific character like SpongeBob or Chatty Kathy.


In brief, more people buy whatever “speaks to them” as opposed to looking for something in particular. In other words, one auction buyer might be looking for yard equipment or a certain line of carnival glass or china. However, more sales happen because they see something that reminds them of something they or their parents previously owned. A match safe with a certain floral design might be just the item they simply MUST HAVE!


Consider this…

A crushed empty can of Pepsi that Michael Jackson threw away after a concert drew lots of attention. Whether it was a Michael Jackson fan might yearn for that can – or a collector of Pepsi-related objects bidding, I don’t know. But it was important to someone.


Banksey-inspired artwork occasionally appears. Art collectors swarm because of the artistic value. Likewise, the socially conscious who enjoy the statements made by this mysterious figure bid as well.


In light of those transactions, it might not seem as unusual – or downright weird – that the following transactions have taken place.


Auction buyers bought what?

Every year there are some unusual transactions. Some auction buyers announce what they have purchased, others stay anonymous. Whichever route a buyer takes, it’s up to them and a personal preference.


These auction items commanded big money:

  • One of the most interesting auction sales was a banana duct taped to a wall. It was an art piece by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. The art sold for $120,000 at the Art Basel Art Fair in Miami in 2020. Art is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.


  • On a more conventional note, the violin of the deceased English violinist named Wallace Hartley sold for $1.7 million. Hartley was one of the band members who played their instruments as the infamous Titanic was sinking. Now that’s history.


  • For literary fans, how about the original chair that J.K. Rowling sat in to write the first enormously popular Harry Potter books? The chair sold in 2016 for $394,000. According to The Guardian newspaper, the chair came with a letter from Rowling herself. She said the chair was the comfiest of a mismatched dining room set. Although she remained wistful for the chair, she said her back was glad to see it go.


Less costly, but equally as quirky

Here are a few lots appealed to auction buyers:


  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s flowered porcelain toilet sold for nearly $15,000.
  • The winning bidder for Queen Victoria’s undies in 2015 paid $16,300.
  • A lock of Elvis Presley’s hair became the treasure for one buyer who paid $115,000. (I wonder if fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches are a staple in their home!?)
  • In 2020, Corbin Smith, a 27-year-old vintage T-shirt collector sold a DeSantis styled Disney Aladdin shirt for $6,000. Stanley DeSantis started printing t-shirts back in the 1970’s to pay his college tuition. In less than two decades, he was known as a famous designer of novelty tees.


What will you bid on?

As mentioned before, nostalgia can play a big part of an auction buyers bids. When you attend auctions, you don’t have to bid thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can win an item that speaks to your heart and reminds you of pleasant memories for much less. It will be just as valuable to you as the lock of Elvis’s hair or the Lennon/Ono toilet.


LAWSON & CO can help you learn more about auctions and finding that quirky and special item that ‘speaks to you’. That item will likely become a conversation piece in your house. At the very least it will continue to ‘speak to you’ for a long, long time.


Come join us at the LAWSON & CO gallery for special auctions as well as those held on a regular basis each month. If you have items to sell on consignment, call us at (317) 745-6404. You might just have that items that speaks to someone on auction day!


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