Most of the time, when something goes up for auction, it’s because the item is considered priceless. However, there have been some cases where something really unusual has been put up for auction and actually bought for hundreds, if not millions, of dollars. Thus, the world of auctions is full of some interesting buys, from virus-infested laptops to self-tearing paintings and AI-generated artwork. Now, does this pique your curiosity? If so, here are some of the most bizarre items up for auction!
1 In 2019, a laptop computer riddled with malware sold for $1.3 million.
Who would have thought that a laptop full of viruses would be so valuable? But in 2019, this laptop sold for $1.3 million. A joint project between artist Guo O Dong and cybersecurity firm Deep Instinct, this laptop was packed with six types of dangerous malware, including the ILOVEYOU virus from 2000 and WannaCry ransomware. It was then sold as an artwork, titled “The Chaos Continues”.
Now, you might be wondering how that is even remotely legal. After all, selling such dangerous malware even for the sake of art seems a bit unwise, right? But as it turns out, the sellers of this artwork had this in mind. As a result, buyers of the laptop had to pick it up only after “functionally disabling” its ports and Internet capabilities. Regardless, this piece of art will remain a reminder of the tangible ways the Internet can affect our lives.
2 “Tool of Trick and Slaughter” is a piece of art that carries a program that puts the item back on sale each week.
“An Instrument of Deceit and Slaughter,” created by Caleb Larsen, is a work of art like no other. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary black box. But what makes it unique is that it’s designed to put itself up for auction on eBay every seven days. In fact, the technology of this work of art was specifically designed to allow it to be bought and sold forever.
But wait, why would any buyer be okay with a work of art that they can’t really own? Fortunately, there are at least two things that can explain this. First, the artist’s terms of sale require that the fund be “live” at all times. It is allowed to disconnect, but only during transportation. Second, the buyer can set a new price for the artwork based on the artist’s current market value. This may then be more than what they paid for it. The catch, however, is that 15% of any increase in the value of the artwork has to go to Larsen. In 2010, an art collector named Terence Spies reportedly bid on the art piece and won approximately $6,350.
3 In 2021, a partially torn Banksy painting sold at auction for $25.4 million.
The artist Banksy really needs no introduction. His artwork and its political and social themes have been widely noted for their uniqueness. But in 2018, he managed to surprise people when one of his paintings tore itself after it was sold for $1.4 million.
Right after bids closed on this artwork, titled “Girl with a Balloon,” the piece fell through a shredder that was embedded into the frame of her picture. Now, if it had been any other artist, this movement might have rendered the piece of art worthless. But given that this was a Banksy creation, its value has only doubled. And so, in 2021, the painting is again put up for auction. But this time it was titled “Love in the Trash”. It then sold for a whopping $25.4 million, a price nearly 20 times the previous winning bid.
4 A painting created by artificial intelligence sold for $432,500 at Christie’s auction.
Automation has slowly taken over certain jobs in the world. And now, artificial intelligence or artificial intelligence seems to be getting deeper into the art world as well. Portrait of Edmund Bellamy is an artificial intelligence-generated painting that is the first of its kind to be auctioned in the art world. The man in the painting has a blurred face and was painted in the “Old Master” style used by artists such as Rembrandt in the 17th century. This painting is a product of a Parisian art group called “Oburred” and is part of a group that shows members of the fictional Bellamy family.
The group uses an AI method called Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) for its work. They also reportedly fed the AI a dataset of 15,000 images painted between the 14th and 20th centuries to come up with paintings like this one. The algorithm used here consists of two parts, generator and discriminator. The generator makes a new image based on the set of data being fed in, while the discriminator attempts to determine the difference between a generator-generated image and a man-made image. The goal, then, is to make the discriminator believe that the new images are actual images. In 2018, this painting was sold at auction at Christie’s in New York City for $432,500.
5 A biscuits from the Titanic lifeboat sold at auction for £15,000 (about $23,000).
Of all the things that could have survived the catastrophic sinking of the Titanic, biscuits are probably the last thing we would have imagined. However, the Spillers and Baker experimental cracker not only survived the shipwreck, but also went on to become “the world’s most valuable biscuit”. This biscuit was saved by a passenger on the Carpathia who picked up survivors from the Titanic. The passenger, named James Fenwick, kept these biscuits in an envelope with a note that read: “Pilot biscuits from the Titanic lifeboat April 1912.”
In 2015, the biscuits were put up for auction and bought by a collector in Greece for £15,000 (about $23,000). This auction also included other items related to the tragedy, such as some photographs, a journal, and a “Cup of Charity” given to the captain of the Carpathia to help the survivors of the Titanic.
6 In 2019, a Japanese sushi mogul paid a record $3.1 million to buy a giant bluefin tuna.
Who knew the sushi world could be so competitive that it would have fish auctions? But for Kiyoshi Kimura, the head of sushi, it was all in a day’s work. In 2019, he paid a record amount for a giant bluefin tuna, more than double the previous record of $1.4 million. The self-proclaimed “Tuna King” was at a New Year’s Eve auction at the Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo when he made the purchase.
However, perhaps more surprising than the selling price is the fish itself. According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, this huge tuna was caught near Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan. Then this valuable and weak fish tipped the scales to 612 pounds (278 kilograms). These record high prices are certainly fueled by the sushi industry’s desire for publicity. However, a large proportion of bluefin tuna’s high value also comes from its scarcity.
7 John Lennon’s teeth were auctioned for $31,200 in 2011.
Given how important it is to chew our food well, our teeth are certainly of great value. But is it valuable enough to cost thousands of dollars? Maybe not. However, if they belong to someone famous, say a famous musician like John Lennon, they might actually fetch a tidy sum. That’s why, in 2011, when a color-changing molar that once belonged to Lennon was put up for auction, it sold for $31,200.
Usually, such artifacts must be supported by DNA evidence. Unfortunately, at the time of this sale, the tooth was too fragile to be tested. However, since it came directly from Dorothy “Dot” Garlett, Lennon’s housekeeper, the auction house deemed it authentic. According to reports, Lennon and Garlett enjoyed a close relationship with each other. So after he had his tooth removed, he handed it to Garlett as a keepsake. Lennon also appears to have suggested that Garlett give the tooth to her daughter as she was such a big fan of the Beatles. Then the tooth remained in the family until it was sold.
8 The World’s Largest Bottle Of Whiskey Has Been Auctioned For $1.4 Million.
In 2022, the world’s largest bottle of whiskey, called “The Intrepid”, is put up for auction and sold for about $1.4 million. This was the product of a collaboration between Fah Mai, an investment company based in Thailand, and Rosewin Holdings, a London-based company that invests in whiskey and other spirits. Intrepid is named after “11 of the world’s most pioneering explorers” who can be seen featured on board.
At 5 feet 11 inches tall, The Intrepid is nothing short of a giant, especially for a bottle of whiskey. As a result, it contains about 82.16 US gallons, or the equivalent of 444 standard bottles of whiskey. So if I used an ounce of whiskey each, that would be enough to make about 5,000 whiskey sours! However, it doesn’t end there! The wines in this bottle are a 1989 Macallan single malt that has been matured in oak barrels over a 32-year period at the Macallan distillery in Scotland. Also, according to the auction house, the wines are pale golden and have a sweet taste with notes of apple. No doubt its buyer is definitely in for a huge treat!
9 In 2015, bankrupt RadioShack suggested it would put its customer data up for auction.
RadioShack has, in its more than 90 years of operation, collected many forms of customer data. This included a lot of personally identifiable information like social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and more. In 2015, when the company filed for bankruptcy under US law, it also suggested that it would put its customer data up for auction.
10 Texas hunters once won an auction to obtain a hunting permit to kill a rare black rhino.
The black rhinoceros is one of the most endangered species in the world. In January 2014, a Texas hunter named Corey Knowlton offered $350,000 for a permit to hunt a member of the species in Namibia. The proceeds from this sale were then to go towards anti-poaching efforts. Sure enough, Knowlton won this auction but soon became the target of much criticism from animal conservationists.
However, according to him, the hunt was never intended to be the work of a bloodthirsty hunter. Instead, it has been an important part of Namibia’s efforts to preserve the black rhino population. Therefore, with the approval of Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the aim of this hunt was to eliminate older bull rhinos that no longer contribute to the gene pool but are still a threat to younger males.
Unfortunately for Knowlton, not everyone buys into this argument. Organizations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare have strongly opposed hunting. Critics also said that although the money would go to anti-poaching efforts in Namibia, it could not be considered humanitarian because it involved the killing of rhinos.