An exceptional year for auctions is coming to its conclusion, as the major auction houses prepare to close their doors until the New Year.
2017 will undoubtedly be one to remember, with a number of big records having been broken. 2017 has welcomed a new most expensive watch, diamond, memorabilia and porcelain. However, $450m Salvator Mundi was the star of the show.
As we wait for 2018’s auction season to get underway, take a look back at some of the rare items that went under the hammer in 2017:
April 2017 – Pink Star diamond
Hammer price: $71.2m
The 59.6 carat Pink Star diamond kicked off a record-breaking season in the auction world.
After selling for $83m in 2013, this stunning gem found itself back on the auction block this year after the sale eventually fell through. While it failed to fetch the same price, it still managed to break the previous record by over $10m, becoming the most expensive gemstone ever sold at auction.
May 2017 – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled
Hammer price: $110.5m
One lucky family had a year to remember, as the sale of their painting by famed American artist jean-Michel Basquiat saw them increase their investment by 581,479%.
Purchased for $19,000, the painting sold for $110.5m at a Sotheby’s auction in May, becoming the most expensive piece of American artwork ever sold. Basquiat’s painting set the precedent, as a number of auctioned artworks joined the most expensive list throughout the year.
May 2017 – Bao Dai Rolex
Hammer price: $5m
While the Paul Newman Daytona didn’t take long to outdo it, this rare Rolex once owned by Bao Dai, the final emperor of Vietnam, briefly held the record as the most expensive Rolex of all time following its sale at a Phillips auction in May.
This wasn’t the first time that the timepiece broke auction records. It was previously the most expensive Rolex in 2002 when it sold for 370,000 Swiss Francs.
June 2017 – R2-D2 model
Hammer price: $2.76m
Given that Star Wars is dominating the box office once again, it seems fitting to include this movie set R2-D2, built from parts which starred in the original trilogy.
After The Force Awakens revived the hit sci-fi franchise, this prop was expected to do well when it went up for auction in June. However, nobody expected it to do quite as well as it did. Selling for almost $3m, R2-D2 smashed the record for Star Wars memorabilia, previously set at $625,000 by a camera previously used on set by George Lucas.
June 2017 – Rockefeller emerald
Hammer price: $5.5m
This 18 carat emerald initially served as the centre piece of Abby Rockefeller’s prized brooch, gifted to her by her extremely rich husband, John D. Rockefeller, who would have been the world’s richest man were he around today.
Advertised by Christie’s as one of “the finest emeralds to be offered for sale at auction”, American jeweller Harry Winston agreed to pay a record-breaking $305,000 per carat to land the iconic gemstone.
July 2017 – NASA moon dust bag
Hammer price: $1.8m
The sale price didn’t cause much of a shock. This item didn’t break records or sell for millions more than it was expected to. However, the build up to the sale of this NASA dust bag, containing traces and rocks taken from the moon, did capture the media’s attention. Previously stolen from a museum, NASA accidentally sold the item for $995 after misidentifying it following its recovery. Despite trying to halt the sale, a subsequent court case saw a judge rule against the space agency.
The item eventually sold for $1.8m this year, which netted its lucky owner a profit of $1,799,005.
October 2017 – Song dynasty bowl
Hammer price: $37.7m
The fourth quarter of 2017 saw a number of record-breaking sales completed, starting with this Song dynasty brush-washer. The bowl, which dates sometime from 960 to 1127 AD, became the most expensive porcelain item ever sold at auction.
Ru ware porcelain has a history of selling for well above its guide price. With just 87 pieces thought to exist, prices have been climbing for a number of years. However, this Song bowl has set a new precedent that will likely carry into 2018.
October 2017 – Einstein happiness note
Hammer price: $1.6m
Famed physicist Albert Einstein penned this note for a hotel porter as a ‘tip’ that he claimed would one day be worth far more than any amount of money that he could give. Winner’s Auctions set that figure at somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 as they prepared the item for auction back in October.
In reality, bidders valued the rare note at a far higher price. After 20 minutes of bidding, the price had reached $1.6m, approximately 31,000% above its estimate.
October 2017 – Paul Newman Daytona
Hammer price: $17.8m
A wristwatch once owned by legendary actor Paul Newman helped Rolex to regain the record in October, knocking a $11m Patek Philippe watch off of the top spot to become the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction.
The one-of-a-kind timepiece was expected to do well, with Phillips auction house setting a guide price of $1m. However, a famous name ultimately helped this watch to quadrupled the record for a Rolex Daytona at auction, set at $3.7 in 2016.
November 2017 – Salvator Mundi
Hammer price: $450.3m
This is the one that made auctions mainstream. A mystery bidder, now revealed to be Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud acting on behind of Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman, agreed to pay $450m for Leonardo da Vinci’s rediscovered painting of Christ.
As the most expensive piece of artwork in history, the painting instantly became something that everyone cared about. As a result, it will likely be a huge attraction when it eventually goes on display at the Abu Dhabi Louvre.
November 2017 – Robby the Robot
Hammer price: $5.4m
As if the artwork record wasn’t enough, November also claimed the record for movie props with Bonhams’ sale of the Robby the Robot prop from 1950s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.
Selling for more than $5m, Robby the Robot jumped above movie memorabilia such as the original Batmobile ($4.5m), the Cowardly Lion Costume from The Wizard of Oz ($3m) and the dance floor from Saturday Night Fever ($1.2m).
December 2017 – Woolly mammoth skeleton
Hammer price: $645,000
This woolly mammoth came at a mammoth cost for the company that agreed to pay out in excess of $600,000 to make it the centre piece in their office lobby.
However, if you have the money to blow, we can’t think of many better things to spend your money on. This 10,000 year old specimen contained 80 percent of the beast’s original bones and was still in an exceptional condition, according to experts.