If you’re in the market for it, chances are it exists. And if you have one to sell, someone’s probably willing to buy it. That’s the reality of our free market. In an increasingly interconnected network of nearly eight billion people, “worth” has become a worthless word.
Nowadays, the strangest and most random items can go from worthless to worth millions overnight. All they need is the right buyer at the right time. The same works in reverse as some of the finest things become the biggest flops before you can blink.
This list includes ten of those items, seemingly worthless pieces of nonsensical junk that found the right person at the right moment and sold for absolutely insane amounts of money.
10 Audrey Hepburn’s Finger Oils
In 2017, the auction company Christie’s auctioned off some of the late Audrey Hepburn’s personal possessions. As expected, niche collectors and bored wealthy people turned up in droves, spending a total of around $5.3 million on the actress’s belongings. The most expensive of all the items sold? Hepburn’s shooting script for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which went for more than $700,000.
The script for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, like most major motion picture scripts, is available online in its entirety. Anyone interested in its writing or production can download a copy of the full script (and as most of you are likely aware) for free at the right(/wrong) sites. That means that the $700,000 essentially just paid for the lingering sweat and sebum that Hepburn oozed onto the pages as she held them, like a vintage, upscale “gamer girl bathwater.”
9 Justin Bieber’s Hair
This sale is a bit tough to explain to the non-Beliebers. For some background: the Biebs first rose to fame alongside an equally famous haircut, his trademark feathery, swooping bangs. In 2011, the teen idol decided to shave his head, and a few million people, not just preteen girls but also journalists, lost their minds. Then Bieber appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and offered her a lock of his cut hair on the condition that she auctioned it off to charity.
Auction it, she did, and the small bundle of yellow fibers earned an absurd $40,668. Any amount given to charity is a commendable thing. But, given that the winning bidder almost certainly wasn’t already about to donate $40,668 and just happened to spot the hair at auction, it’s likely that the hair was the goal. It’s tough to imagine a more worthless item than a small cutting from Justin Bieber’s hair.
8 The Meaning of Life
Okay, we’ll be the first to say that $3.26 is not an insane amount of money. But when you divide that by the net worth of the item for sale—exactly $0.00—you end up with infinite value. That’s one heck of a windfall, and it’s exactly what eBay seller “postmil” received when they successfully auctioned off the meaning of life in 2000.
The entire product description read, “I have discovered the reason for our existence and will be happy to share this information with the highest bidder.” After mojo120843 won the bidding war with $3.26, they presumably got just that. To this day, postmil has a great feedback rating, so they must have delivered.
7 A Haunted Cane
In 2004, a six-year-old boy became convinced that the ghost of his recently-deceased grandfather was haunting him. He believed the ghost was attached to his grandfather’s old cane, which they still stored in their house. To ease his fears, the boy’s mother auctioned the cane off on eBay—ghost included. It sold for $64,000, which would be over $92,000 today.
The online casino GoldenPalace.com, which has a habit of buying rare and bizarre pieces of Americana, purchased the cane, its associated ghost, and a promise to contact the young boy to let him know that his grandfather “is there with you and you’re getting along great.”
6 Super Mario 64
First thing’s first: Super Mario 64 is not a worthless game. In many ways, it defined what it meant to be a 3D platformer, and to this day, it still appears in “best of” lists regularly. But the game, now more than 25 years old, is available almost everywhere, both officially through Nintendo remakes and unofficially through emulation services. This makes the $1,560,000 copy purchased earlier this year questionable.
The game cartridge was still in its box and graded at 9.8/A++ condition, which collectors will know to be the second-best condition possible. Undoubtedly, it was one of the holiest of holy grails imaginable for a video game collector. That is unless you start to consider what you’re actually buying: a plastic cartridge, a cardboard box, and a short instruction manual. We have to wonder what the exchange rate would be for $1,560,000 to gold coins and power stars.
Just like Super Mario 64, we won’t claim that the domain name business.com is worthless. But when you compare its worth to its recent $350 million sale, it’s worth questioning whether or not the buyer is insane.
Telephone-directory company R.H. Donnelley purchased the domain name—again, for $350 million—beating out other bidders, including The New York Times and the Dow Jones. They have since converted the site into a basic business consultation page. While the site receives a steady amount of traffic and will undoubtedly help generate revenue if managed properly, it’s hard to imagine it paying off its $350 million investment anytime soon.
4 A Pink Rock
In 2017, a diamond known as the Pink Star was sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. A company named Chow Tai Fook Enterprises bought the rock for $71.2 million.
It’s hard to say why a pink rock sold for that much money. After all, it’s not like it was sitting at the bottom of the Titanic for 100 years. Perhaps it’s the rock’s massive size, 59.6 carats cut (that’s only 11.92g or less than 0.5 ounces), that drew a buyer. Perhaps it’s the rock’s stunning color—a brownish, muddy pink.
Or maybe it’s…well, there really isn’t much to say about this tiny, plain rock that somehow sold for $71.2 million.
3 A Single Photograph
It is important that you Google “Rhein II” and look at the photo deeply. Really take it all in—every detail of every inch. It’s certainly a handsome photo with nice color and good framing, taken at the Rhine River near Dusseldorf, Germany.
Now ask yourself how much you would pay for a copy of the photo. No, not the original, just a copy. Chances are your answer came just a hair under its actual sale price—a whopping $4.3 million. The artist describes the photo as “a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century.” Reporting on the hefty sale, the Guardian described the photo as a “sludgy image of [a] desolate, featureless landscape.”
Whichever description is more accurate, $4.3 million is a pretty high price tag for a duplicate, especially when you can probably find that same picture on a 99 cent postcard.
2 A Sacred Grilled Cheese
In 1994, Florida resident Diane Duyser made herself a grilled cheese. Then, she says, “I went to take a bite out of it, and then I saw this lady looking back at me.” Duyser and her husband quickly determined that the lady on the grilled cheese was, in fact, the Virgin Mary.
The couple kept the sacred sandwich in their home for a decade. And during that time, it never spoiled or deteriorated at all. On top of that, it acted as a good luck charm for Duyser, even helping her to win $70,000 at her local casino.
All good things must end, however, and in 2004, Duyser auctioned off the chosen cheddar on eBay. The hallowed Havarti went for $28,000, bought by the very same Goldenpalace.com that purchased the haunted cane. Upon purchase, the company announced plans to take the blessed brie on tour and then re-auction it for charity. The current whereabouts of the revered ricotta are unknown.
1 A $70 Million Digital Copy of Beeple
NFT’s, or non-fungible tokens, are essentially copies of digital files like photos, videos, and music imbued with a digital certificate of authenticity. One such NFT, a copy of digital artist Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, sold just this year for $69.3 million.
The sale makes Everydays: The First 5000 Days the most expensive NFT ever and one of the most expensive works by any living artist. If any piece had to be the most expensive, it makes sense that it would be Everydays; the piece is made from 5,000 smaller pieces of Beeple’s arranged chronologically. The content is not the strange part but rather the format—an NFT is just a digital copy. It’s a digital copy with a signature that says, “This identical copy is unlike any other identical copy,” but it’s still just a copy nonetheless.