This is the second part of a two-part overview of the 2021 auction year – a year where investors channeled more of their wealth into “investments of passion” than ever before.
Part One covered the highlights across all auction genres, with over 20 science and technology artifacts included – all those over US$1,000,000. This is part two of our coverage of the 2021 auction year and covers the 150 science, sci-fi and technology artifacts that sold for more than $100,000.
Etymologiae by Isidorus Hispalensis (c.560-636)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $100,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 April 2021Estimate: $ 20,000 to $ 40,000Official Auction PageA rare third edition of the first Christian encyclopedia compiled by Isidorus Hispalensis (c.560-636). Isidorus was the first Christian writer to attempt to compile a summa of universal knowledge, which is quite some challenge when you are also the “Archbishop of Seville” (a role he held for 32 years) and widely regarded, in the words of 19th-century historian Montalembert, as "the last scholar of the ancient world.”Isidorus truly left his mark on the world, having been the author of the first printed book to contain a map and the inventor of the period (full stop), comma, and colon.More complete copies of Isidore’s “Etymologiae” fetch significantly greater amounts at auction, with the record price of $315,750 having been set in 2013 by Christie’s for a complete first edition containing the first printed map.Isidorus is also known as “Isidore of Seville” and you may already know him as “the Patron Saint of the internet.”
"R2-SHP Droid" from "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 100,000Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 1 July 2021Estimate: $ 80,000 to $ 120,000Official Auction PageR2-SHP (“Shep”) can be clearly seen in several scenes of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (2019), first as an astromech droid at the Resistance base on Ajan Kloss and in the background as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix (Billie Lourd) helps the ailing General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to her bed. Shep’s R2 body was also paired with an R6-style dome for additional filming; the astromech is easily recognizable due to its unique blue color scheme.
One page letter signed by "A. Einstein" (1944), discussing his Theory of Relativity manuscript, Hitler and the Nazis
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 100,000Auction House: University Archives | Date sold: 6 January 2021Estimate: $ 75,000 to $ 80,000Official Auction PageThis one page letter to his friend, David Rothman, is clearly signed by the great scientist and in answer to a question presumably posed in previous correspondence regarding his manuscript on the Theory of Relativity: "My first manuscript about relativity was not burned by the Nazis. I myself threw it into the waste-basket after it was printed judging it was good for nothing. At that time I knew nothing of the snobbery of this human world."Despite such characteristic authenticity, this letter has twice sold for modest totals at Sotheby's for $104,500 in 2011 and here for $100,000. One fascinating sideline to this lot was this article entitled “Einstein’s Long Island Summer of ’39.”
Full-size "T-800 Endoskeleton" from "Terminator 2 - Judgement Day" (1991)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £ 75,000 ($100,238)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £ 60,000 to £ 80,000 ($ 80,190 to $ 106,920)Official Auction PageThe T-800 Terminator Endoskeleton was never made in large numbers for the film series and as the auction description puts it, it "is the signature piece from one of the most beloved science fiction franchises in cinema."Accordingly, as they rarely reach auction, this T-800 Endoskeleton was a bargain as Propstore sold a similar Endoskeleton in 2018 for more than three times this price, and Heritage Auctions sold one in 2012 for $180,000.
"Starbug 1" filming miniature from "Red Dwarf" (T.V. Series, 1988 - present)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £ 75,000 ( $ 100,238 )Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £ 60,000 to £ 80,000 ($ 80,190 to $ 106,920)Official Auction PageA model miniature of “Starbug 1” from the sci-fi comedy television show “Red Dwarf.” The notoriously unreliable Starbug first appeared in Series III and was the crew's primary mode of transportation to different planets, although the Starbugs were often crashed by the crew.
Oversized 18 x 24in signed orotone print of "The Vanishing Race" (1904) by Edward S. Curtis
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 100,312Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 30 June 2021Estimate: $ 20,000 to $ 30,000Official Auction PageEdward Sheriff Curtis (1868 – 1952) was an American photographer and ethnologist whose work focused on the American West and on Native American people. His masterwork, “The North American Indian” appears most years in our auction highlights, though only 280 copies of the 20 volume work were published in the day. During the compilation of his magnum opus, he studied more than eighty tribes, taking more than 40,000 photographs. This photograph is one of his most famous. Two copies of “The North American Indian” were sold at auction in 2021 – both are referenced in this article (see the last lot on the list) and in Part One of this article.
Full Tooth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 100,800Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 3 December 2021Estimate: $ 90,000 to $ 100,000Official Auction PageAt a little over seven inches long, this full tooth of the greatest terrestrial carnivore of all time gives one’s imagination excellent guidelines as to the personality of its prior owner. Such a tooth would be perfectly proportioned to a head approximately five feet long, and the 40-foot 16,000-lb (7,260-kg) body of THE most fearsome apex predator the planet has ever known.
Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Sunday Comic Strip Original Art (King Features Syndicate, 1936).
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 102,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 15 January 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageAlex Raymond (1909-1956) was an American comic strip artist best known for creating the science fiction “Flash Gordon” comic strip for King Features Syndicate, though he also created “Secret Agent X-9”, “Jungle Jim”, and “Rip Kirby.” The “Flash Gordon” comic strip was created in competition with the first “Space Opera” adventure comic strip, “Buck Rogers”, and was also translated into a wide variety of media, including motion pictures, television, and animated series.
Original comic strip art from these first mass-market sci-fi comic strips (which appeared internationally in newspapers between the World Wars) is now highly sought after and regularly sells for six figures.
The original art for the very first Flash Gordon comic strip holds the record price at $512,000, sold by Profiles in History, which has since become part of Heritage Auctions.
"Zelda II: The Adventure of Link" (1988) NES Nintendo Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $ 102,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe video game marketplace has emerged from seemingly nowhere in the last 18 months, officially gaining mainstream recognition when eight of the ten most valuable video games in history sold during a three-day sale at Heritage Auctions in July 2021.
So many video games sold for more than $100,000 in the last year that we have only listed the better-known games in this year’s highlights. This is one of them.
Vasquez's (Jeanette Goldstein) "Lightweight M-41A Pulse Rifle" from "Aliens" (1986)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $106,250Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 1 July 2021Estimate: $ 30,000 to $ 50,000Official Auction Page2021 was a big year for sci-fi movie weapons, as you will see as this highlights listing unfolds. This fictitious weapon was used on screen by Vasquez (Jeanette Goldstein) in James Cameron's sci-fi action sequel “Aliens” (1986) and was screen matched when sold by Propstore during the 1990s. As the hero pulse rifles used in the movie were all broken down, re-assembled and repainted after filming, this unmodified original is one of the finest original examples in existence.
Autograph Einstein scientific manuscript (early draft on unified field theory - 1925)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £ 81,250 ( $ 107,461 )Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £ 40,000 to £ 60,000 ($ 52,904 to $ 79,356)Official Auction PageFrom the auction description: Einstein had begun his quest for a unified field theory at the beginning of the 1920s, with the aim of finding a theory that could account both for gravity and electromagnetism: as he put it in his 1923 Nobel Prize lecture, 'The intellect seeking after an integrated theory cannot rest content with the assumption that there exist two distinct fields totally independent of each other by their nature'.
Dated on Christmas Day 96-years-ago, this autograph two page manuscript is an early draft on unified field theory, using a modification of general relativity. It is apparently the earliest manuscript relating to unified field theory to have appeared at international auction in the past 50 years.
"2 ½-Inch Pocket Globe and Armillary Sphere in case" (circa 1715) by Johann Baptist Homann
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £77,750 ($107,466)Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 15 September 2021Estimate: £12,000 to £18,000 ($16,586 to $24,880)Official Auction PageThis rare Johann Homann (1664-1724) pocket globe was one of the prizes when The Stephen Edell Collection of Pocket and Table Globes went to auction by Bonhams in London in September, this year (2021).
Homann moved to Nuremburg in the late 1680s to pursue a career in maps and gained access to the terrestrial and celestial gores published by the renowned astronomer Georg Christoph Eimmart (1638-1705). The map was state-of-the-art for the time, with California shown as an Island, no coast shown to West-North Canada, the Australian East Coast not delineated, and New Zealand and Van Diemen's Land only partially shown.
"A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans" (1833-1835) by John Gould
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $108,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 23 January 2021Estimate: $75,000 to $125,000Official Auction PageEnglish ornithologist John Gould always has multiple entries in our auction year highlights, this year with three different Gould books selling for more than $100,000, and another two selling for more than $50,000.
This first edition of Gould's first monograph at Arader Galleries marks one of the highest prices paid for Gould’s “Monograph of the Ramphastidae” for more than a decade - largely because the finest copies have long since been locked away. Indeed, the two highest prices ever paid for Gould’s treatment of the most colorful bird species occurred in 1980 ($400,000 at Christie’s) and 2004 (GBP £71,700 - $132,874 at Christie’s).
"Monumenti dell Egitto e Della Nubia" (Elephant folio - 1832 to 1834) by Ippolito Rosellini
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €92,500 ($108,410)Auction House: Fonsie Mealey | Date sold: 22 September 2021Estimate: €50,000 to €80,000 ($58,600 to $93,760)Official Auction PageIppolito Rosellini (1800-1843), is considered the father of Italian Egyptology, who studied under Jean-François Champollion, then accompanying him on the Franco-Tuscan expedition to Egypt over 1828 and 1829. This work is the result of that expedition and when Champollion died suddenly in 1832, the whole responsibility of publishing the report of the expedition fell to Rosellini.
The complete set of books was eventually published over a 12 year period during which Rosellini contracted malaria and died, with the final volume published posthumously in 1844.
Complete sets of the work are now exceedingly rare, and when Sotheby’s sold an incomplete set in 2015 it stated that it had “traced only one copy at auction in the last 35 years” that was complete. That copy set the auction record for the work when it sold at Sotheby’s on 10 May 2011, for £140,000 (£169,250 with BP).
Hence this copy selling via Fonsie Mealy’s is quite remarkable as in addition to a complete copy First Edition Elephant folio (1832 to 1834) with Double Set of Plates, it comes with a second set in original condition, with the same compliment of plates but in original wrappers, unopened and in very clean condition. In addition there is a complete set of the original Text Volumes, consisting of 9 volumes (1832 - 1844), uncut, with the original printed wrappers. All of the above went to auction in a fine mahogany custom made case, with lift up reading slope and sliding shelves. Incredible value at this price.
"Logica vetus" (parchment manuscript , around 1250) by Aristotle
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €90,000 ($109,881)Auction House: Ketterer Kunst Doerling | Date sold: 31 May 2021Estimate: €60,000 plus ($70,000 plus)Official Auction PageThough written more than 2350 years ago, Aristotle’s "Logica vetus" has been one of the foremost influences in the development of philosophy and logic. This lot is a rare medieval manuscript, on vellum, of Aristotle’s milestone text compilation of logic. It is believed to have been used as an early textbook for an institute of higher education from the 13th century, most likely at the University of Paris. It is especially interesting as an example of a university textbook used by a succession of students or teachers: it contains contemporary and near-contemporary marginal annotations in a variety of hands and styles, which both correct and comment on the base texts.
Pokémon Blue Version (1998) GameBoy Nintendo Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $114,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction Page“Pokemon Red” and “Pokemon Blue” were the equal first installments in the Pokemon video game series (380 million sales and counting), and this copy of Pokemon Blue has the highest known Wata rating of 9.8 A++. From the auction description: It is an absolutely dazzling display piece, with rich colors, sharp corners, and a glossy, pristine seal.
"A Monograph of the Phasianidae, or Family of the Pheasants" (1870-1872) by Daniel Giraud Elliot
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £81,900 ($115,004)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 May 2021Estimate: £40,000 to £60,000 ($56,168 to $84,252)Official Auction PageDaniel Giraud Elliot’s “A Monograph of the Phasianidae, or Family of the Pheasants” is considered by many to be the equal of any of John Gould’s works, and Joseph Wolf’s illustrations equal to both Audubon and Edward Lear. Despite only 119 copies produced for subscribers between 1870-1872, first editions have never sold for much over $100,000. Indeed, many of the highest prices paid for this masterpiece were at auctions at least two decades ago.
"Le Theatre du Monde" (1643-1645) by Willem and Joan Blaeu
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £81,900 ($115,004)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 May 2021Estimate: £50,000 to £70,000 ($70,210 to $98,294)Official Auction PageA French-text four-volume copy in a presentation binding of “Le Theatre du Monde”, produced by the father-son team of master mapmakers, Willem Blaeu and his son Joan Blaeu. Willem studied under Tycho Brahe and at a later date, both sons joined the business to create a dynasty of master craftsmen. Work from the Blaeus features every year in our auction highlights for their maps, atlases and globes. The best known work from the Blaeu family is the monumental “Atlas Maior”, the final version of Joan Blaeu's atlas.
"Tony Stark" (Robert Downey Jr) "Mark 42 Iron Man" helmet from "Iron Man 3" (Marvel, 2013)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $115,625Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 16 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis iconic "Mark 42 Iron Man" helmet from Iron Man 3 (Marvel, 2013) is instantly recognizable as the helmet is visible throughout the film as a principal component of the high tech armor used by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). This is the “hero light-up" version used for close-up shots in the film and is constructed of cast fiberglass panels expertly assembled and painted in maroon and pewter. The outer shell of the helmet has been mildly studio distressed to appear used and lightly antiqued to enhance some surface detail.Perhaps more importantly, it is likely to appreciate in value far faster than Stormtrooper helmets from the Star Wars franchise, which are far more plentiful.
Signed Albert Einstein letter (1919) explaining difference between the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €104,125 ($117,880)Auction House: International Autograph Auctions | Date sold: 2 December 2021Estimate: €30,000 to €50,000 ($33,963 to $56,605)Official Auction PageA single page typed letter in German signed “A. Einstein” and dated 17 August 1919. From the auction description: Einstein states that he found his correspondent's request after returning from a trip and remarks 'It is really a misunderstanding, but a very understandable and obvious one', continuing to explain, 'A distinction has to be made between the special theory of relativity established in 1905 and the general theory of relativity that emerged from the same. According to the former, speeds over 300,000 km/sec are excluded; the use of rotating coordinate systems is not permitted. According to this theory, the rotation still has an absolute character. The general theory of relativity, however, allows arbitrarily rotating coordinate systems, but knows no upper limit of the speed relative to the coordinate system' and concluding by suggesting that Reiter can find out more in Einstein's published booklet About the Special and General Theory of Relativity.
Isaac Newton Autograph Manuscript Relating to the Principia (C. 1715-25)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $118,750Auction House: University Archives | Date sold: 26 May 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageNewton’s esteemed position in the scientific Pantheon could not be highlighted more so than the price paid for this slip of paper measuring 1.625 x 7.25 in with parts of an autograph manuscript relating to the Principia. The tiny slip of paper was formerly in the famous Honeyman Collection of Scientific Books and Manuscripts (and is thought to relate to Book III of Newton’s Principia).
Krechet-94 ("Gyrfalcon") lunar spacesuit, manufactured by NPP Zvezda (1962)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $119,700Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 20 July 2021Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000Official Auction PageSpace suits designed for Extra Vehicular Activity are extremely rare, with Russian suits even rarer than American suits, because the very few American suits released from the program have traditionally gone to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Just the same, they represent exceptional value, because they are so costly to produce. HowStuffWorks estimated the cost for a flight-rated NASA space suit at US$12,000,000.
This lot is a Krechet-94 ("Gyrfalcon) Lunar EVA Spacesuit, specifically designed to be used on Moonwalks as part of the N-1/L-3 Soviet lunar program which was discontinued following the death of Sergei Korolev, the chief architect of the Russian space program. This Krechet-94 suit was likely made for training, as the LSS controls appear to be a mock-up and are not functional.
In general, make-believe space suits from movies sell for larger amounts than real space suits. Last year the space suit used by Dr. Dave Bowman in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (MGM, 1968) fetched $370,000, and in 2018 the space suit worn by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the 1979 science fiction movie Alien, fetched $204,800 at Profiles in History (now Heritage).
By comparison, in 2018, a Gemini G-2C-4 Full High Altitude Pressure Suit fetched $162,500 at Sotheby’s. The space suit was complete and authentic in every respect.
"Geographical, Historical, Political, Philosophical and Mechanical Essays" (1755) by Lewis Evans
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $119,700Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $150,000 to $200,000Official Auction PageDespite the rather ponderous title of “Geographical, Historical, Political, Philosophical and Mechanical Essays. The First, Containing an Analysis of a General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America; And of the Country of the Confederate Indians: A Description of the Face of the Country; the Boundaries of the Confederates; and the Maritime and Inland Navigations of the several Rivers and Lakes contained therein.” this book by Lewis Evans is of the utmost consequence. It was printed in Philadelphia in 1755 by Benjamin Franklin and D. Hall with the assistance of a £50 grant from the Philadelphia Assembly and the auctioned copy here is the first British issue, published in 1755 in London.
"A Collection of Portraits of the Most Celebrated Chiefs of the North American Indians" (1836–1838) by James Otto Lewis
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $119,700Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $120,000 to $180,000Official Auction PageAn extremely rare complete copy containing all 80 plates of the legendary James Otto Lewis Aboriginal Portfolio. In addition to the present example, only two other complete sets, with all plates, title and advertisements, have sold in the last forty years.
Apollo 11 Vintage NASA "Red Number" Color Photo
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $125,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 24 September 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageAs far as we can tell, this legendary image known simply as "Visor" is now the most expensive NASA pic ever sold after it landed a winning bid of $125,000.
The pic comes from the J.L. Pickering Collection Auction at Heritage and was among 300 photographs picked from his personal collection of some 100,000 space images. Pickering is the co-author of a handful of books on various space missions and space history, and his latest book, Picturing the Space Shuttle: The Early Years, is now in bookstores. His website, RetroSpaceImages.com is full of photographs and videos, and definitely worth a look.
Albert Einstein's Pipes and Menorah Pipe Holder
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $125,000Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 25 September 2021Estimate: $50,000 plus Official Auction PageIn 2017, one of Albert Einstein’s pipes sold for GBP £52,500 ($67,665) at a Christie’s auction, with the auction description noting that of the two other pipes known, “one is at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, where it is the single most requested item in the Modern Physics collection, and another at the Historical Society of Princeton.”
Hence this cache of nine Einstein pipes for $125,000 would seem like an absolute bargain for an investor. There was only one Albert Einstein, supply is capped, and unlike many other forms of collectibles investment, Einstein’s universally appealing brand values are set in stone and will not diminish with time. There are already dozens of instances where he has smashed expectations at auction.
Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 Flown Flight Plan Page (1969)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $129,694Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 21 October 2021Estimate: $40,000 plus Official Auction PageThis flight plan was accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance from Buzz Aldrin, which reads in part: "Enclosed with this letter is a sheet numbered 3-71 and 3-72 from the Apollo 11 Flight Plan, Part No. SKB32100080-350, S/N 1001. It is part of the entire document that was carried to the Moon in Command Module Columbia on the first lunar landing mission during July 16 to 24, 1969. This sheet is from the detailed timeline section and covers hour 104 through the beginning of hour 106 in the mission.
"Page 3-71 lists the steps for the Stay/No Stay for Lunar Surface Operations. Neil Armstrong had just made history’s first manned lunar landing less than 2 hours before these steps. Since that time, we were in a posture to leave the lunar surface if an emergency occurred. By this point in the flight plan, we and Mission Control had verified all our systems were operating properly. We were then given a go to stay on the lunar surface during our 104th hour in the mission.
"Needless to say, Neil and I had an abundance of energy after this historic landing and starting a rest period as listed on page 3-72 was the last thing on our minds. At about 104 hours and 30 minutes into the mission, Neil asked and received concurrence from Mission Control to start the EVA or moon walk activities about 5 hours earlier than written in the flight plan. Thus, we were actually doing EVA Prep work during this period on page 3-72. These tasks consisted of configuring our space suits to be able to strap on our PLSS (Portable Life Support Systems) or 'back packs,' then performing space suit pressure and communication checks.
"The flight plan was probably the single most important document related to the success of our mission. It provided a time schedule of crew activities and spacecraft maneuvers to accomplish the first lunar landing. This page in particular from a Ground Elapsed Time (GET) standpoint has some of the most significant events that occurred during the entire Apollo 11 flight."
Alan Turing Autograph four-page analysis of the Monte-Carlo betting system (1933)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £94,000 ($129,927)Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 15 September 2021Estimate: £30,000 to £50,000 ($41,466 to $69,110)Official Auction PageAlfred William Beuttell (1880-1965) was the father of Alan Turing's schoolfriend Victor Beuttell, and stories of the older Beuttell’s successful gambling system piqued Turing's interest whilst staying with the family over Christmas 1932. He showed Alan his gambling system, which Alan took back to Cambridge and studied. On 2 February 1933 he wrote back with the result of his analysis, which was that the system yielded an expected gain of exactly zero, and that accordingly Mr Beuttell's winning had been entirely due to luck and not to skill.
Couched in the language of mathematics and equations, by working out the probability of winning at increasing increments of 150, 1,520, 4,560 and 30,400 spins he proved mathematically that the longer you play, the probability of losing money increases.
"Birds of Great Britain" (1862 -1873) by John Gould
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $132,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 23 January 2021Estimate: $70,000 to $85,000Official Auction PageA first edition of Gould’s most popular work bound in five volumes in excellent condition and formerly owned by the California Academy of Sciences.
"Metroid" (1987) NES Nintendo Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $132,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageMetroid is one of the most celebrated franchises to get its start on the NES console, and it also marks the first appearance of Samus Aran. While Samus may not be the first female video game character in video games, she does hold the title of the first, playable Nintendo female protagonist. The influence of this series is so profound that it inspired the creation of a genre that can only be described as "Metroidvania," a portmanteau of "Metroid" and "Castlevania."It stood to reason that this particular game would set an auction record, as it is the only sealed copy of Metroid known that still has the cardboard hangtab. To many Nintendo history-obsessed collectors, copies of games with this particular packaging feature are the height of collectability and so it came to pass that it took the record, which it will reclaim again at some point in the distant future. They don’t make ‘em like this any more.
"128K Macintosh Motherboard Display" signed by Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin (1989)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $132,049Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 19 August 2021Estimate: $40,000 plus Official Auction PageA rare custom-built display featuring an original Macintosh 128k logic board mounted on white acrylic and framed, signed on the non-glare front pane in white paint pen by the Apple co-founder, "Steve Jobs," and by the father of the Macintosh, "Jef Raskin." A fabulous artifact of the very first Macintosh and something that cannot help but gain in gravitas and value as the decades pass … and a great yarn worth reading in the auction description.
"Da Qing wannian yitong dili quantu" (19th century) by Huang Qianren
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £94,500 ($132,697)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 May 2021Estimate: £60,000 to £80,000 ($84,252 to $112,336)Official Auction PageFrom time to time, we see an example of the famous “Blue Map” of Qianren Huang reach auction. As the auction description for this lot states, “a striking example of this impressive and rare map produced during the Qing dynasty.”
We saw such a map sell in 2016 and reported on its sale for $333,648 (£269,000) at Sotheby’s which put it in 17th place in our annual listing that year.
This year another very similar map (this lot) sold for $132,697 (£94,500) at Sotheby’s and another similar map sold for $50,000 at Christie’s on 16 October, and in May 2019 another similar map sold for $137,271 (£106,250) and again featured in our end-of-year auction round-up.
Quite clearly there are extremely rare blue maps and there are blue maps that are less so,and some are worth a King’s ransom, and some aren’t. So do your homework well … caveat emptor!
"Dialogo" (1632) by Galileo Galilei
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $137,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000Official Auction PageGiven that Dialogo ... sopre i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano is Galilei's famous defense of Copernican heliocentrism and the direct cause of his trial and imprisonment, it is surprising that this book has not achieved much higher prices at auction.
Galileo's formal use of the dialogue allowed him to explore his Copernican theories fully within the rubric of the "equal and impartial discussion" required by Pope Urban VIII. The work "was designed both as an appeal to the great public and as an escape from silence... it is a masterly polemic for the new science. It displays all the great discoveries in the heavens which the ancients had ignored; it inveighs against the sterility, willfulness, and ignorance of those who defend their systems; it revels in the simplicity of Copernican thought and, above all, it teaches that the movement of the Earth makes sense in philosophy, that is, in physics... The Dialogo, more than any other work, made the heliocentric system a commonplace" (PMM).
Pope Urban VIII was not so swayed, and immediately convened a special commission to examine the book and make recommendations. In casting the Pope as the simple-minded Aristotelian Simplicius, Galileo brought upon himself arrest, trial by the Inquisition and life imprisonment. The sentence was commuted to permanent house arrest, while the printing of any of his works was forbidden.
Christie’s holds the record price for a copy of Dialogo at $173,000 set in 2014 and this copy is now the second-most expensive ever sold at auction.
"Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale" (1632) by Samuel de Champlain
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $138,600Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $90,000 to $120,000Official Auction PageSamuel de Champlain was one of the pioneers of the North American continent, making somewhere between 20 and 29 voyages to the New World from his native France, creating the first accurate coastal map of Canada, founding New France (Canada) and Quebec City on July 3, 1608. One or both of his two major books (the other being “Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain Xaintongeois”) are almost always in the top scientific documents sold at auction each year and this year both have sold for more than $100,000 and are in this listing.
Interestingly, a copy of this work that sold for $133,163 (€124,460) at Binoche et Giquello in 2016 was just inside the top 50 most valuable scientific documents of that year.
This year with a very similar price, this book sits in 127th place for the year, indicating the general rising of prices in the category.
"Les Grands Voyages" (1590-1624) by Theodor, Johann Theodor and Johann Israel de Bry
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $138,600Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $175,000 to $250,000Official Auction Page"Les Grands Voyages" (1590-1624) was probably the most famous of any collections of voyages in Europe and it offers considerable insight into the way America looked in the sixteenth century and was particularly influential in framing the way Europeans saw her.
The inspiration for this work came when Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) visited England in 1587, where he met Richard Hakluyt and became interested in Hakluyt's collection of voyages, eventually published as "The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation" (a copy sold this year for $594,814 and is in this listing ), but at that stage Hakluyt's work was still in preparation.
Hakluyt persuaded De Bry to publish a collection of voyages similar to his own to cover the Americas, assisting him with sources of New World exploration and giving him with a copy of Thomas Hariot's 1588 book, "A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia" (full PDF here).
The most prized copies of "Les Grands Voyages" (1590-1624) have been locked away in long term collections for many years, with this copy becoming available at Sotheby’s sale of the Barbara and Ira Lipman Collection in New York in April. So special was the collection that many of the books from that collection are within this listing, and there are an equal number that are not, as they were not necessarily related to science or technology. The sale saw no less than 29 individual documents fetch more than $100,000 apiece.
Hence, the price of this lot was remarkable given that it was estimated to sell for between $175,000 and $250,000 and prior copies of this quality had sold for even more: £204,000 ($395,046) at Sotheby’sMacclesfield Library sale in London in March 2007, €228,750 ($293,097) at a Sotheby’s Paris sale in November 2012, and £175,250 ($276,545) at Christie’s sale of the Arcana Collection in London in October 2010.
"A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements Adjacent thereto" (1733) by Henry Popple
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $138,600Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $60,000 to $80,000Official Auction PageOne of the most important battles between the English and French in laying claim to new lands in North America was carried out by their mapmakers. This map is extremely important because it is first large-scale map of British possessions in America, and one of the two most important large-scale maps of colonial America, in superb condition with brilliant coloring.
"A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America" (1755) by John Mitchell
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $138,600Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 16 July 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000Official Auction PageSotheby’s auction description states John Mitchell’s 1755 map is “regarded by many authorities as the most important map in the history of American cartography.”Twenty-one editions of the massive (1980 x 1420 mm) map appeared between 1755 and 1781 and it became the basis for territorial boundaries drawn in the treaties concluding the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.As the map is not viewable in its entirety on the Sotheby’s auction page, readers will be able to examine the magnificence of this map via the special viewer on the Library of Congress web site.
Original cover art for "Star Wars: Heir to the Empire" #1 of 6 (Dark Horse Comics, 1995) by Mathieu Lauffray
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $143,750Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 3 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis image comes direct from the private collection of the artist, Mathieu Lauffray. According to Lauffray, "we are in 1995, Olivier Vatine and Fred Blanchard offered me the unthinkable. Make the covers of their Star Wars comic book, for the Dark Horse Comics editions. Star Wars was hands down the most important work of fiction to me. I discovered the trilogy indoors, in 1977, 1980, and 1983. The world was never the same afterwards. During this miraculous collaboration, I received feedback, remarks, and validations from Lucasfilm and Dark Horse as sacred relics. During this collaboration, everything was good in trying to convey to the public my passion for this universe which had given me so much. I painted, I did all I could, and never have I been more enthusiastic in my life as a fan."
Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 Flown LM Lunar Surface Checklist Page (1969)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $143,750Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 21 October 2021Estimate: $60,000 plus Official Auction PageIf the inscriptions on both sides of this one page document don’t give you goose bumps, check for a pulse. This document accompanied Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the surface of the moon.
"Novum ac magnum theatrum urbium Belgicae" & "Belgicae liberae ac foederatae" (1649) by Joan Blaeu
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €106,250 ($143,894)Auction House: Marc van de Wiele Auctions | Date sold: 2 October 2021Estimate: €50,000 to €80,000 ($67,715 to $108,344)Official Auction PageThe townbooks were a proud celebration of the newly independent Netherlands, forming one of the most lavishly illustrated works produced in Amsterdam during the 17 century, and of great value in providing an accurate topographical record of the towns and cities of Belgium and the Netherlands. "Of all the Blaeu atlases, the townbooks of the Netherlands are held in the highest esteem... Bound up, by sentiment, with the most dramatic and heroic period of the shaping of the Dutch State it shows the proud and industrious cities... in their full splendor" (Koeman IV, I p. 337-342).
"De Wit's Composite Atlas" (1715) by Frederick De Wit
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 11 December 2021Estimate: $125,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageFrederick De Wit was one of the most highly-regarded engravers of maps of the second half of the 17th-century, known for his accurate, detailed and distinctive work. This magnificent full-color atlas was produced around 1715, nearly 60 years after the master craftsman published his first map.
"Mega Man" (1987) NES Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 2 April 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe price of this game gives an indication as to just how quickly the games market moved in 2021. In December 2019, an ultra-rare copy of Mega Man from the game’s first production run sparked a flurry of competitive bidding between more than 20 bidders to reach $75,000, the world record for the most valuable sealed video game ever sold at auction.
Mega Man is one of the most iconic video games, and this game marked his first appearance, so it was natural that as with comics and rookie sports cards, the first production of the first game would be the most valuable. The above lot sold 17 months later as a game in similar condition from the second production run, and it sold for nearly double the price of the earlier copy, going close to the world record at the time, which had risen to $156,000. Fifteen minutes after this game sold, the world record jumped to $660,000, 13 weeks after that it jumped to $870,000 and a few days later, to $1,560,000.
"Final Fantasy VII" (1997) PS1 Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 11 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe Final Fantasy video game series is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time with 15 versions and 165 million software units sold and Final Fantasy XVI on the way. Final Fantasy VII was a landmark game and and this is the very best copy known.
"Tomb Raider" (1996) PS1 Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 11 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageLara Croft is one of the most iconic video game characters of all-time, and she had her first appearance in this game, so it’s no surprise that Tomb Raider was one of the first PS1 games to command six figures at auction, with this Wata 9.4 A+ copy fetching $144,000 in July.Tomb Raider itself is a highly influential game, emphasizing exploration and puzzle-solving even more than action.
"Super Smash Bros." (1999) N64 Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 11 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageIn fetching this price, this copy became just the fourth sealed copy of this 1999 N64 Nintendo game to go to auction, and the highest grade ever seen at auction, in Wata 9.4 A++.This is also the first game in the best-selling fighting game franchise of all time - the sales for the most recent instalment on the Nintendo Switch alone are more than twice the number of any other fighting game! In terms of cumulative sales, there's just no competition; no other fighting game franchise can go toe-to-toe with the popularity of Super Smash Bros.
Autograph letter signed by Charles Darwin (1860) describing the success of his "Origin of Species" book
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,020Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 8 December 2021Estimate: $10,000 plus Official Auction PageThough Charles Darwin discusses his world-changing “Origin of the Species” book in this two-page letter, it is the back story that makes it such an enchanting item. The letter is written to Darwin’s teacher, mentor and fellow naturalist, John Stevens Henslow. Henslow is the person who kindled Darwin’s interest in natural history and it was Henslow who was originally offered the role of naturalist to sail aboard HMS Beagle during its two-year voyage to South America. Henslow convinced Captain Fitzroy to accept Charles Darwin for the role instead, and the rest is history.
"Collection of travels by Mr Thevenot" (1681) by Melchisédech Thévenot
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $144,900Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000Official Auction PageThis is a first edition of Thevenot’s collection of travel stories and maps, and one which contained the first published accounts of several historically-important explorations. Most notably, the book contains the first publication of the Joliet/Marquette discovery of the Upper Mississippi and its exploration to the Arkansas River in 1673. The accompanying map is the first printed map of the Mississippi River, and includes the first appearance of Lake Michigan, designated "Lao de Michigami," the first appearance of that place name in print.
Another section of the book involves the publication of a map showing "Terre Australe” and “Hollandia Nova”, which was a straight lift from the maps resultant from Abel Tasman's 1644 voyage.
Melchisédech Thévenot was an industrious soul, helping to found the the Académie Royale des Sciences (the French Academy of Sciences), inventing the spirit level, writing a successful book on swimming in 1696 which is credited with popularizing the pastime and in particular, the breaststroke. Thévenot was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1990
Autograph manuscript draft of a scientific paper on Unified Field Theory (early 1940s) by Albert Einstein
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £106,250 ($147,114)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 July 2021Estimate: £15,000 to £20,000 ($20,769 to $27,692)Official Auction PageA single page in Albert Einstein’s handwriting, of an unknown, apparently unpublished and unstudied manuscript. Numbered #10, the page is dense with mathematical equations.
"Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle" (1839) by Charles Darwin and Robert Fitzroy
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £106,250 ($147,114)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 July 2021Estimate: £25,000 to £35,000 ($34,615 to $48,461)Official Auction PageThis is Charles Darwin’s first published book, and the sub-title of the book largely describes its contents: “Between the Years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the Southern Shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the Globe.”
One of the great advantages of Darwin’s books are that they are written in English, so if you have a mind to check out the contents, Darwin Online has the full text of this book as well as his better-known “On the Origin of the Species”, plus a wide range of other fascinating documentation from his life's work.
One Sheet (27" X 41") poster for "The Wolf Man" (Universal 1941)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $150,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 4 November 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe most expensive science fiction movie poster sold during 2021 is the poster at left in the image. The image at right is a lobby card for the movie.
Original art for the book dust jacket for "The Chessmen of Mars" (1922) by James Allen St. John
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $150,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 4 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis Oil on board illustration by James Allen St. John measuring 34-3/4 x 24-1/2 inches (88.3 x 62.2 cm) was published as the first edition hardcover dust jacket for The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (A.C. McClurg & Co., 1922).
Original art for book dust jacket of "At the Earth's Core" (1922) by James Allen St. John
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $150,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 4 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis oil on board illustration by James Allen St. John measuring 33 x 23-1/4 inches (83.8 x 59.1 cm) was published as the first edition hardcover dust jacket for At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs (A.C. McClurg & Co., 1922). Edgar Rice Burroughs was a prolific and highly successful writer in the first half of last century, with his best known characters being Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars.
"Contra" (1988) NES Konami Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $150,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis copy now holds the record price for a “Contra” game for very good reason. Sealed with a Wata 9.8 A+ rating makes this the best example known to the hobby at this point in time.
“Merry Christmas” – an NFT of the world’s first SMS
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €132,680 ($150,260)Auction House: Aguttes | Date sold: 22 December 2021Estimate: €100,000 to €200,000 ($113,250 to $226,500)Official Auction PageNon-fungible tokens were big in 2021. They’re about guaranteeing authenticity, but sadly, disingenuous behavior was rampant by many of the people selling them. One of the many legitimate items sold at auction as an NFT during the year was a replica of the communication protocol of the very first SMS ever sent. That was “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and unlike many of the NFTs sold, the payer of the €132,680 price received a small acrylic and mixed media installation to go with their digital asset.
Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767.
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $151,200Auction House: Doyle New York | Date sold: 29 April 2021Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000Official Auction PageLieutenant Bernard Ratzer’s “1776 Plan of the City of New York in North America” has been described as "Perhaps the finest map of an American city and its environs produced in the eighteenth century.”
From the auction description: “Ratzer's map is a cartographic and artistic tour-de-force, a wealth of information of the colonial city on the brink of revolution, and the most accurate topography of the city to that date. Although not a commercial success when first issued in 1770 (that edition known in only about three copies), the map was re-issued with the imprint of Jeffreys & Faden in 1776 as war became imminent, and is frequently encountered dissected and folded for easier field use, sometimes in as many as 32 sections.”
John Graves Simcoe's privately printed journal of the American Revolution (1787)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $151,200Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageThe Malling-Hansen Writing Ball was the first commercially available typewriter, invented in 1865. Rasmus Malling-Hansen exhibited the Writing Ball at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878, but the ingenious design required hand production and the mass-produced Sholes and Glidden typewriter was more readily available and cost-effective, winning the day and consigning this machine to an historical footnote. In recent years the price of the Writing Ball at auction has climbed over the $100,000 mark, and this price sets a new benchmark.
Set of three torpedo boat navigator's silver open-faced Patek Philippe watches (1912)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $151,200Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 9 December 2021Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000Official Auction PageA “Navigator’s Trio” was a set of three chronometer tool watches that was once standard issue, and recommended by the official US Navy Observatory for: timing synchronized attacks, to be able to show sidereal, Greenwich Mean Time, and local time simultaneously, and to be able to identify departure time, destination time, and local time.
Most importantly, the use of three chronometers at once means that if one malfunctions, the correct time can be obtained from the other two.
This lot represents a possibly unique set of three torpedo boat navigator's trio that was made in 1912, and sold to the US Navy on 8 December 1917, where it was used on the US Zeppelin Airship Los Angeles (ZR-3).
Before this set of Torpedo Boat Watches made their way to the USS Los Angeles, or what the Navy called the ZR-3, it is likely that US Navy Observatory personnel used them on different astronomical observation expeditions, and other US Navy projects in which accurate time in three isolated time frames was essential.
This trio of watches ranks amongst the finest group of precision watches ever assembled and preserved. There are very few Navigator's Trios known today, and fewer still known to have been used on zeppelins, the world's largest flying machine, and a major asset of the field of aviation.
Albert Einstein Autograph Letter Signed with Gravitational Field Equations (1933)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $152,920Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 20 May 2021Estimate: $60,000 to $80,000Official Auction PageThis letter was one of a number of Einstein documents sold at a special RR Auction sale of the archives of Ludwik Silberstein. The auction offered many historically significant items from the personal collection of Ludwik Silberstein, the author of one of the first English textbooks on the Theory of Relativity and a prominent mathematician and physicist.
The collection included four letters from Einstein, twelve handwritten letters by Max Planck, and correspondence from other Nobel Prize winners such as J. J. Thomson, Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, and Albert Michelson.
These papers offer a window into the birth of science as we know it today, as theories were developed, tested, refined, and argued over by the greatest minds of the 20th century.
Not surprisingly, three Albert Einstein letters topped the high sales, with a handwritten one-page letter containing the famous "E = mc2" equation, selling for $1,243,707, this letter which includes Gravitational Field Equations selling for $152,920 and another typed Einstein letter with handwritten equations on the Spacetime Metric selling for $66,898.
The historical significance of these letters is beautifully articulated in the RR Auctions catalog, which can be viewed free of charge.
Early 19th century Planetarium, Lunarium, And Tellurium by Thomas Blunt
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £112,750 ($155,843)Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 15 September 2021Estimate: £60,000 to £80,000 ($82,932 to $110,576)Official Auction PageThis early 19th Century orrery offers a wonderful and highly educational mechanical model of several different aspects of our solar and planetary systems. It is additionally rare in that it combines three mechanical models for the motions of the Earth around the sun (tellurium), the moon around the Earth (lunarium), and of the solar system (planetarium). The orrery is the work of well-known British instrument maker Thomas Blunt, and it last went to auction in New York in 2014 when it fetched $137,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.
Pokémon Red Version (1998) Nintendo GameBoy game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $156,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageA near perfect, sealed 1998 first-production copy of the first (along with Pokémon Blue) game in the Nintendo GameBoy series, this Pokémon Red Version is graded a Wata 9.8 A++ and took the auction price record for the game with this sale.
The spectacular climb in values of video games in 2021 is well illustrated with this particular game. On 20 November 2020, the record for this game was set at $20,400. On 2 April, 2021 it was raised to $72,000, and on 11 July, 2021 a copy sold for $132,000, establishing the record that this game broke on 29 October 2021. That’s a seven fold increase in value in less than 12 months.
Malling-Hansen "Writing Ball" (1867)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €135,000 ($158,234)Auction House: Auction Team Breker | Date sold: 25 September 2021Estimate: €60,000 to €90,000 ($70,326 to $105,489)Official Auction PageThe Malling-Hansen Writing Ball was the first commercially available typewriter, invented in 1865. Rasmus Malling-Hansen exhibited the Writing Ball at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878, but the ingenious design required hand production and the mass-produced Sholes and Glidden typewriter was more readily available and cost-effective, winning the day and consigning this machine to an historical footnote. In recent years the price of the Writing Ball at auction has climbed over the $100,000 mark, and this price sets a new benchmark.
"Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden" (1865-66) by Gregor Mendel
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €143,750 ($162,136)Auction House: Ketterer Kunst | Date sold: 29 November 2021Estimate: €30,000 to €50,000 ($33,837 to $56,395)Official Auction PageTranslating into English as “Experiments on Plant Hybridization”, this publication may well turn out to be one of the bargains of the 2021 auction year.
It was written in 1865-66 by Augustinian Monk Johann Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884), and it outlines the Mendelian inheritance mechanism by which evolution by natural selection could work.
Despite being widely distributed to more than 150 universities and places of higher learning, this paper was initially entirely ignored. Charles Darwin's 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” was controversial and hence not initially well received either, but it wasn’t ignored.
In 1900, three pioneer geneticists acknowledged Mendel's prior work in their research papers and subsequent research over the following half century established its breakthrough significance. It is now acknowledged as "one of the most important papers in the history of biology, and the foundation of modern genetics." The auctioned copy is one of the offprint of 40 copies circulated to Mendel's colleagues 150 years ago and only 14 copies are known to still exist. It required the passing of a century before we recognized Mendel's legacy.
According to “Grolier Medicine”, the paper ''reports the results of ten years of experimental work on artificial plant hybridization, during which he followed a program designed to test his working hypothesis that hereditary matter is discrete and particulate. Mendel bred and cultivated nearly thirty thousand pea plants, performing careful statistical analyses of the distribution of seven pairs of mutually exclusive seed and plant characteristics – a manageable number that allowed him to observe all possible combinations of traits.”
Though farmers had known for millennia that crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel's pea plant experiments conducted between 1856 and 1863 established many of the rules of heredity, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. An English translation of the paper is available on the web.
As previously stated, just 14 copies of the original 1865/66 publication are known and previous copies of the publication at auction have fetched $357,884 (£287,250) at Christie’s in 2019, $320,876 (£242,500) at Christie’s in 2016, $302,750 at Sotheby’s in 2001 (no link), $292,775 at Alexander Autographs in 2011 (no link) and $269,527 (€222,750) at Christie’s in 2004.Indeed, though Mendel died in complete obscurity, he is now such a celebrity that a letter to his parents fetched $300,000 at Sotheby’s in 2018.
Star Wars Boba Fett Rocket-Firing Prototype Action Figure
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $165,200Auction House: Hakes | Date sold: 30 June 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $200,000Official Auction PageSo large and omnipotent is the Star Wars collector universe that even sub-categories of sub-categories can generate six figure sums. One of the many merchandising monetisations of the Star Wars franchise was the creation of action figures
Star Wars devotees seem to have a particular connection with the Boba Fett character, the armored bounty hunter who appeared in the original and prequel film trilogies. Fett has apparently always been one of the most popular Star Wars action figures, and Kenner decided to produce a Boba Fett figure in 1979 with a spring-loaded plastic missile that launched from the figurine’s backpack. By the time the figure was made, the lawyers had decided to shelve the plastic missile idea instead of fielding potential law suits from the parents of grievously-injured children, and the missile-firing prototypes within Kenner all went home with the staff.
As one of the first genres of the collectibles industry to begin to generate tangible demand for limited-supply products, one of the rocket-firing prototypes sold at auction for $16,000 in 2003 and the early signs were there that a phenomena was brewing.
The Boba Fett Fan Club has an in-depth article on the sales figures achieved by the prototypes, and even though there is much disagreement about when, where and how much the toys have sold for over the last 40 years, the one thing everyone can agree on is that the missile-firing Boba Fett Action figure is the most expensive Star Wars toy in the world.
Remote Control Droid from "Rogue One; A Star Wars Story" (2016) & "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £125,000 ($167,063)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £100,000 to £150,000 ($133,650 to $200,475)Official Auction PageThis light-up remote control droid has two film credits on its resume: Gareth Edwards' “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and Ron Howard's “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Whatsmore it appeared as three different droids across the two films.
"Birds of Europe" (1832-1837) by John Gould
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $168,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 24 January 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageFrom the Arader Galleries lot description: "First edition of Gould's first multi-volume ornithological work, as opposed to monograph. Gould undertook this work partly in an effort to redress the imbalance between the study of local and foreign ornithology. In his preface he stated his mission: "the Birds of Europe, in which we are, or ought to be, most interested, have not received that degree of attention which they naturally demand. The present work has been undertaken to supply that deficiency." Gould portrayed birds native to Europe in a manner that had only been thought appropriate for the colorful species of distant places, using specimens in museums and zoos in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. In this way he managed to draw much popular interest back to native birds, which were suddenly considered equally beautiful to exotic species."
"Description de l'Egypte" (Second edition 1820-1830)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $175,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000Official Auction PageThe Description de l'Égypte (Description of Egypt) was a series of publications, appearing first in 1809 and continuing until the final volume appeared in 1829, which aimed to comprehensively catalog all known aspects of ancient and modern Egypt as well as its natural history. It is the collaborative work of about 160 civilian scholars and scientists, known popularly as the savants, who accompanied Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt in 1798 to 1801 as part of the French Revolutionary Wars, as well as about 2000 artists and technicians, including 400 engravers, who would later compile it into a full work.
This copy formerly belonged to Baron de Nervo's, and was described by Christie's as a rare complete set of the second edition, handsomely bound with custom display cabinet.
The record price for a complete First Edition set of Description de l'Egypte was set at EUR1,095,400 at a Christie’s auction in May 2011.
Stormtrooper Helmet from "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" (1983)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £131,250 ($175,416)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £100,000 to £150,000 ($133,650 to $200,475)Official Auction PageWhereas Stormtrooper helmets from the original trilogy once appeared at auction regularly, they’re not being seen as much these days. The first for some time was seen at Propstore last year when a Stormtrooper Helmet from "Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977) sold for $137,500.
This stormtrooper helmet was used in Richard Marquand's “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and it is believed that only around 50 helmets were produced for the film, so it’s both a trophy and an investment that will likely always appreciate in value.
Screen-worn Stormtrooper helmets have a spectacular history at auction over the last decade, with previous screen-worn helmets at auction having fetched $245,000, $240,000, $196,756 (£159,900), $179,090 (£135,300), $137,500, $126,800 (£65,000), $122,985 (£86,500) and $121,847 (£79,950). They have a near-permanent spot in our end of year auction round-up because there are enough of them to ensure they regularly come to auction. As you can see, this one fell in the middle of the pack. There are also many variations on helmets from Star Wars, with the record for a Stormtrooper helmet at $245,000, the record for a Tiefighter helmet at $ 287,876 (£221,400) and the record for a Snow Trooper helmet at $276,750 (note that the linked pages do not include buyer's premium).
Nintendo World Championships 1990 Grey Cartridge for NES Nintendo
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $180,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis simple grey cartridge has had a very interesting life. It was created for the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, and remains the highest graded cartridge known from those titles. It made the news at the beginning of 2020 when it was announced that Metropolis Collectibles had brokered a trade between two unidentified collectors, to swap a 1990 Grey Nintendo World Championships Wata 8.0 Cart (#0273 - this cart)] for a 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed #144 Gem Mint 10 football card. In January 2021, the same card that was swapped for this cart sold at PWCC for $555,988, so you can draw your own conclusions as to which collector got the best end of the deal.
"Essay on the Principle of Population"(1798) by Thomas Malthus
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $187,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageThis is a First Edition of Malthus's famous economic treatise regarding the relationship between food supply and population. With the full title of An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the Future Improvement of Society suggests that the population of a community increases geometrically, while food supplies increase arithmetically.
He theorizes that humans have a propensity to utilize abundance for population growth rather than for maintaining a high standard of living, and that as an increase in population occurs, the food supply becomes insufficient and populations tend to grow until the lower class suffers hardship, want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease.
Jimmy Wales’ personal iMac that was used in the creation of Wikipedia
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $187,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 16 December 2021Estimate on RequestOfficial Auction PageThis is the computer that was used by Jimmy Wales when he started Wikipedia in 2000 and although $187,500 for an iMac seems a bit crazy right now, Wikipedia will probably be with us 1,000 years from now and this computer will be a genuine museum display of the first order by then. Digital memorabilia began its run towards immortality this year and this artifact was one of many that will become relevant to the history books (or memory implants or whatever form knowledge takes) in the distant future.
Christopher Reeve's "Superman" Costume from "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (Warner Bros., 1987)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $187,500Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 7 November 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageTo more recent Superman devotees, Christopher Reeve is probably the best-known actor associated with the role of Superman but that relevance changes for each and every collector, and at the end of the day, this costume sold for just over half that of the price fetched by the George Reeves' Superman Costume from the 1952-1958 TV Series on the same day, in consecutive lots. An indication of the strength of the movie memorabilia marketplace at present is that this costume sold for $27,500 when it last went to auction at Profiles in History in April 2004. The record for a Christopher Reeve Superman costume was set last year when a costume from Superman III (Warner Bros., 1983) fetched $200,000 at Julien's Auctions in Hollywood.
"Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison" (1637) by René Descartes
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £137,500 ($190,383)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 July 2021Estimate: £70,000 to £100,000 ($96,922 to $138,460)Official Auction PageDiscours de la Méthode Pour bien conduire sa raison, et chercher la vérité dans les sciences (English: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences) is one of the most influential works in history.
French philosopher René Descartes (1596 – 1650) was a mathematician and scientist and in this book, he codified the scientific method and created the foundation of all modern scientific thought.
This sale marks the second-most-valuable copy of the book at auction, behind a copy sold by Christie’s for $297,789 (£162,050) on 2 June 2004 and pushing out copies sold for $171,288 (£92,960 | Sotheby's | November 4, 2004), $171,000 (Christie's | October 9, 2001) and $170,750 (Sotheby's | November 2001 | no link).
"GoldenEye 007" (1997) Nintendo N64 Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $192,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageRegarded by many as the best ever video game based on a movie, more than 8 million copies were sold of this game. Yet another example of the trajectory of the games marketplace can be seen with this game. On 10 July 2020 another sealed GoldenEye 007 Wata 9.8 A++ N64 Nintendo game sold for $19,200. Just on 15 months later, this game with an identical WATA grading sold for ten times the amount.
The most expensive car racing helmet in history
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $193,750Auction House: Gooding & Co | Date sold: 20 February 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $110,000Official Auction PageThe price fetched on the auction block has become the ultimate arbiter of the significance of world’s most important cultural objects, and this year it anointed a new and quite different motorsport objet d’art.
One of the very earliest motorsport helmets, made by the Herbert Johnson Hat Company, and worn by America’s first world F1 champion, Phil Hill, is now the most valuable race-worn motorsport helmet in history.
Made of shellacked canvas and lined with cork, the highly accessorized helmet is of exquisite quality and design, and is a technological landmark in that it is the first logical step in the progression from the leather flying helmets worn by drivers pre-WW2, to the technologically-advanced helmets of today - it is arguably one of the very first motorsport helmets to offer any accident-mitigation properties.
Phil Hill (1927 – 2008) is the only American-born racing car driver to have won the World Formula 1 championship. Hill won the World F1 Drivers’ Title in 1961, also winning the world’s most important race (the 24 Hours of Le Mans) in 1958, 1961 and 1962.
While Hill’s helmet obviously held enormous appeal to the predominantly American automotive collector marketplace, and has assumed a place in auction folklore commensurate with Hill’s stature and from a technological perspective, there’s still gold out there that isn’t being recognized. At the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed, an almost identical helmet worn by five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, arguably the greatest of them all, sold for £22,562 ($22,280). Add 50 years to that equation to allow historical perspective to kick in, and Fangio’s helmet might be worth an order of magnitude or two more.
"16th-century terrestrial globe" by Francois Demongenet
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £145,000 ($192,952)Auction House: Hanson's | Date sold: 16 December 2021Estimate: £20,000 to £30,000 ($26,614 to $39,921)Official Auction PageEveryone loves a barn find or an attic find, and this is a classic. This 16th-century terrestrial globe was one of a number of objects brought along by a local to a Hanson’s valuation day, with little expectation that any of them were valuable. Indeed, the woman had purchased the globe for £150 at a Welsh antiques fair “during the pandemic”.
Hansons Jim Spencer knew immediately that the globe was authentic and valuable, but even with subsequent research, was unable to pinpoint the value as it is just so rare … and old. This globe was created before any European had set foot on Australia and although Hanson’s consulted with a number of museums to ascertain its history, none were able to help because no museum had anything like it.
Eventually, Hanson’s was able to identify the globe as being created circa 1550/60 by, or a derivative of, Francois Demongenet.
With guidance of £20,000 to £30,000, the globe went to auction and finished with the remarkable result of £145,000 ($192,952).
Autograph letter signed ‘A. Einstein' (1915)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £150,000 ($198,390)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £60,000 to £90,000 ($79,356 to $119,034)Official Auction PageWritten in 1915 at the time Einstein was finalising the general theory of relativity, this autograph signed letter is rich in scientific content, covering the equivalence principle, magnetism and the Einstein-de Haas experiment. There’s only one Albert Einstein, and his place in history will never be diminished.
"Kunyu Wanguo Quantu" (late 17th/early 18th century) originally by Matteo Ricci on a Japanese screen
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $200,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $60,000 to $90,000Official Auction PageMatteo Ricci was an Italian Jesuit priest and missionary who arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Macau in. By adopting the language and culture of the country, he gained favour in China, which was normally closed to foreigners, and his skills as an astronomer and cartographer saw him gain enormous influence with the Wanli Emperor, becoming the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601.
Ricci also worked with several Chinese elites, such as Xu Guangqi, in translating Euclid's Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin for the first time in history.
Though Ricci was a notable pioneer in attempting mutual comprehension between China and the West, it is his cartographic achievements that he is best known for. He created the first European-style world map in Chinese ("Da Ying Quan Tu" or “Complete Map of the Great World”) in 1584 with a much improved and expanded version known as the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu in 1602. These maps helped put China’s geographical relationship to the rest of the world in perspective.
This is an early manuscript copy of Ricci's monumental wall map executed by a skilled Japanese copyist.
"The Wealth of Nations" (1776) by Adam Smith
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $200,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 September 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000Official Auction PageWith the full title of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, this book was first published in 1776 at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and is regarded as the first great work in classical economics, and even today is still one of the most cited books in the social sciences published before 1950, behind only Karl Marx's Capital.
An unlikely best-seller in its time, first edition copies such as this reach auction most years and generally sell in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, with the dedication copy fetching $307,878 (£182,500) at a Christies auction in May, 2014 and Adam Smith’s own copy setting the price record in 2018 when it sold for £908,750 ($1,150,270).
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak Signed Issue of Macworld #1 (February 1984)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $201,021Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 19 August 2021Estimate: $50,000 to $70,000Official Auction PageIn our preview of this auction, we wrote of this lot as follows: "The vendor of this magazine once valued it at $1,000,000 but it appears that he's prepared to cop $50,000 now. It's quite likely he'll get at least that amount, as a previous copy of the same issue signed only by Jobs sold for $47,775 in 2018, a Mac OS X technical manual signed by Jobs in 2001 sold for $41,807 in 2018, and a signed copy of NewsWeek with Jobs on the cover fetched $50,588 in 2017. A Macintosh System Tools Version 6.0 floppy disk signed by Jobs fetched $84,115 in 2019, so our best guess is that this magazine will fetch $80,000 plus as it is not dedicated to anyone in particular as the previous $47,775 copy was."
First Edition of "Les voyages du sieur de Champlain xaintongeois" (1613) by Samuel de Champlain
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $201,600Auction House: Freemans | Date sold: 18 February 2021Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000Official Auction PageThis is a first edition of the second published account of the four voyages Samuel de Champlain made to America between 1604 and 1613 and it is complete in that it has all three engraved folding plates and eight engraved folding maps. The maps are the earliest accurate depiction of the New England coastline, preceding John Smith's map by several years.
This book is now very rare, and only two complete copies and three incomplete copies of "Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain" have sold at auction in the last thirty years. A bargain at this price because Bloomsbury sold a copy in 2009 for $780,000, Siebert sold a copy in 1999 for $398,500 and the most recent copy at auction prior to this one fetched $425,000 at Christie’s in 2016, and becoming one of the 50 most valuable scientific documents of all-time.
Large (21 inch - 53.3 cm) Iridescent Ammonite
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $201,600Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 3 December 2021Estimate: $120,000 to $180,000Official Auction PageAmmolite is an opal-like organic gemstone found primarily along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is made of the fossilized shells of ammonites. In 1981, ammolite was given official gemstone status by the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), the same year commercial mining of ammolite began. This exceptional specimen measures 21 inches (53.3 cm) at its longest proportion, and weighs 18.7 pounds (8.5 kg). On its bronzed rotating stand, it is 29 inches tall and displays mineralization in ammolite on both faces, one with shimmering and iridescent reds, golds, and greens, the other with a rainbow of blues, greens, yellows, purples, deep browns, and tan. The colors shift in hue and intensity as they diffract light from different viewing angles.
"Final Fantasy" (1990) NES Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $204,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe highest grade (WATA 9.8 A++ Sealed) known of this first game of the Japanese anthology science fantasy media franchise known globally as Final Fantasy. To date, across 15 versions, Final Fantasy has sold 164 million software units, making it one of the most popular games of all-time.
Lunar Panorama - The First Earthrise recorded by Mankind, 23 August 1966
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £150,000 ($206,475)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 26 October 2021Estimate: £20,000 to £40,000 ($27,530 to $55,060)Official Auction PageFrom the “Lot Essay” in Christie’s Auction Description: “This is the large-format first version, assembled by NASA Langley Research Center following transmission to Earth on August 23, 1966, of one of the most important and emblematic photographs of space exploration. This copy, by repute, was displayed on the wall at Boeing's offices in Seattle.
This high resolution photograph was taken looking west with the 610mm telephoto lens over the 233-km Crater Pasteur (cut off at right) and the 173-km Crater Hilbert (cut off at left). The view is centered on a point of latitude: 14.68° S, longitude 104.34° E on the lunar farside.
The photograph gave for the first time to humans a view of their Home Planet as a globe in space. It was also the first time humans saw their planet from the vantage point of another world.”
Persian Safavid gilt-brass astrolabe, circa 1660
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £151,200 ($208,097)Auction House: Sotheby’s | Date sold: 31 March 2021Estimate: £100,000 to £150,000 ($137,630 to $206,445)Official Auction Page
This fine Safavid gilt-brass astrolabe was made around 1660 for an important Safavid theologian, Mirza Razi al-Din Muhammad al-Husayni al-Musawi, who was also Imam Jum’ah and a teacher in Isfahan. (died in 1701)
This astrolabe was made by two of the leading instrument-makers of Safavid Iran in the mid-seventeenth century: Muhammad Husayn ibn Muhammad Baqir al-Yazdi (the maker) and Muhammad Mahdi al-Yazdi (the decorator).
That the inscription on the throne of the Astrolabe tells us it was made for an important Imam and theologian proves the high esteem in which these two craftsmen were held at the Safavid court.
"Eagle Transporter" filming miniature from "Space: 1999" (T.V. Series, 1975 - 1977)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £156,250 ($208,828)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £80,000 to £120,000 ($106,920 to $160,380)Official Auction Page"Space: 1999" is a British science-fiction television program that ran for two series from 1975 to 1977. In the opening episode, set in the year 1999, nuclear waste stored on the Moon's far side explodes, knocking the Moon out of orbit and sending it, as well as the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, hurtling uncontrollably into space. It was the most expensive series produced for British television up to that time, and this is one of the wonderful filming miniatures created for the show
This transporter appeared in 45 of Space: 1999's 48 episodes, making it the most screen-used model of the series, and it screen-matches the Eagle seen in series finale, "The Dorcons", through its markings and details on the bottom of the footpads. It was also used in nine of the 11 crash-landing sequences, meaning it had to be repeatedly rebuilt and repaired. In recent years it has been lovingly and carefully restored by master model maker David Sisson.
NeXSTEP software package (1993) signed by Steve Jobs—the object-oriented forefather of OS X and iOS
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $210,235Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 19 August 2021Estimate: $30,000 to $40,000Official Auction PageSteve Jobs memorabilia is coming of age at auction, and we suspect a decade or five from now, will be worth considerably more. The presence of this Steve Jobs signature transformed this box of obsolete software from landfill to auction block unobtanium, largely because the software was once the the ground-breaking object-oriented forefather of OS X and iOS
Autograph signed letter by Charles Darwin to British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1872)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £162,500 ($214,923)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £30,000 to £50,000 ($39,678 to $66,130)Official Auction PageAn insight into the resistance encountered when Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” book was first released, this autograph signed letter from Charles Darwin to his friend and collaborator, Alfred Russel Wallace seeks to formulate a rebuttal to a critic.
"The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" (1998) N64 Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $228,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 11 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageConsidered by some to be the greatest game of its era, and some would argue all-time, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” is destined to become one of the keystones to any video game connoisseur’s collection, and this particular copy is the best on record at Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed.
"Theatrum orbis terrarum" (1592) by Abraham Ortelius
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $237,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000Official Auction PageAbraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World) consists of two distinct elements - text and maps - and this format had not been done prior to this publication, meaning Ortelius created the first modern atlas in 1570. It was the first time that a collection of maps of similar design and scale were bound into one volume. The name ‘atlas’ derived from Atlas in Greek mythology who held up the world on his shoulders.
Theatrum was the most expensive book of its day, yet became a runaway bestseller, going into 37 editions and seven languages. The first edition came out in 1570 with 50 maps, and as cartographic knowledge increased rapidly during this period, so did the number of maps in each subsequent edition.
Ortelius is also believed to be the first person to imagine that the continents of the world were joined prior to drifting to their present positions.
The record price fetched for a copy of this book was set in July 2000, when an illuminated copy bound as a gift from Cosimo II de' Medici fetched $419,240. A very rare English edition of this work is currently for sale at Arader Galleries in New York for $650,000.
Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) Ressikan Flute, Box and Costume Continuity Script from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (T.V. Series, 1987 - 1994)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $237,500Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 1 July 2021Estimate: $50,000 to $70,000Official Auction Page"The Inner Light" was the 125th episode overall and the 25th and penultimate episode of the fifth season of the American science fiction television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The episode was first broadcast on 1 June 1992 and is considered by fandom to be one of the best of the entire series, as well as being Stewart's favorite episode.
Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) Ressikan flute, box and a costume continuity script from that episode and subsequently in the series, is one of the most memorable and important props from the show. It was sold at auction by Christie’s for $48,000 in 2006 when it held an important auction of Star Trek memorabilia. The massive appreciation of movie memorabilia values in the 15 years since that auction is evident from a brief look through the prices fetched that day
"Untitled (Banana)" (1985) by Andy Warhol
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $250,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 27 May 2021Estimate UnknownOfficial Auction PageThere are two very different perspectives on this particular lot and the four other artworks offered by Christie’s on the same day. All five lots were NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of a digital artwork created by Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s and recovered from obsolete floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was created at 320 x 200 pixels and once the floppy disks were excavated, the artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels by the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Club and subsequently turned into NFTs.
The authenticity of this entire exercise has been questioned, but thanks to the name Andy Warhol and his dominance of the art world, the reworked 320 x 200 pixel images sold for $1,170,000, $870,000, $562,500, $525,000 and $250,000. This is the cheapest of the artwork NFTs. The others will make our annual listings as they unfold over the next week. Christie’s overview and explanation of the sale can be found here.
Fort Defiance: 1836 Joseph Chadwick Map of Col. James Fannin's Defenses at the Historic Site of the Battle of Goliad.
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $250,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 28 February 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000Official Auction PageOne of the oft-used terms for collectibles is “storied objects” and this map of Fort Defiance drawn up just prior to the Battle of Goliad has so much provenance and history in the back story that there have been numerous volumes written about it.
From the auction description: “The story of the Texas Revolution became the stuff of legends, and the tragic massacre of Col. Fannin and some 400 of his men at Goliad was, along with the fall of the Alamo, one of the seminal events which rallied furious Texians and inspired them in their rout of General Santa Anna's army at San Jacinto. The map drawn by his adjutant Joseph Chadwick, sent to his mother shortly before he perished with Fannin, remained in the hands of the Chadwick family for generations and was largely unknown to scholars. It's sole public appearance came in 1966, when the family allowed the original hand-drawn map and the published version offered here to be pictured in an American Heritage Magazine article discussing the relationship with his friend and mentor, Western artist George Catlin. The printed map left the family's possession at some later date, but the whereabouts of the original hand-drawn map are at present unknown.
No other example of the printed map is known to Texas history scholars. It is not listed in Streeter's Bibliography of Texas or any other reference work. The extensive archives at the University of Texas include only an image taken from the American Heritage article (a copy of which is included with the map). Ron Tyler speculates that it's rarity suggests that the map was printed in very limited numbers for the Chadwick family. The appearance of this apparently unique example presents an extraordinary opportunity for institutions and advanced Texana collectors to acquire one of the earliest and most important contemporary printed records of the Texas Revolution.”
"Type-2 Phaser Pistol" from "Star Trek: The Original Series" (Paramount, 1966-1969)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $250,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 16 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageWhile Star Trek sowed the imaginative seeds that have catalyzed countless sunrise industries, from private space travel, through to artificial intelligence and robotics, one of the technologies that seems to have most caught the imagination was the concept of directed energy weapons as personified by the Type-2 phaser pistol.
Measured by the prices fetched at auction, the phaser has become one of the defining icons of American pop culture. Though still well shy of Han Solo's Jedi blaster gun ($562,500) and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber ($450,000), it became one of the top 10 most valuable movie weapons in history with this sale, beating the previous record of $192,500 for a Type-2 phaser pistol
Andy Warhol's Bust of Leonardo da Vinci (ca 18th century)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $252,000Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 28 April 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction PageThis 18th century bust of Leonardo da Vinci was a constant presence in Andy Warhol’s workshop from the mid-1970s onwards, photographed numerous times with celebrities from Bianca Jagger through to Keith Haring and a famous Lizzie Himmel image taken in 1985 of Warhol with his protegé Jean-Michel Basquiat.
"Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'année 1639 … and 1640, and ..." (1641-1673)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €226,800 ($256,556)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 8 December 2021Estimate: €20,000 to €30,000 ($22,624 to $33,936)Official Auction PageThe rather odd title for this book translates as “Relation of what happened in New France in the Year 1639 (and 1640, 1642, … all the way through to 1672” The complete set covers the annual report of the Jesuit missionaries in Canada at that time and it offers an accurate picture of life in Canada at that time. Complete sets of these reports are very rare and in 2018 a very complete set from 1635 to 1673 sold at Sotheby’s for €125,000. This year, though the set isn’t as complete as that previous copy, the price at auction almost doubled.
2 ¾-inch Pocket Globe (circa 1675) by Joseph Moxon
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £187,750 ($259,508)Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 15 September 2021Estimate: £15,000 to £20,000 ($20,733 to $27,644)Official Auction PageThe prize of The Stephen Edell Collection of Pocket and Table Globes that sold at Bonhams on 15 September 2021, this “pocket” globe was made by Joseph Moxon circa 1675. Moxon (1627-1691) was the second person to make printed globes in England and it is believed he was the first to produce and sell small "pocket" globes.
From the auction description: “The pocket globes proved to be very popular as a convenient and portable way to discuss latest discoveries with colleagues in the emerging coffee houses in the City. They were priced at 15 shillings, a sum much less expensive than the larger table and library globes. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) bought a pair of the larger Moxon globes for himself, and also acquired another pair for the Admiralty during his time as Chief Secretary.”
"Resident Evil" (1996) Sony Playstation PS1 Game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $264,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThere are believed to be just 10 sealed copies of the original “Resident Evil” game and this is the highest-rated known at this point - Wata 9.6 A+ Sealed.
"On Computable Numbers” by Alan Turing for the London Mathematical Society, 1936.
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £200,000 ($264,520)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £50,000 to £80,000 ($66,130 to $105,808)Official Auction PageOne of the most important twentieth-century computer papers written by the mathematical genius, Alan Turing, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungs problem” was delivered to the London Mathematical Society in November 1936, when he was only 24.
In the paper, Turing introduced the concept of a computing device that would replicate the mathematical reasoning abilities and thought processes of the human brain. This led to the development of Turing Machines and Universal Turing Machines which are acknowledged as the forerunners of the modern computer. Turing is often described as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
A complete copy of the paper can be found at WolframScience in PDF form.
Despite Turing’s standing in the computing community, “On Computable Numbers” has never reached the auction prices one would expect of such a rare and landmark publication.
The record price paid for a copy of the paper was achieved by Bonhams in 2013 when two offprints, the first inscribed in Turing’s handwriting to the philosopher R.B. Braithwaite, the second with Braithwaite's ownership inscription, sold for £205,250 ($321,420).This current copy is now the second-highest price ever paid for the paper.
1980 Nobel Prize awarded to The Father of Immunogenetics, George Snell
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $275,000Auction House: Nate D Sanders | Date sold: 28 October 2021Estimate: $200,000 plus Official Auction PageWhile we are all no doubt suitably impressed with the winning of a Nobel Prize, the contribution made by the recipient to mankind is not always entirely obvious. In this case, being the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which was awarded to George D. Snell, that contribution can be measured.
Snell was awarded the medal for the discovery of the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, the genetic foundation of a body's immunological response to tissue and organ transplants, which determines whether an organ is accepted by the body or not. This discovery directly led to the saving of lives through organ transplantation. indeed, Snell became known as the Father of Immunogenetics for his discovery.
Prior to Snell's work, organ transplantation was entirely down to chance as to whether a genetic match would allow an organ to be accepted. After Snell’s discovery, the only impediment to how many organ transplants could be performed was the availability of organs. Nearly 150,000 organ transplants are now performed each year, and 41 years later, that’s around 6,000,000 lives saved.
The 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to Baruj Benacerraf, Jean Dausset and George D. Snell "for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions."
"Harmonia Macrocosmica" (1661) by Andreas Cellarius
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £212,500 ($281,053)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £30,000 to £50,000 ($39,678 to $66,130)Official Auction PageThe only celestial atlas published in the Netherlands during the Golden Age of Dutch cartography. Unlike the later celestial atlases, the Cellarius charts demonstrated various ancient and contemporary cosmological ideas, rather than just the names and positions of the stars. The purpose of the book was to assess different attempts to discover the underlying harmony of the universe. The charts represent the highest levels of seventeenth-century astronomical thought, with the diagrams showing aspects of the three great theories on the nature of the universe: the Ptolemaic, the Copernican and the Brahean.
The Christie’s result is actually a record for the atlas, surpassing the $266,500 copy from the Richard Green Library sold by Christie’s in 2008, and the £187,500 ($245,025) copy sold by Sotheby’s in London in November 2017.
Audubon, Snowy Heron or White Egret, Plate 242
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $288,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 23 January 2021Estimate: $175,000 to $250,000Official Auction PageThe Birds of America is a book by Franco-American ornithologist, naturalist and artist John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), first published as an irregular series between 1827 and 1838. Audubon painted, cataloged, and described the birds of North America in their natural environments in this quite unique book and his name lives on through the American National Audubon Society, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation.
Fewer than 200 sets of the original “double elephant edition" (a reference to its size of 99 cm by 66 cm - yes, the book stands a meter tall) were published, containing 435 life-sized watercolors of North American birds and this astonishingly beautiful work is now reproduced digitally on the Audubon site for all to behold. Reproduction editions of the books in "baby elephant" format are also available, and given that this book would constitute the majority of the top 10 scientific documents ever sold if we counted the multiple copies that have achieved astronomical prices, the $185 price makes an ideal gift for conservationists and bird lovers. Highly recommended.
There are eight recorded auction sales of “Birds of America” in excess of US$3,000,000. Whatsmore, there are only just over 100 copies recorded and that number is actively diminishing because of the value of each of the individual pages being greater than the sum of the whole.
The record price paid for a copy of the book is $11,570,496 (£7,321,250) which was fetched at a Sotheby's London sale in December, 2010.
Other prices achieved by “Birds of America” include $9,650,000 at Christie’s in June 2018, $8,802,500 by Christie's in March, 2000, $7,922,500 by Christie's in January, 2012, $6,642,400 at Sotheby’s in December 2019, and $5,616,000 by Christie's in December, 2005.
The number of single pages from “Birds of America” sold each year at auction around the globe varies, but it’s generally at least 50 and sometimes more.
Fully functioning 1935 Enigma I cipher machine used by the German military in WWII
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $299,981Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 12 May 2021Estimate: $250,000 plus Official Auction PageOne of the two German Enigma Cipher machines that went to auction this year, the normal quotient for a year at auction.At a tad under $300,000, it is one of the less costly Enigmas for many years. A similar 1935 machine sold at RR Auction for $338,630 in 2019, but a four-rotor 1942 Kriegsmarine (German Navy) Enigma sold for $800,000.
Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication. Though this field of endeavor has attracted the sharpest minds to protect the secrets of Kings for millennia, the closest physical embodiment of this critical science in a single object is the WW2 German Military Enigma Machine. It is so sophisticated to be challenging to even the brightest mind, and analog enough to fit into a box.
It was already a very valuable device at auction before the 2014 feature movie, “The Imitation Game”, but as it is now beyond just the realm of applied mathematicians, it is very very valuable. See also the second Enigma sold this year later in this listing.
"Elementa geometriae" (1482) by Euclid
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $300,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 September 2021Estimate: $60,000 to $90,000Official Auction PageEuclid's Elements is unquestionably the most influential textbook ever written. It is the only writing of classical antiquity to have a continuous history of textbook use from the pre-Christian era to the twentieth century. It was originally written by Euclid in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt c. 300 BC, translated from the Arabic text 900 years ago by Adelard of Bath, edited 800 years ago by Campanus of Novara, and first printed in Venice on May 25, 1482. It was hence one of the very earliest mathematical works to be printed after the invention of the printing press and has been estimated to be second only to the Bible in the number of editions published since the first printing in 1482.
Readers will recognize some of the diagrams in this book from the textbooks of their youth, as it has been a higher learning text for 2,300 years and isn't going out of date any time soon.
The copy which achieved this price is a first edition, printed in Venice in May, 1482 and the $300,000 it fetched makes it the fourth most expensive copy ever sold, with another first edition sold by Sotheby's in 2001 holding the record at $511,750.
Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) Lightsaber from "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £225,000 ($300,713)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £40,000 to £60,000 ($53,460 to $80,190)Official Auction PageThe signature personal weapon of the Star Wars franchise, screen-used Lightsabers have fetched some astonishing prices, with the original lightsaber of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) from the first two movies in the original Star Wars trilogy (Star Wars and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) holding the record after fetching $450,000 at Profiles in History in 2017. The same lightsaber had previously held the price record for a Star Wars Lightsaber at $240,000 following a 2008 sale at Profiles in History.
Luke Skywalker Lightsabers are clearly the most sought-after as Mark Hamill's weapon from Star Wars: A New Hope sold for GBP£150,000 ($184,365) at Propstore in 2019.
This sale of US$300,710 (GBP£225,000) makes this Lightsaber the second most valuable to sell at auction. It isn't clear whether this is the same Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) Hero Lightweight Belt Lightsaber that sold at Propstore for GBP£137,500 ($182,463) in 2018.
"Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!" (1987) NES Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $312,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis copy of “Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!”, graded Wata 9.8 A++ Sealed, sold for $312,000 in October, taking the record price for the title from the $102,000 that had been paid for a Wata 9.6 A++ copy in April.
1990 Nobel Prize Awarded to the Scientist Who Developed Bone Marrow Transplants as a Treatment for Leukemia
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $312,000Auction House: Nate D Sanders | Date sold: 9 December 2021Estimate: $250,000 plus Official Auction PageThe 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to E. Donnall Thomas for his use of bone marrow transplants to treat leukaemia and other blood cancers.
Remarkably, Thomas first published his theory on bone marrow transplant treatments in ''The New England Journal of Medicine'' in 1957, then working for more than two decades to turn the theory into a clinical treatment.
Though the treatment was initially dismissed as implausible and experimental, the treatment slowly gained acceptance, with approximately 60,000 bone marrow transplants now occurring each year, raising the survival rate for some cancers from zero to near 90 percent.
Bone marrow transplants are now considered one of the greatest success stories in cancer treatment.
"Sonic the Hedgehog" (1991) Genesis Sega game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $312,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageDifferent auction genres prize different characteristics, and having a sealed, never-used copy of a video game is the height of collectibility. Naturally enough, sometimes that is near impossible, and so it was thought of the popular Sega Genesis game, “Sonic the Hedgehog.” A sealed copy graded by Wata at “9.4 B+ Sealed” sold in 2019 and this sealed copy graded Wata 9.6 A Sealed breezed to a new record for the game - $312,000.
Light-up ILM X-wing Filming Miniature from "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" (1983)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £237,500 ($317,419)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £200,000 to £300,000 ($267,300 to $400,950)Official Auction PageTo save money and time during the productions of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) bought in a handful of off-the-shelf model kits, which were heavily adapted and modified for filming. Those models are now among the most iconic spacecraft in sci-fi cinema and have ultimately become one the most sought-after categories of Star Wars memorabilia.
This light-up Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) X-wing filming miniature from the 1983 production of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is the new auction price record-holder with its £237,500 (US$317,420) result, but there have been several other X-Wings to sell in the same price bracket. Propstore previously sold an X-Wing filming miniature for $144,120 in 2016, while Profiles in History has sold X-Wings for $270,000 in 2012 and $192,000 in 2016.
"Super Mario Bros. 2" (1988) NES Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $324,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 29 October 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThe finest graded copy of the first production run of the 1988 NES Nintendo game “Super Mario Bros. 2” Graded by Wata at 9.8 A+ Sealed.
Extraterrestrial Crystal Ball — Seymchan Meteorite Sphere
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $325,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 February 2021Estimate: $12,000 to $18,000Official Auction PageOne of several lots that sold well beyond their estimate at the February Christie’s auction of Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites, this pallasite meteorite ball was cut from the Seymchan meteorite to display its olivine and peridot crystals in three dimensions.
This 69mm (2.75 inch) diameter crystal ball weighs 861.8 grams (2 ib) and cost $325,000.
Steve Jobs’ job application (1973) including NFT
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $343,000Auction House: self | Date sold: 28 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageA Steve Jobs’ job application from 1973 sold in August for the fourth time in as many years. it fetched US$18,750 in December 2017, $174,757 in March 2018, $221,760 in March, 2021 and $343,000 in August when it was sold with an NFT, possibly creating a blueprint for the future. Full story.
Muonionalusta Meteorite Crystal Ball
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $350,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 February 2021Estimate: $14,000 to $18,000Official Auction PageThe Widmanstätten pattern marks this as extraterrestrial steel from a Muonionalusta meteorite, and by fashioning it into a sphere, the magnificent crystalline intergrowth that can only occur in space can be seen. This specimen is 103mm (4 inches) in diameter and weighs 4.677 kg (10.3 lb) and blew well past its upper estimate by a factor of 20.
George Reeves' "Superman" costume from "Adventures of Superman" (Warner Bros. TV, 1952-58)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $350,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 7 November 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageEasily the highest amount ever paid for a Superman costume, and the marketplace has spoken that George Reeves’ Superman costume from the 1950s TV show should be deemed the most valuable of them all. The Superman TV show was the one that the baby boomers grew up with (Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!) and if you had to frame an experiment to determine the definitive "Superman" at this moment in time, the auctioning of the screen-worn Superman costumes of Kirk Alyn (Columbia Pictures, 1948/1950), George Reeves (Warner Bros. TV, 1952-58) and Christopher Reeve (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - Warner Bros., 1987) in consecutive lots on the same day would be close to perfect.
There are only a handful of screen-worn Superman costumes in existence and this $350,000 sale now holds the auction price record. By comparison, there are around 100 copies of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. The record for one of those comics was also set earlier this year at $3.25 million. It could be argued that Action Comics #1 was the beginning of the entire superhero genre, but we think it's more that comic books are now a separate category of hedge fund altogether.
A Queen Anne ebony quarter table clock (circa 1707) by Thomas Tompion & Edward Banger
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £264,600 ($350,701)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 7 December 2021Estimate: £150,000 to £250,000 ($198,810 to $331,350)Official Auction PageWe were a little undecided as to whether to include this clock, but erred on the side of completeness, as 300 years ago, this was the height of technology.
This is numbered as Clock number 454 and it was produced during a golden age when Thomas Tompion and Edward Banger were producing some of their highest quality work. Significantly smaller than their standard sized clocks, the present clock has a jewel-like quality and is an example of the very finest English clockmaking of all time.
An October 1781 Yorktown Campaign Map from the personal archive of the Comte de Rochambeau
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $352,800Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 April 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction PageIn July 1781, Generals Washington and Rochambeau, who had waited nearly a year to coordinate their armies, turned their attention from New York City to begin the momentous march to Virginia that would culminate in the siege of Yorktown and surrender of Lord Cornwallis. The campaign was captured in a series of brilliant manuscript maps and plans made by Rochambeau's cartographical officers. This map was retained by the Rochambeau until recently, while most of the other maps from the campaign are at Yale University or the Library of Congress.
Sealed, players-Choice copy of "Super Mario World" (1991) for SNES Nintendo
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $360,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageAnother astonishing price for a pristine, sealed copy of a landmark video game. This copy of “Super Mario World “ has the highest known grade - Wata 9.4 A+ Sealed
"Civitates orbis terrarium" (1597-c.1606) by Georg Braun & Franz Hogenberg
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £277,200 ($389,244)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 13 May 2021Estimate: £140,000 to £200,000 ($196,588 to $280,840)Official Auction PageUnlike the "Theatrum orbis terrarum" of Abraham Ortelius - a universal atlas published in 1570, comprising sea charts and maps of various countries of the world - of which it is generally considered to be the counterpart, this atlas contains only maps and views of the main cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, thus giving a global vision of urban life at the turn of the 17th century. Indeed, no less than 300 different cities are represented in this book, mainly cities in France (Paris, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Lyon, Tours, Rouen, Bordeaux, Marseille, Orléans, La Rochelle, Besançon, Metz, Avignon, etc. ) and northern regions (Edinburgh, Bristol, Oxford, London, Canterbury, Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Leuven, Utrecht, Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig, Delft, Amsterdam, Harlem, Nuremberg, Mainz, Cologne, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bergen en Norway, etc.), central (Prague, Basel, Salzburg, Vienna, Krakow, etc.) and southern (Lisbon, Toledo, Granada, Bilbao, Seville, Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Ostia, Rome, Genoa, Naples, Verona, Tivoli, etc.) from Europe. There are also views and maps of Moscow, Grodna (now Belarus) and Vilnius in Lithuania.
If you know any of these cities now, can we suggest you have a look at the Library of Congress copy which is available online, as there are undoubtedly elements of each of the cities which are still recognisable 400 years later.
"De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" (1543) by Nicolaus Copernicus
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £277,200 ($391,767)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 25 May 2021Estimate: £70,000 to £100,000 ($99,150 to $141,650)Official Auction PageFrom time to time, a copy of an important book comes to light that has not been previously known, and this is such a book. It is a “crisp, unwashed and unsophisticated duplicate from the Library of the University of Rostock.
Just 276 copies of the first edition were known prior to this auction, though the condition of the book was such that it fetched just a fraction of the prices previously achieved by more complete first edition copies in better condition.
This 1543 publication of Copernicus' heliocentric model, which correctly identified the sun as the centre of our solar system, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making a pioneering contribution to the Scientific Revolution. As an aside, a National Science Foundation survey found roughly one quarter of Americans still believe the sun revolves around the earth.
The record price of $2,210,500 paid at auction for a first edition copy of the book was achieved by Christie’s in New York in 2008 during the sale of the The Richard Green Library. Several other first edition copies have sold for more than US$1.0 million including $1,297,953 (£825,250 | Sotheby’s | 2011), $1,219,579 (£666,400 | Sotheby’s | 2004), and $1,071,461 (£662,500 | Christies | 2013).
The full and fascinating story of this book can be found here.
Gibeon Meteorite — massive 139 kg natural sculpture From Outer Space
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $437,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 February 2021Estimate: $180,000 to $260,000Official Auction PageExperts can tell a lot from looking at this Gibeon meteorite, and the tale is a fascinating one. It originated 4.5 billion years ago from the molten core of an asteroid located between Mars and Jupiter and whose shattered remains are now part of the asteroid belt.
An impact event ejected it into interplanetary space, into Earth’s atmosphere and it was part of a meteorite that exploded above the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. Inside, this meteorite would exhibit the same Widmanstätten pattern as the Muonionalusta Meteorite Crystal Ball in this listing that sold for $350,000.
Its external surface tells us a lot about its fiery plunge through Earth’s atmosphere. When it entered the mesosphere, it was traveling at a cosmic velocity of approximately 11 miles/second and reached temperatures of more than 3,000° F as it descended. Those little sockets are telltale evidence of its blisteringly hot descent.
At 139.55 kg and with a maximum dimension of 584mm (23 inches), it represents a monolithic presence in any room.
A fully-operational Enigma I WW2 cipher machine in original condition (1941)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $441,000Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 28 April 2021Estimate: $80,000 to $100,000Official Auction PageIn 2005, I wrote about a German Enigma machine for sale for $22,950 and marveled that I could “hardly believe such an important piece of mathematical, military and encryption history can be sold for such a (paltry) sum.” Just 15 years later, I sincerely wished I’d put my money down, because in the subsequent 16 years we’ve seen prices climb, to $365,000 in 2015, to $463,500 in 2016, to $547,500 in 2017, to $800,000 in 2019.
There are only around 100 known machines extant from the original 1600 produced, and the magic of encryption has become front-of-mind as Cryptography (aka cryptology) is now a critically important science thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, plus the impact of the blockbuster movie, The Imitation Game, which highlighted the mathematical legacy of Alan Turing, Arthur Scherbius, Marian Rejewski, the importance of Bletchley Park and the ingenuity of the Enigma machine. In 2020, the high mark was $438,214, and this machine at $441,000 just marginally betters that price. The first million dollar Enigma machine isn’t far away.
Matthew Flinders copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica;
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £343,750 ($454,644)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £30,000 to £50,000 ($39,678 to $66,130)Official Auction PageThis set of the 1803 edition of “Encyclopaedia Britannica” is a work of art in its own right, summarising a large proportion of the knowledge of the world at that point. This particular set has a fascinating provenance, having been gifted to explorer Captain Matthew Flinders by the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, and and used aboard “HMS Investigator” on the first circumnavigation of Australia. There are numerous autograph annotations by Flinders throughout the 20 volumes on subjects including Metaphysics, Theology and the weather.
Early Mamluk Brass Astrolabe-Quadrant, Dated 1339-40 AD
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €409,600 ($463,356)Auction House: Oriental Art Auctions | Date sold: 6 December 2021Estimate: €80,000 to €120,000 ($90,304 to $135,456)Official Auction Page
This previously unrecorded astrolabe-quadrant was made by the famous muwaqqit (mosque astronomer) and an astronomical instrument master, Muhammad b. Ahmad al‐Mizzī, who was tutored by the famous Egyptian physician and encyclopedist Ibn al-Akfānī.
Working at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus as a muwaqqit until his death, al-Mizzī owed his reputation to the fact that his didactic treatises were very popular among students who studied the science of miqāt, i.e. calculation of the prayer times. One side is engraved with an astrolabe-quadrant, for latitude 33°30’ (presumably for Damascus). The instrument is dated 740 AH, which translates to 1339-40 AD
"The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands" (2nd Edition 1754) by Mark Catesby
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $468,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 27 March 2021Estimate: $300,000 to $400,000Official Auction PageIn 2008, just after Mark Catesby’s “The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands" had sold for a record $657,000 at the New York Sotheby’s auction of the Ornithological Collection of Brooks McCormick, the Smithsonian Magazine devoted an article to Catesby and his magical work. The Smithsonian has two of the estimated 80 to 90 remaining original copies of Catesby's Natural History.
The article is exceptional, though it left me feeling a sadness regarding Catesby following this paragraph: “Soon after returning to London in 1726, Catesby etched his drawings onto copper plates, often combining two different sketches into one to create his engaging and informative compositions. He organized the 220 etchings into two volumes—the first featured birds and plants and the second included fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and the plants associated with them—and decided he would release them in 20-plate installments. With subscribers, many from the upper echelon of society, wanting some 180 copies, he had to hand color close to 40,000 prints. The endeavor amounted to nearly 20 years of labor and literally became his life's work. Catesby died, in 1749, just two years after its completion.”
Steve Jobs Typed Letter Signed
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $479,939Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 19 August 2021Estimate: $10,000 to $20,000Official Auction PageSelf-explanatory, quirky, classic Jobs ... and pure gold!
Lunar Meteorite Sphere from NWA 12691
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $500,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 February 2021Estimate: $15,000 to $25,000Official Auction PageCreating spheres from meteorites is incredibly wasteful, as it often takes a lump of rock three times the weight of the resultant sphere for a satisfactory result after the trimming, grinding and polishing.
Moon rock is one of the rarest substances on Earth, so spheres of moon rock are costly little devils, with an emphasis on costly and LITTLE.
Two years ago a strewn field of lunar meteorites was discovered straddling the Mauritanian, Western Saharan and Algerian borders. Nearly 250 kg of lunar meteorites were recovered – nearly doubling the mass of known lunar meteorite on the planet.
The meteorite shower came from what is now known as NWA 12691, and the sheer mass of meteoritic substance enabled the rendering of a small number of spheres. It may be decades before another lunar meteorite with a sufficiently high total known weight will be found to provide the possibility of additional spheres.
This sphere is just 43mm (1.66 inches) in diameter and weighs just 123.9 grams (0.25 pounds), and it cost half a million dollars at auction!
The "Chaffey College" Apple-1 personal computer
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $500,000Auction House: John Moran | Date sold: 9 November 2021Estimate: $400,000 to $600,000Official Auction PageOne of the first personal computers ever sold – a 1976 Apple-1 – fetched US$500,000 at auction on 9 November, but it might well be one of the auction bargains of the year.
The beautifully restored, fully-functioning 1976 computer was one of just six fully-assembled Apple-1 computers sold by Californian computer store, The Byte Shop. It was sold exactly as it appears above, with a Panasonic monitor and Datanetics keyboard in an enclosure of Hawaiian koa wood. Our article at the time of the sale explains why it offered such great value at $500,000
Steve Jobs' Signed Autograph Letter (1974)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $500,312Auction House: Bonhams | Date sold: 3 November 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction Page"tim i have read your letter many times / i do not know what to say. many mornings have come and gone / people have came and went / i have loved and i have cried many times. / somehow, though, beneath it all it doesn't change - do you understa understand?i am now living on a farm in the mountains between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz. i wish to go to india for the Kumba Mela, which starts in April. i will be leaving sometime in March, not really certain yet. if you desire, and i am still here when you arive (sic), we can come up here in the mountains together and you can tell me your thoughts and feelings, which I did not fully understand from your letter. There is a fire in the other room and i am getting cold here. i will end by saying i do not even know where to begin. / shanti / steve jobs."
Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) "Lenticular Mattel Hoverboard" from "Back to the Future Part II"
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £375,000 ($501,188)Auction House: Propstore | Date sold: 11 November 2021Estimate: £60,000 to £80,000 ($80,190 to $106,920)Official Auction PageThe Mattel Hoverboard from the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II has been on everyone’s Santa list ever since the film was released a third of a century ago. The public profile of the Hoverboard grew exponentially after the film was released when Director Robert Zemeckis said on the film's behind-the-scenes featurette that the hoverboards used in the film were real, and had not been released to the public due to concerns regarding safety. This was untrue but helped to generate rumor, controversy and media attention. The resultant spike of interest subsequently convinced many inventors to attempted to create a hoverboard but no-one has yet succeeded, at least not in such a compact form factor.
Hence the props from the movie are appreciating better than gold, with one selling for $40,000 a few years ago, making waves in the media, then another of the film-used props sold for $102,000 at Profiles in History in 2018. Hence this sale represents a 400 percent increase in the value of the film prop in just three years.
A very complete 86 inches long (218 cm) Triceratops skull (2018)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $504,000Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 28 April 2021Estimate: $400,000 to $600,000Official Auction PageExcavated in July 2018 in Wyoming, this extremely large (86 inches long, or 218 cm), Triceratops Skull is approximately 33 inches (85 cm) wide, with horns measuring approximately 30 inches in length and standing nearly 9 feet tall when mounted on custom stand and armature.
The skull was excavated in a single block and is one of the largest and most complete (80% completeness of bone mass) Triceratops skulls ever found.
The present specimen is considered to be a very large, and very old male. Its exceptional size, coupled with the lack of puncture marks in the bony collar would indicate that it died of old age.
"Untitled (Flower)" (circa 1985) by Andy Warhol
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $525,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 27 May 2021Estimate UnknownOfficial Auction PageThis is one of the five controversial Andy Warhol artworks offered by Christie’s on 28 May 2021. All five lots were NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of digital artwork created by Andy Warhol on a Commodore Amiga Personal Computer in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was created at 320 x 200 pixels and once the floppy disks were excavated, the artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels by the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Club and subsequently turned into NFTs.The authenticity of this entire exercise has been questioned, but thanks to the name Andy Warhol and his dominance of the art world, the reworked 320 x 200 pixel images sold for $1,170,000, $870,000, $562,500, $525,000 and $250,000. Christie’s overview and explanation of the sale can be found here.
Lunar meteorite from Sahara Desert (2019)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $525,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 23 February 2021Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000Official Auction PagePut simply, this rock sold for $525,000 because it is the fourth largest (known) piece of the Moon on Planet Earth. It measures 415 x 352 x 9mm (16.33 x 14 x 0.33 inches) and weighs 1.9934 kg (4.33 lb) and was found about 400 km from Timbuktu in December 2019.
"The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America" (Folio 1845-1848) by John James Audubon
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $528,000Auction House: Arader Galleries | Date sold: 27 March 2021Estimate: $400,000 to $600,000Official Auction PageThe "The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America" is John James Audubon's second masterpiece, behind Audubon's best known “The Birds of America”, the world’s most expensive book.
"Viviparous" means birthing young from within the body, so this book is essentially a study of North American mammalian wildlife, and each mammal is superbly illustrated in its natural habitat. Equally as as impressive and sweeping as his ornithological work, the "Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America" is the result of the artist/naturalist's years of field research, travel, and seemingly endless study and is the outstanding work on American animals produced in the 19th-century.
This auctioned lot achieved the second highest price for this book behind the $793,000 fetched at Guernsey's (New York), in December, 2012, $464,500 at Christies in 2000, $362,500 at Christie's in 2012, $348,500 at Christie’s in 2018, $300,000 at Christie’s in 2020, and ahead of another eight copies that have sold for more than $200,000.
The entire book has been digitized by the University of Michigan's Special Collections Library and is available in high resolution for free download and use, with attribution.
Matthew Flinders’s copy of Cook’s First Voyage
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £400,000 ($529,040)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £50,000 to £80,000 ($66,130 to $105,808)Official Auction PageCaptain James Cook’s “An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere” is a book that generally sells for $40,000 to $50,000, and has only once previously topped $100,000 (US$107,073 at Australian Book Auctions, 2012), yet the remarkable provenance of this copy saw it multiply the record by a factor of five.
It is Matthew Flinders’s copy of Cook’s First Voyage, almost certainly taken with him aboard HMS Investigator on the first circumnavigation of Australia. It sold with Flinders’ autograph annotations and providing a 17-word dictionary of the language spoken by native inhabitants.
"Untitled Self-Portrait" (circa 1985) by Andy Warhol
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $562,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 27 May 2021Estimate UnknownOfficial Auction PageThis is one of the five controversial Andy Warhol artworks offered by Christie’s on 28 May 2021. All five lots were NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of digital artwork created by Andy Warhol on a Commodore Amiga Personal Computer in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was created at 320 x 200 pixels and once the floppy disks were excavated, the artwork was “upscaled” to 6,000 x 4,500 pixels by the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Club and subsequently turned into NFTs.The authenticity of this entire exercise has been questioned, but thanks to the name Andy Warhol and his dominance of the art world, the reworked 320 x 200 pixel images sold for $1,170,000, $870,000, $562,500, $525,000 and $250,000. Christie’s overview and explanation of the sale can be found here.
"On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" (1859) by Charles Darwin
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $562,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 14 September 2021Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000Official Auction PageCharles Darwin's masterwork, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, is unquestionably one of the most important books ever published.
Just 1,200 copies were printed of the first edition of this book, and given its landmark status, it isn't surprising that nearly 100 of those have sold for more than $100,000 each over the last few decades.
Darwin’s famous “On the Origin of Species” certainly made an impression on the auction block in 2021 with this first edition copy leading the way with a price of $562,500 at Christie’s, ahead of £325,000 ($449,995 | Christie’s), $300,000 (Christie’s), £187,500 ($247,500 | Christie’s), CHF 97,900 ($104,606 | Koller), $81,250 (Heritage), CHF 75,940 ($81,256 | Koller) and £49,600 ($65,472 | Forum).
Remarkably, the highest price ever fetched by this book was not a presentation copy, or even a first edition copy, but a copy of the third edition, which had Darwin's hand-written revisions in the margins. As the 23 known presentation copies are all devoid of any inscriptions by Darwin's own hand, the third edition copy sold for $1,054,100 (£788,75) at a Christie's auction on December 13, 2017.
Published just 163 years ago in 1859, this book challenged mankind’s view of nearly everything it thought it knew, and it was particularly distressing to the established religions and their concept of divine creation. Published at a time when other explorations of the natural world such as astronomy and geology were causing many “givens” to be questioned, Darwin’s concepts of ‘natural selection’ opened the way for more scientific breakthroughs and new understandings.
It showed that the world was much older than suggested by the Bible and the Universe was much larger. Darwin’s concepts catalyzed more research, which now underpins the modern sciences of ecology, biology, genetics and psychology.
Discovering Galapagos is a wonderful resource for sharing these lessons with your children, and this Ernst Mayr article, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought”, was originally published in the July 2000 issue of Scientific American. Normally behind a firewall, it was made available on the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of the Species” on 24 November 2009.
For those who want to see what all the fuss is about, there's a full copy of this famous work available on the internet.
Original Neon Rainbow Apple Logo Sign
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $564,500Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 28 April 2021Estimate: $10,000 to $15,000Official Auction PageIn the 1980s, I began work on a Macintosh magazine and was astounded to find the degree of brand loyalty for Apple products was often so far beyond evangelism that it was akin to that of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. Though Apple enthusiasts didn’t tattoo the company logo on their chest or biceps, I often heard about people “bleeding in six colors.”
Just as original Harley-Davidson dealership signs subsequently became extremely valuable, it seems that Apple dealership signs are going to go the same way. There are still a lot of the original honorary disciples for the cult of Mac, and many of them have money and time on their hands these days.
"Cosmographia" (1482) by Claudius Ptolemy
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €495,000 ($591,080)Auction House: Aste Bolaffi | Date sold: 23 June 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageClaudius Ptolemy (AD 100 – c. 170) was a Greco-Egyptian writer, mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet who created “Cosmographia” (also known as Geography and Geographia) whilst living in Alexandria (Egypt) in AD 150, based on a now-lost atlas by Marinus of Tyre using additional Roman and Persian information and principles. It was translated into Arabic in the 9th century and Latin in 1406, becoming the world's first printed atlas in 1477. Only 31 copies of this book are known to still exist.
Lord Wardington wrote of the “Cosmographia”: Imagine the wonderment of someone looking at a map for the first time! For these maps are the first ever printed, and for most people at that time they would have been the first maps that they had ever seen. This is the first atlas ever published... as such this book is therefore of the first importance in the field of geography, science and all the graphic arts. Today, what is not generally realized is that maps, hitherto nearly always treated as utilitarian pieces of paper, were at this time and always have been, works of art in the technique of engraving, having as they do elaborate decoration of many kinds, and magnificent calligraphy... Nor is it generally fully appreciated that up to the publication of this atlas all maps had been original manuscripts, or copies of those manuscripts, and laziness on the part of the copier, or illegibility due to use often caused inaccuracies. But with the printing of maps, scholars of all nationalities could compare and revise, and this led immediately to a very considerable advance in geographical knowledge ...
The record price paid for a copy of Cosmographia is $3,966,804 (£2,139,000), fetched by Sotheby’s as part of the sale of the library of Lord Wardington on October 10, 2006 and originally came from the library of Hieronymus Münzer (1437–1508), humanist, physician, and geographer.
"The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation" (1599/1600) by Richard Hakluyt
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £448,950 ($594,814)Auction House: Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood | Date sold: 7 December 2021Estimate: £3,000 to £5,000 ($3,975 to $6,625)Official Auction PageThe full title of this book is illustrative, if for no other reason that it was spelt thus: “The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques And Discoveries Of The English Nation, Made By Sea Or Over-Land, To The Remote And Farthest Distant Quarters Of The Earth... And The Famous Victorie Atchieved At The Citie Of Cadiz”
Remarkably, like Theodor de Bry, the principal author of “The Great Voyages”, Hakluyt did not travel on any of the voyages he wrote about, but he met or corresponded with many of the great explorers, navigators and cartographers including Drake, Raleigh, Gilbert, Frobisher, Ortelius and Mercator.
Sold as three volumes bound as two, this copy achieved a near record price in GBP, being second only to a copy sold for £458,500 at a Sotheby’s London auction in 2014. Like that copy, this copy also contained the folding Wright-Molyneux map of the world, which is missing in most copies these days. Factoring in the exchange rates on the respective days of sale means this copy is well shy of the record in USD, however, as £458,500 on 30 September, 2014 converted to $744,008.
Phaser Rifle used by William Shatner as "Capt. James Kirk" In “Star Trek: The Original Series” Second Pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (Paramount TV, 1966-1969)
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $615,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 7 November 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis weapon was created for the second pilot of the Star Trek TV Series in 1966, the episode that effectively convinced the television executives at NBC to give the series a green light. The pilot episode was used in the third Star Trek episode aired on TV, entitled Where No Man Has Gone Before, first going to air on 22 September 1966. The episode was the debut of William Shatner in his iconic role as Captain James T. Kirk.
Heritage Auctions’ auction description: reads “This one-of-a-kind Phaser Rifle is among the very top "Holy Grails" of the science fiction collector's universe, as it helped sell Star Trek to the network, forever influencing the genre.”
Heritage was right, as this is now the most expensive “weapon” from a movie or TV Series that has ever sold at auction, surpassing Han Solo's "BlasTech DL-44" from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Lucasfilm, 1983) which fetched $562,500 at Julien’s in 2018 and John Wayne's Colt Single Action Army Revolver which fetched $517,500 last month at Rock Island Auctions.
The Colt remains the most expensive real gun to appear in a movie or TV Series, and appeared in The Cowboys, True Grit, Rooster Cogburn and many others. Remarkably, it's now the only real genuinely-lethal gun in the top 10 movie weapons.
The 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to Murray Gell-Mann, for his work on the theory of Elementary Particles
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $625,000Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 28 April 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction Page
Nobel Prize Medallions were once considered the embodiment of a monumental contribution to mankind, but of little monetary value.
That was until Francis Crick's Nobel Prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA crossed the auction block in April 2013. The Nobel Prize medal won by Crick (alongside James Watson and Maurice Wilkins), sold at Heritage Auctions in April, 2013 for $2,270,500, fifty times more than any prior Nobel Prize medal had fetched. That price was then doubled 20 months later when Christie's sold James Watson's medal for $4,757,000 in December, 2014.
Despite the understanding of the structure of DNA being one of a handful of scientific discoveries which truly has changed the world, those remarkable prices immediately catalysed a new marketplace in Nobel Prize medallions, with prices above $100,000 becoming the norm, and auction bidding now regularly going above $500,000.
The most expensive of the three Nobel prizes sold at auction this year was the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Murray Gell-Mann.
Gell-Man was one of the leading particle physicists of the 20th century, and his Nobel Prize was won for his groundbreaking work on the theory of elementary particles, recognizing their hidden patterns and finding a way to arrange and classify them according to their properties.
Gell-Mann’s story is worth reading, as he was a child-prodigy.
From Sotheby’s auction description: He graduated valedictorian of his high school at the age of 14, received his Bachelor's degree at Yale at the age of 18, before completing his doctoral dissertation at MIT just two years later in 1951. He became a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, doing his post-doc there under Robert Oppenheimer, before heading to the University of Chicago to work with Enrico Fermi. It was there that he would develop theories of strangeness (a quantum property which accounted for decay patterns of certain mesons) and eightfold way (an organizational scheme for hadrons, which led to the development of the quark model, named, much to his regret later on, after the Buddha’s eight-step path to enlightenment).
In many ways, the commercialization of the Nobel Prize medallion is in keeping with what the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, had intended. His legacy was structured to reward those who traditionally had gone unrewarded financially for their inventions, with a substantial sum of money and a medal ... and it worked.
His legacy successfully transformed a pile of cash into a power for good, and with this subsequent marketplace for the medallions, it became a gift that gave twice – once to the recipient, and again to their family once they had passed on.
"Welcome to the Moon Mr. Armstrong!" Tintin cartoon published July 21, 1969
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: €573,000 ($646,688)Auction House: Artcurial | Date sold: 20 November 2021Estimate: €500,000 to €600,000 ($564,300 to $677,160)Official Auction PageThe baby boomer children of America grew up following the adventures of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, while their European equivalents grew up with more nuanced comic heroes such as TinTin and Astérix.
Now those children have made their way in the world and retired and auction prices have gone stratospheric as yet another generation tries to reclaim its youth. In the process, narrative artists who had enjoyed brief acclaim are now as well known as their creations.
Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi (better known as Hergé) created Tintin and kept the comic relevant by regularly focussing on current events. He often addressed the topic of space travel in his comics of the 1950s and 1960s and this drawing of Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus welcoming Neil Armstrong and the Apollo XI mission to the Moon, was produced in 1969.
Sealed with hangtab "Super Mario Bros." (1985) game for NES Nintendo 1985
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $660,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 2 April 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis copy of "Super Mario Bros." will go down in history, partly because it is the highest price ever achieved by a copy of the original superstar NES Nintendo game, and partially because it lifted the world record price for a game from $156,000 to $660,000. The record lasted just three months.
The copy of “Super Mario Bros.” is graded Wata 9.6 A+ Sealed [Hangtab, 1 Code, Mid-Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA is the finest copy known to have been professionally graded for auction among the 58,000,000 copies that were sold of the game.
The previous world record for a copy of Super Mario Bros. was $114,000, which was set in July 2020, and was also a world record for any video game at that time.
A large brass astrolabe, signed by Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Battuti, Morocco, dated 1141 AH/1728-29 AD
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £499,000 ($685,826)Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 27 October 2021Estimate: £400,000 to £600,000 ($549,760 to $824,640)Official Auction Page“In Islam, as in no other religion in human history, the performance of various aspects of religious ritual has been assisted by scientific procedures. The organization of the lunar calendar, the regulation of the astronomically-defined times of prayer, and the determination of the sacred direction of the Kaaba in Mecca – these are topics of traditional Islamic science still of concern to Muslims today and each has a history going back close to fourteen hundred years”David King, Astronomy in the Service of Islam, Variorum, 1993
This is the third of four astrolabes in our listing this year, all created by Muslim instrument makers. If you are interested in finding out more about astrolabes (sometimes described as ‘the medieval iPhone’) this feature by Christie’s entitled “Astrolabes: Tools for decoding the movement of the stars” offers an expert introduction to these beautiful instruments for divining the night and the course of the sun.
The Maghrib was the scene of major activity in mathematical astronomy and astrology from the tenth to the fifteenth century, and an interest in traditional astronomy continued there until the early twentieth century. In particular, the construction of instruments – astrolabes, quadrants and sundials – continued into the late nineteenth century.
Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Battuti was a prolific astrolabe-maker and this instrument is a fine example of al-Battuti's known pieces and is extremely similar to another in the History of Science Museum, Oxford. al-Battuti's astrolabes can also be found on display in the Museum of Islamic Art (Cairo), the National Museum of American History (Washington), National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) and the Louvre (Abu Dhabi).
"Astronomia nova" (1609): a first edition of Johannes Kepler's masterpiece
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $687,500Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 October 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction PageAstronomia nova is one of the most significant books in the history of astronomy and contains the results of Kepler's 10-year-long investigation into the motion of Mars, providing strong arguments for heliocentrism and contributing valuable insight into the movement of the planets.
This included his first two laws of planetary motion, in which the orbits of planets are shown to be elliptic rather than circular, demonstrated by his calculations of the orbit of Mars, and the law of equal areas, which shows that the planets move faster when they are closer to the sun. This work enabled Newton to form his own laws of motion and universal gravitation and the laws of Kepler and Newton became the basis of celestial mechanics.
This is far and away a record price for Johannes Kepler's masterpiece of modern astronomy, first published in 1609 and boldy entitled “The New Astronomy.” The previous highest price was achieved by Sotheby's in 2014 when a first edition fetched £212,500 (US$357,275) in London. Caspar characterizes this work as "Eines des grössten Meisterwerke der Naturwissenschaften aller Zeiten!"(One of the greatest natural science masterpieces of all time!).
The Skull Of A Juvenile Triceratops
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £500,000 ($688,250)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 26 October 2021Estimate: £300,000 to £500,000 ($412,950 to $688,250)Official Auction PageHaving such a distinctive skull, one might think that Triceratops would have been known to mankind for a long time, but the first partial specimen (a pair of horns) was found in 1887, and the first mounted skeleton was reconstructed by the Smithsonian in 1905 and remained on display until 2018.
This 65-inch long skull of a Triceratops prorsus, with 2-foot horns to the brow, the skull and lower jaw mounted on bespoke stand, is a rare juvenile specimen, and is noted in the auction description as one of only a handful of juvenile Triceratops to reach auction.
A Monolithic Slice of the Fukang Meteorite
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £525,000 ($722,978)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 8 July 2021Estimate: £350,000 to £550,000 ($481,985 to $757,405)Official Auction PageThis slice of the famous Fukang meteorite was part of a significant find in China’s Gobi Desert in the year 2000, and apart from being very large at 8.15 kg. (18.0 lbs) and 89.5 x 47 x 0.6 cm (35 ¼ x 18 ½ x 1/4 inches), it contains some of the largest and most translucent crystals of any pallasite.
Remarkably, the main 420 kg mass of the Fukang satellite was offered at auction by Bonhams in 2008, but failed to sell despite expectations of bids in excess of $2 million.
If someone had purchased the Fukang meteorite for $2 million in 2008, it would have cost approximately $4762 per kilogram. This present lot sold for $88,709 per kilogram and small parts of the Fukang satellite sell for a lot more than that.
Gene Cernan's EVA-3 Cuff Checklist: Apollo 17 flown and Lunar Surface-Used
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $744,994Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 21 October 2021Estimate: $800,000 plus Official Auction PageA little less than 12 months from now (11 December 2022), we’ll be commemorating 50 years since we last set foot on the moon. Our representative at that time was Astronaut Gene Cernan and in leaving a plaque with humanity’s departing message (which reads “Here man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”), he delivered his final words.
In delivering those words, Cernan used a bit of a cheat sheet, as the outline of what he wanted to say was written on his EVA Cuff Checklist. The checklist was worn continuously on Cernan’s wrist while he was on the lunar surface for 7 hours and 15 minutes and is prominent in much of the video and still imagery of the last moon walk.
Apollo Guidance Computer
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $746,000Auction House: Sotheby's | Date sold: 20 July 2021Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000Official Auction PageWe were delighted to see the price this Apollo Guidance Computer fetched, mainly because it was becoming quite challenging that we could see the historical value in it, and prices have not been reflecting that value.
Designed in the early 1960s, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was created for the Apollo space program, and was one of the first, if not the first computer using integrated circuits. That's a full decade prior to the first commercially available microprocessor – the 4-bit Intel 4004 central processing unit (CPU) was released in 1971.
Only 75 Apollo Guidance computers were ever made, and on average, they each cost the United States around $200,000 (equivalent to $1.5 million today). Hence not only is this computer rare, very expensive to produce, and an example of state-of-the-art design and fabrication of the period, it is the common ancestor of every computer. You can see what we wrote about this in 2017, and we eulogised the AGC in 2019.
Digital memorabilia is just beginning to move in the hierarchy of value and the price of the AGC is an indication that it is beginning to assume its rightful place. Now is a good time to invest in computer memorabilia.
"Hello World" by Jimmy Wales
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $750,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 16 December 2021Estimate on RequestOfficial Auction PageThis was pure history-in-the-making and quite frankly, given the rise of the NFT across 2021, it could easily have gone for much much more. Just as the sale of the source code as an NFT by Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold for $5.4 million but could have gone for more, this was a landmark event in the foundation of one of mankind’s most important resources.
In a statement after the sale, a spokesperson for Christie’s said the result "underscores the burgeoning interest in the history of the internet among collectors."
Steve Jobs Inscribed and Signed Apple II Computer Manual: "Go change the world"
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $787,484Auction House: RR Auction | Date sold: 19 August 2021Estimate: $25,000 +Official Auction PageWhen we wrote a preview of this auction, we wrote the following: “Collectibles guru Paul Fraser tracks the value of autographs at auction with his PFC40 Autograph Index, and he rates the value of Jobs' autograph at $55,600 (£40,000), ranking him as having the most valuable "deceased" autograph (£10,000 ahead of Stephen Hawking) and the best performing autograph in the world over the last 20 years, with an annual appreciation of 24 percent per annum. Fraser knows his stuff better than just about anybody, and if he rates the autograph alone at $55,600 and appreciating at 24 percent per annum ... well, do the math. Throw in a quote that is so inspirational and typical in his own handwriting in addition to the signature, this item might get to six figures. This item will stand up well to the test of time.”
It felt like we were sticking our neck out a bit by being so bullish, yet we were an order of magnitude away from the final price. The lot was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner and long-time collector of guitars and other cultural memorabilia, Jim Irsay.
Irsay said of his purchase, “When we think of the greatest, most innovative minds of the past two centuries, Steve Jobs must certainly be included among them. Jobs was a truly transformative figure who changed the way in which human beings think, do business and interact on a daily basis. As always, I look forward to sharing this piece in the hope it may educate and inspire others to do great things in life."
Charles Darwin’s brass microscope
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: £598,500 ($791,576)Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 15 December 2021Estimate: £250,000 to £350,000 ($330,650 to $462,910)Official Auction PageThis is the only microscope that was owned and used by Charles Darwin, to have ever been offered at auction. Authentic as it’s possible to be, the microscope has been in the Darwin family for 211 years. There’s a plethora of information about the microscope on the Christie’s auction page.
"Untitled (Self-Portrait)" (circa 1985) by Andy Warhol
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $870,000Auction House: Christie's | Date sold: 27 May 2021Estimate UnknownOfficial Auction PageThis is one of the five controversial Andy Warhol artworks offered by Christie’s on 28 May 2021. All five lots were NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) of digital artwork created by Andy Warhol on a Commodore Amiga Personal Computer in the mid-1980s and recovered from floppy disks in 2014. The artwork was created at 320 x 200 pixels and once the floppy disks were excavated, the artwork was “upscaled” to 6000 x 4500 pixels by the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Club and subsequently turned into NFTs.The authenticity of this entire exercise has been questioned, but thanks to the name Andy Warhol and his dominance of the art world, the reworked 320 x 200 pixel images sold for $1,170,000, $870,000, $562,500, $525,000 and $250,000. Christie’s overview and explanation of the sale can be found here.
"The Legend of Zelda" NES Nintendo game
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $870,000Auction House: Heritage Auctions | Date sold: 9 July 2021No EstimateOfficial Auction PageThis is a sealed, early production copy of the first game in the groundbreaking Legend of Zelda series, and when it went to auction on 9 July this year, it raised the world record price for any video game from the $660,000 (set 2 April 2021 by "Super Mario Bros." - see earlier on this list) to $870,000. The games market is so hot right now, that the world record only lasted two days, before it became $1.56 million - see the next installment of this listing.
"The North American Indian - Volumes I-XX" (1907-1930) by Edward S. Curtis
Final price including Buyers’ Premium: $922,500Auction House: Santa Fe Art Auction | Date sold: 26 June 2021Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000Official Auction PageWe’ve included this copy of "The North American Indian” in this list because two copies of this spectacular 20-volume set sold this year, and the one that sold for more had a few extras. This truly is a pristine copy, printed on India proof paper ('tissue') etching stock. Only approximately 15 copies were produced on this special paper and those copies went to Curtis himself, Wall Street mogul J.P. Morgan, Railroad Magnate Edward H. Harriman and the King of England.
The Smithsonian dedicated a feature article to Curtis’ endeavours, and there are a number of sites on the internet dedicated to perpetuating the Curtis Legacy, notably the Curtis Legacy Foundation, the Digital Collection at Northwestern University, and the Edward Curtis Gallery.