Last week, a 1969 painting by Francis Bacon, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," sold for $142,405,000 at Christie's in New York City. Surpassing the previous record-holder, Edvard Munch's "The Scream," which sold for $119 million last year, the artwork is one of several in recent years to break the $100-million barrier.
Auctions are intended to drive prices up as high as competitive bidders allow. But when a coveted work of art or one-of-a-kind item goes up for sale, appreciation can take on a whole different meaning as well-financed bidders push price tags into uncharted territory.
While Bacon's work set the record for any work of art, Jeff Koons's sculpture "Balloon Dog" holds the record for a piece by a living artist. Fetching $58 million, "Balloon Dog", a 10-foot-tall steel sculpture, exceeded pre-auction price estimates.
A Persian rug dating back to the 17th century sold for $33.7 million at an auction in New York City in June. Given to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1925 by William A. Clark, an industrialist and U.S. senator from Montana, the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet had a price tag roughly three times higher the previous rug record-holder.
Originally known as the "Pink Star," a 59.60-carat pink became one collector's "Pink Dream" after paying $83 million in an auction held in Geneva that set the record for the most money paid for any gemstone.
The diamond is fancy vivid pink, as reported by Bloomberg News, the highest grade for the color of diamonds. Its crystal purity ranks it among the top 2 percent on Earth.
Considering its original owner only paid a dime for it, paying over $2 million for a comic book seems a bit excessive. But Action Comics No. 1, a rare 1938 comic book that marked Superman's first appearance, is no ordinary comic, which is why pulled in a record $2.16 million at auction in 2011.
Originally reported stolen in 2000, the comic book was recovered from a storage locker near Los Angeles over 10 years later in near mint condition.
A 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 grand prix racecar drove off with $29.7 million price tag when it was sold at auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. The world's most expensive car ever sold at auction was part of what is considered the golden era of Formula One racing and was once driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, according to the New York Times.
A 222-kilogram (444-pound) blue tuna reeled in $1.8 million at an auction earlier this year at at Japan's Tsukiji fish market, three times the price of the previous record holder.
The high price that the fish fetches is in large part due to decades of overfishing that has driven down stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Some Western nations have even called for a ban on fishing the endangered fish, though recent efforts toward such a ban have ended in failure.
Any photographer knows that state-of-the-art camera equipment costs a pretty penny. A 90-year-old camera, however, snapped a record price of $2.8 million at an auction in Vienna, Austria.
Known as the 0-series, the prototype Leica 35mm film camera was one of just 25 produced in 1923, according to Guinness World Records.
Given that pigeons are more commonly known as pests than prizes, these birds might not be worth a nickel to most people.
Racing pigeons, however, are another story to collectors looking for the fastest birds. In May, a Belgian breeder sold a bird nicknamed Bolt, after Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, for a record 310,000 euros ($400,000) at auction.
Though it has yet to reach the auction block, fossils of two dinosaurs frozen in a life-and-death struggle are expected to pull in a record $9 million this week. Known as the Dueling Dinosaurs, one dinosaur is a tyrannosaurid and the other is a Triceratops-like animal.
Discovered in Montana in 2006, the specimens are among the most well-preserved dinosaur remains ever recovered, even including skin fragments.