Day 453: Topping The Market, Part I

originally published March 28, 2013

In my never-ending (well, not for another 547 days) quest to ensconce myself in the fluffy warm glow of superfluous and unnecessary trivia, I occasionally rely on lists to feed my cravings. I don’t present a lot of “top ten” lists here, partly because that format has been scribed to death, and partly because I just haven’t found one I want to pursue yet.

Each of the items in today’s article are at the top of some heap, but rather than devote more than a week to dissecting each little sub-category, I’m just going to run through the big winners in two days. This is the expensive stuff, the priciest of the pricey. Some of it may surprise you. It may surprise me too; if it doesn’t, I may scrap the topic and write about croutons or something instead.

You’ve seen this building before. This is the gargantuan Marina Bay Sands resort with the huge infinity pool on the roof that makes you feel like you’re going to topple head-first into the heart of Singapore. Apart from the world’s largest cantilevered platform, the resort also contains an ice rink, a museum, a convention center and a massive casino. This is the most expensive building in the world, costing $6 billion in today’s money.

My guess before seeing this list was that the 163-floor Burj Khalifa in Dubai would have topped the scroll of most pricey structures, but it sits way down at #19, under the new Yankee Stadium, the new Wembley Stadium, and four Las Vegas hotels. I guess that explains why even the entry-level rooms at Marina Bay Sands will set you back at least $339-649 a night.

Lovely painting, isn’t it? You should find yourself a hi-res version online, print out a large-size copy, and hang it on your wall. Then, much like the royal family of Qatar, you could admire the most expensive painting in the world, Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players. Sure, the Qataris own the original, but they had to shell out between $250 and $320 million for it. You could be gazing at the same masterful brushstrokes for about forty bucks, including a snazzy frame from IKEA.

I have stared at this thing for a solid three, maybe four minutes, and I can’t understand why this would be the most expensive piece of art on the planet. It’s lovely, and I’m a big fan of impressionist art, but I’d rather watch dogs play poker.

Check your change – if you come across a 1933 Liberty Head nickel or a 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, you could be looking at a major windfall. But the real prize at the peak of the US coin mountain is the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar coin. This was the first dollar coin issued by the US government. Of the 1,758 coins minted in ’94, only about 120-130 were estimated to still be around back in the 90’s. One in particular has been fingered as the most pristine example, a genuine treasure from the very origins of the American economy. That one was sold in January of this year for a whopping $10 million. That’s a lot of coin for just one coin.

Is this a prop from the Slender Man movie or a rejected robot from the set of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” video? No, it’s actually L’Homme qui marche I, a cast bronze sculpture from the mind and hands of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Alberto had been commissioned to come up with some sculptures to be scattered around the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York back in 1960. He “struggled” with the project (which I’d like to think means he felt artistically stifled when the building manager told him to make a Snoopy sculpture to sit on one of the benches), and quit. The next year, Alberto unveiled one of the statues in Venice, and it came to be known as one of the most important works in the modern art world.

One of two editions of the sculpture went to auction in 2010, shattering the record for the most expensive sculpture when it sold for £65 million, or around $105 million US dollars.

This is precisely what is meant by the term “car porn”. The Ferrari Testa Rossa (literally “red head”) 250 is so rare, only thirty-four were built between 1956 and 1961. What makes this car so special? It’s not the V-12 engine, nor is it the snazzy Italian handling. Just look at it. Most guys I know would cheat on their wives or girlfriends with this car. A 1957 model sold at auction for $16,390,000 in 2011.

Of course, if we adjust for inflation, then we’ve got to give it to this baby:

That’s the 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe. One of the largest cars ever built (21 feet long), Bugatti only ever built six Royales between 1927 and 1933. Not six models – six cars. The Kellner was never sold – in fact, the Bugatti family had to encase it in bricks to keep the Nazis from getting hold of it during WWII. The car sold at Christie’s for $6.5 million in 1987, which works out to more than $20 million today. Sweet.

Isn’t that adorable? It’s Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and their twins, Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline. This is also among the most expensive celebrity photos in the ugly history of our culture’s obsession with famous people.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with Brad and Angelina as actors. But People and Hello!, two magazines I’d only read in a doctor’s waiting room if I’d already flipped through their magazines on sport-fishing and wood-carving, as well as their collection of VD brochures, paid around $15 million for exclusive rights to these photos. Fifteen million. And I have no doubt they turned a profit spewing these pics all over supermarket point-of-purchase displays around the world.

The entire list of expensive celebrity photos reads like a menu of WhoGivesAShit – mostly baby photos ($1 million for Nicole Richie’s kid? For the love of Jeebus, who really cares???), some wedding photos (Demi & Ashton, whose photos may have sold for more if they’d gone by the name ‘DemAshton’), and even a ‘couples photo’ of Brad & Angelina.

Sorry to end this piece with such a vile taste. Luckily, this is a cliff-hanger. Maybe tomorrow we’ll find something that seems truly worth the money. Maybe.

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