Forking It Over
It may be hard to believe, but food and beverages sell for exorbitant prices at auctions all the time. The reasons for the sky-high bids vary. Sometimes the item is a luxury food that commands high prices in restaurants. It may be a one-of-a-kind product or have an interesting tie to history. Often, interesting food items are sold at charity auctions where the rich and famous are happy to plunk down tens of thousands for a good cause. Find out why these expensive food items have sold more than $10,000.
Blue Cheese: $15,740
Some people hate blue cheese so much, you probably couldn’t pay them to eat it. But in 2018, a group of 15 Spanish restaurateurs battled it out to buy a wheel of an artisanal variety known as Cabrales, with the winning bid clocking in at more than $15,000. Why so much? The cheese matures for three to six months, with weekly care, in the caves of Picos de Europa, most of which are accessible only via a 1-plus-mile hike.
Bluefin Tuna: $3.1 Million
Japanese tuna used primarily for sushi are sold at auction in fish markets. The most famous market, Tsukiji, was relocated to make way for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which were canceled by coronavirus), leading to a January 2019 auction of the first tuna at the new market, Toyosu. It sold for $3.1 million. The winning bidder owns a sushi chain and has held the record for most expensive tuna purchase many years in the past.
White Truffle: $330,000
Truffles are one of the world’s ultimate luxury foods. They’re fungi that grow underground and must be sniffed out by dogs or pigs. The most expensive truffle to date was a very large 3.3-pound specimen that was dug up in Tuscany. A billionaire Macau casino owner named Stanley Ho bought it for $330,000.
Cracker From the Titanic: $23,000
Anything that sailed on the Titanic is going to attract high bids. In 2015, a cracker from an emergency kit on board one of the lifeboats was sold for $23,000. The cracker was taken as a souvenir by James Fenwick, a passenger on a boat that came to the Titanic’s aid the night it sank.
Harambe-Shaped Cheeto: $99,900
In 2016, a toddler fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and zoo officials killed the gorilla to protect the boy. The boy was fine, but the public was not happy with the death of the gorilla, Harambe, who became an internet phenomenon. An enterprising eBay user decided to capitalize on the gorilla’s infamy after finding a Cheeto shaped like Harambe. For some reason, the single corn puff sold for $99,900 on the auction site.
Macallan Scotch: $1.9 Million
A rare bottle of 1926 Macallan Scotch whisky aged in a sherry barrel sold for nearly $2 million in October 2019, which is notable because another had sold for $1.5 million at the end of 2018, and that bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon. Whatever deep-pocketed Scotch fan bought the most recent bottle at a Sotheby’s auction is clearly more a fan of spirits than art.
Bunch of Grapes: $10,900
Fruit is big business in Japan. All kinds of fruits are grown with exacting techniques to create what are seen as perfect specimens, which are then bought for exorbitant amounts and often given as gifts. In 2016, a bunch of about 30 grapes sold for $10,900 — more than $360 per grape. History repeated itself in 2019 when a smaller cluster of the same type of grapes — a Ping-Pong-ball-size variety called Ruby Roman with a sugar content and low acidity — sold for almost exactly the same price.
Pair of Melons: $45,600
Similarly, two melons sold in Japan for over $45,000 in May 2019. They were bought by an employee of a Japanese beverage company that sells a Yubari melon-flavored soda. The final tally was well over the previous year’s final auction price of around $29,000.
Bottle of Wine: $558,000
Sotheby’s predicted a bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti Burgundy would sell for around $32,000, but that was way off. Instead, the wine went for $558,000 in 2018. Only 600 bottles were made by the winemaker in 1945, and the grapevines were dug up and moved at the end of the season.
Japanese Whisky: $343,000
Whisky lovers can’t seem to get their hands on enough rare bottles: They often fetch the highest prices of any alcohol at auction. A bottle from Japan’s oldest whisky distillery, Yamazaki, sold for $343,000 in 2018. The whisky inside was 50 years old and bought by an anonymous bidder.
McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce: $15,000
Back before McDonald’s widened distribution of its Szechuan dipping sauce, there was a mad rush for the condiment originally created to promote the movie "Mulan" in 1998. It gained notoriety among fans of the adult cartoon "Rick and Morty," who included it in a gag. Thanks to the combination of popularity and scarcity, a bottle of the sauce sold on eBay for $15,350 in 2017.
A taco and a glass of tequila were sold at a charity auction in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2017 for $27,960. The decadent taco was made with langoustine, Kobe beef, caviar, and black-truffle brie cheese wrapped in a gold-flake-speckled tortilla. The tequila came from a Le Lay bottle encrusted with diamonds and platinum that was worth $3.5 million itself. Proceeds from the winning bid went to Los Cabos Children’s Foundation.
Lincoln Fry: $75,100
While it’s not actually food, the Lincoln fry deserves a spot on this list. Created by McDonald’s for a viral marketing campaign in 2005, the fry is molded plastic meant to look like a french fry with the profile of Abe Lincoln. After the marketing campaign had run its course, including a Super Bowl commercial and a blog meant to look like the folks who "discovered" the fry had created it, the fry was auctioned on Yahoo for $75,100, all of which went to the Ronald McDonald House. Amusingly, the company that bought the Lincoln fry, ProgressPlay, which owns multiple online casinos, also bought the Virgin Mary toast.