HomeCar CultureCommentaryWhere does most expensive car rate among all auction buys?

Where does most expensive car rate among all auction buys?


Back in August, a record price of $48.4 million was paid for a collector car sold at public auction. The car was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO and the sale was RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California.

For the record, the previous record for a collector car at public auction was $38.115 million in 2014 for another 250 GTO, this one selling at Bonhams at The Quail in Carmel, California.

da Vinci painting was a $450.3 million buy | Christies image via art

But where, you might wonder, does that $48.4 million purchase rank among other collectibles sold at auctions? This week, published just such a list.

“The value of art often feels like an impossible thing to measure,” the artcentric website reported. “But the auction business has consistently shown us that everything has a price — and then, a few years later, often an even higher one. So what makes a work of art command millions, or even hundreds of millions?”

Here is the list of most-expensive things purchased at auction, what they sold for, where and when they sold and, in some cases, a comment:

Work of art — Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, $450.3 million, Christie’s sale in New York City in November 2017

Sculpture — L’homme au doigt by Alberto Giacometti, $141.3 million, Christie’s New York in May 2015

Work by a living artist — Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) by David Hockney, $90.3 million, Christie’s New York in November 2018

Diamond — The CTF Pink Star (59.6 carat), $71.2 million, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, April 2017

Ferrari slots between the diamond and the pearl

Car — 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, $48.4 million, RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August 2018

Work by a female artist — Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 by Georgia O’Keeffe, $44.4 million, Sotheby’s New York, November 2014

Pearl — Marie-Antoniette’s Pendant, $36 million, Sotheby’s Geneva, November 2018

1794 Flowing Hair dollar | Stacks Bowers via art

Bowers, January 2013

Stamp — British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, $9.48 million, Sotheby’s New York, June 2014

Celebrity clothing — Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Subway Dress’ from The Seven Year Itch, $5.5 million, Profiles in History auction at Beverly Hills, June 2011

Photograph — Rhine II by Andreas Gursky, $4.34 million, Christie’s New York, November 2011

Space artifact — Soviet Vostok 3KA-2 Space Capsule, $2.9 million, Sotheby’s New York, April 2011

Bottle of wine — 1945 Romanee Conti, $558,000, Sotheby’s New York, October 2018 (two botttles of the ’45 vintage sold at the auction — one brought $558,000 and the other $496,000)

Movie poster — Dracula (1931 staring Bela Lugosi), $525,800, Heritage Auctions, Texas, November 2017

Barbie doll — Stefani Canturi Barbie, $302,000, Christie’s New York, October 2010 (Doll was custom designed by jeweler Stefani Canturi and was wearing a 1-carat pink diamond necklace surrounded by 3 carats of white diamonds)

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. This is what happens when you get a bunch of people together that have more money than brains. Auctions, by design. are designed to get a "frenzy" started so that said people just start bidding willy-nilly stupid and not thinking logically. It appears to work. I enjoy going to auction now and then to see the cars but mostly for the comic relief. I (just personally) would never purchase a vehicle at auction as I have done the research and concluded that auctioned vehicles go for a minimum or 30% over value. (Way more in this case) I agree that a vehicle (as well as anything else) is only worth what someone is willing to pay. It just appears people at vehicle auctions are willing to pay more. $48 million ? That’s just plain stupid and proof of what happens when the filthy rich wanna "play" too. This car will end up in some rich guys private collection and NOBODY will be able to enjoy the car, or what used to be an everyman’s hobby. Just my opinion.

  2. Just hope people with these kinds of liquid funds also contribute to charities. Think of the good that $48M paid for a Ferrari or $558K for a bottle wine was donated to the SPCA, or to medical research, or provide scholarships to low income students. Only my opinion but donating to charities to improve the life of animals or humans more important then adding a rare collectible to a private collection of "stuff".


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts