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Crazy Historical Auction Facts That Are Hard To Believe

Thursday, January 7th, 2021
surprised woman with long brown hair in gray shirt

You may have heard of crazy auction sales, like a Pokémon card that sold for $183,000 this year or artworks selling for millions of dollars. With such a wide variety of collectibles out there, it is no surprise that items like these sell for so much money. Here are some historical facts about auctions that may be even more surprising to you.

The earliest recorded auctions date back to 500 BC

According to Herodotus, a well-known Greek historian, auctions took place in the city of Babylon. Items that were sold varied. Women were often offered up for marriage at these events too. Early auctions were places to sell spoils of war and furs, instead of collectibles and high dollar items.

Another distinction between auctions then and now is that instead of a gavel and auctioneer, there was a “Magister Auctionarium” with a spear. The start of the event was dramatic, with the Magister throwing the spear into the ground.

The entire empire of Rome was offered up at auction

In 193 AD, the emperor Pertanix was murdered by his praetorian guards. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to make a fortune, they offered up the empire at auction. Didius Julianus was announced the winner with a bid that equaled $1 billion American dollars. His reign was short, leading some to believe he was unable to pay that amount.

New Zealand was also up for bid

An Australian man put New Zealand up for auction on eBay. The starting bid was $.01 and went all the way to $1300.00 or more before it was discovered to be in violation of the website’s rules. Obviously, this type of auction wouldn’t work in modern times, but it did go viral on the internet for obvious reasons.Timed auctions worked a little differently in the past

In England, bidders and auctioneers once gathered together in a dark room. The event was timed with one candle that was placed on the wall. Once the candle burned out, the auction would be over and the final bidder would be the winner. Today, the term “flaming out” refers to people who are too eager at the start of an auction and bid high.

A used toilet was put up for auction

You heard that right! In 2012, author J.D. Salinger’s toilet was auctioned on eBay by the people who bought his home. The starting bid was $1,000,000. The item was described as “uncleaned” as well as “in its original condition.”

Nothing can actually sell for SOMETHING

It sounds wild, but one auction proved this to be true. A man offered up an empty jar for auction. He said that it could possibly be filled with the breath of both Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. He had no proof to show that this was true, yet the jar sold for $444.

Looking for an auction in Texas?

At High Plains Auctioneers, we offer a variety of auction items throughout the year, including antiques, farm equipment, and collectibles. You can reach us at (806) 244-6776 or check out our Upcoming Auctions to see what we will be selling soon!