10 Incredible Edibles: Collectible Food and Drink
From space-flown booze and religious toast to Titanic biscuits and the world's largest truffle, here are ten incredible edibles which sold for major money at auction.
Antarctic expedition chocolate bar
When Captain Scott's Discovery expedition journeyed to the Antarctic in 1901, they ate surprisingly well at their Cape Evans camp despite the freezing conditions. The crew baked fresh bread and rhubarb pie, and special occasions were marked with several courses including salted almonds, stewed penguin breast in red currant jelly, crystallised ginger and champagne.
However, their rations away from camp were far more severe, high in protein but low in the fat which would have aided their exertions hauling sledges. Out in the wild they lived on ground meat mixed with fat known as pemmican, and biscuits made especially for the expedition by sponsors Huntly & Palmer.
The men also carried emergency rations in the form of chocolate bars, one of which survived the expedition uneaten and wrapped up in a cigarette tin. Having lasted a century, it sold at Christie's in London in 2001 for $687, making it the world's most expensive bar of chocolate.
Virgin Mary toast
In 1994 Florida woman bit into her toasted cheese sandwich, only to discover an image of the Virgin Mary staring back at her. Although scared at first, she kept the partially-eaten snack in a plastic container for 10 years, during which time she claimed its powers helped her win $70,000 at a casino.
Then in 2004 she decided to sell the sacred sandwich on eBay, to spread some her luck around. It was snapped up for $28,000 by the internet casino Golden Palace.com, who stated they would take it on a world tour before selling it again to raise money for charity. "We believe that everyone should be able to see it and learn of its mystical power for themselves" said a spokesperson without laughing.
The sacrelicious treat is just one of several unusual items Golden Palace has bought at auction over the years. Other memorable purchases include $650,000 for the naming rights of a rare monkey, $244,524 for a VW Golf owned by Pope Benedict XVI, and $25,000 for William Shatner's kidney stone.
When James and Mabel Fenwick set off for their honeymoon on the SS Carpathia in April 1912, they had no idea of the drama that was about to unfold. Three days into the journey the ship was called upon to rescue more than 700 survivors from the sunken Titanic, and James Fenwick recorded the aftermath. One journal entry reads:
"Titanic gone down. We are rescuing passengers and are surrounded by icebergs.... The scene at Carpathia as the day wore on was one of tragedy. Women without husbands and children without parents".
Along with documenting the scenes with his camera, creating what would become one of the most important photographic archives of Titanic survivors, Fenwick also took a memento – a cracker originally part of a survival kit from one of the Titanic's lifeboats. Over 100 years later in October 2015, it became the world's most valuable biscuit when it was sold by auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son for $22,968.
In Japan fresh fruit can be crazily expensive. With apples costing the equivalent of around $5 each, and a box of 20 cherries priced at up to $100, it's no surprised that fruit is revered and viewed as a luxury gift.
Amongst the most treasured of all fruits is the Yubari King melon, grown in the former coal mining town of Yubari which has become known as Japan's "Melon Kingdom". The Yubari melons are prized for their perfect proportions, smooth rinds and deliciously sweet taste, and are presented in special cases with the top "T" portion of their stems left intact.
The finest melons are auctioned off each season, and in 2007 one local businessman paid a record ¥2.5 million ($23,900) for a pair. The sum was viewed as a donation to the local economy, as the city had recently announced it was struggling with bankruptcy following the collapse of the mining industry.
Royal wedding cake
Whilst most people are reluctant to pay for out-of-date cake, there are a few exceptions – particularly if it was served at a royal wedding. Pieces of royal cake have become popular collector's items in recent years, and none more so than the cake served at the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Created by Fiona Cairns, the eight-tiered cake stood over 1 meter tall and took five weeks to prepare. The high alcohol content in the traditional fruit cake meant that, according to Cairns, its flavour would have peaked around 13 months after the wedding, and it will remain edible for years to come.
Slices of cake from the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana are still believed to be edible over 30 years later, and have sold for more than $2,500. However, they can't match the prices achieved by Will and Kate's cake, with the record standing at a delicious $7,500 set by Julien's Auctions in 2014.
They might resemble tiny inedible coasters, but this humble packet of crackers has a story to tell, having travelled more than 450,000 miles into space and back aboard Apollo 16 in 1972.
"While the Apollo food did not look very appetizing, I actually found it tasty and certainly nutritious," said the mission's lunar module pilot and moonwalker Charles M. Duke. Having returned to Earth without so much as a nibble, this sealed packed of Cheddar Cheese Crackers remained in the personal collection of Duke for 40 years before selling at Bonhams in 2012 for $5,000.
These days space food has certainly moved on. Astronauts on the International Space Station can now drink coffee freshly brewed in zero gravity, and South Korea spent over a million dollars to develop a version of kimchee suitable for space travel.
Justin Timberlake's French toast
When it comes to celebrity memorabilia, there's almost nothing that devoted fans won't collect. No matter how weird or gross it is, someone somewhere wants it in their house.
Back in 2000, when Justin Timberlake was merely a lowly member of world-dominating boyband 'N Sync, he visited New York radio station Z-100 for a breakfast interview. The station kindly served up some French toast, but Justin only took a couple of bites before leaving the rest uneaten.
Sensing an opportunity, the DJ decided to place Timberlake's partially-eaten breakfast up for sale to raise money for charity, and one devoted fan in Madison, Wisconsin paid $3,154 to freeze dry the toast and display it on her dresser. Just think of the value if Timberlake had found the Virgin Mary's face in it as well...
Truffles are a form of rare and edible fungus which are highly prized andregarded as "the diamond of the kitchen" by chefs and gourmands alike. White truffles are by far the most valuable, and are found mainly in areas throughout Northern Italy. Truffle hunting is big business, and the edible treasures can fetch huge sums at auction – especially if Stanley Ho is in town.
Ho is the Hong Kong-born casino owner and billionaire who has repeatedly paid record sums for the world's biggest white truffles. In 2007 he paid an incredible $330,000 for the 3.3 lb "Truffle of the Century", discovered by Luciano Savini and his trained dog Rocco near Pisa in Italy.
The following year he spent another $200,000 on a 2.2 lb truffle, and in 2010 he equalled his record price by paying another $330,000 for two pieces, collectively weighing 2.86 lbs. That's quite a price for what is essentially a big posh mushroom.
When the crew of Apollo 8 floated down for dinner for dinner on December 25, 1968, they discovered a real turkey dinner with stuffing hidden in their food locker. As they tucked into their festive feast, they also found mission control had left them another surprise gift - three miniature bottles of 100% proof brandy.
However, as the crew were preparing to re-enter the earth's atmosphere the next day, Commander Frank Borman decided it was probably better they did it without hangovers, and ordered the bottles be saved until they got home.
With the Christmas party cancelled, the bottles were returned to Earth and by all accounts remained unopened for many years. Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell resisted temptation to crack his lunar booze open and kept it for 40 years, before selling it at Heritage Auctions for $17,925.
Samuel Allsopp's Arctic Ale
In 1852 Sir Edward Belcher set off for the Arctic, in search of a lost expedition to find the North West Passage led by fellow explorer Sir John Franklin. Prior to his trip, he asked London brewer Samuel Allsopp to create a special batch of beer for the journey, with a high-alcohol content to prevent it from freezing. Franklin's men were never found, and Belcher's crew returned to England two years later having lost their ship to the ice, but several bottle of the Arctic beer came home with them.
This 155-year-old bottle, preserved in remarkable condition, first appeared for sale on eBay in 2007 where it sold for $304. Not bad for an old bottle of beer, you may think. However, it had been listed on the site as "Allsop" ale, missing the second "p", meaning the lot had been missed by serious collectors.
The winning bidder, who couldn't believe their luck, simply relisted it with the name spelled correctly, and watched it soar to a final price of $503,300 – a world record price for a bottle of beer.
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