What are the most coveted items at auctions?


Although live auctions are slowly resuming after a long suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, collectors have continued to acquire luxury collectables in multiple online auctions.

While prospective buyers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of purchasing pedigreed pieces sight unseen, a recent report by Knight Frank Research suggests that collectors prefer to invest their assets in very specific objects of desire. These are some of the most expensive items at auctions.

Rare whisky 

The market for rare whiskies has grown in value the most over the last 10 years ( 564%), with Knight Frank Research noting that collectors continue to seek out rare examples from iconic distilleries such as Dalmore, Springbank, Ardbeg and Lagavulin.

While wine has lost some momentum as an investment prospect ( 1% in 2019), a bottle of 60-year-old Macallan whisky from 1926 set an auction record for any wine or spirit in October 2019.

The coveted piece sold for just under £1.45 million (about $1.8 million) during Sotheby’s “The Ultimate Whisky Collection” sale, surpassing its pre-sale estimate between £350,000 and £450,000 (around $438,000 and $563,000).


The art market registered growth of 141% over the last 10 years, and a more modest 5% in the past 12 months. While 2019 was marked by records such as the $91 million sale of Jeff Koons’ “Rabbit,” auction houses had to move several of their marquee sales online in reaction to the pandemic.

Last June, Sotheby’s made headlines when its marathon sale of Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art brought in a total of $363.2 million, with a 93.2 percent sell-through rate by lot.

The nearly five-hour-long session was led by Francis Bacon’s “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” (1981), which went under the hammer for $84.5 million with fees.

Collectable handbags

Handbags are increasingly being seen as an investment class in their own right, with the market for collectable handbags growing by in value by 108% in the last 10 years, and 13% in 2019 alone.

Although bags made by luxury brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton are highly collectable, those made by Hermès attract the highest prices at auction.

A black Porosus Crocodile Hac Birkin 40 nearly doubled its high pre-sale estimate of HK$260,000 (about $33,545) and fetched HK$475,000 (about $61,287) during Christie’s “Handbags Online: The Power of Colour,” which realized a memorable total HK$14.4 million (around $1.9 million).

Meanwhile, Knight Frank Research notes that collectors are turning less to classic cars to invest their assets, with the car market falling by 7% in the past 12 months ( 194% over the last 10 years). The sector still continues to attract potential buyers, as testified to by the $2.64 million sale of a 2003 Ferrari Enzo during RM Sotheby’s recent “Driving Into Summer” online auction.

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