Shopping sprees reach new records

A look back at the year’s most jaw-dropping purchases of luxury items and one-of-a kind pieces of history
By Isabel Schwab | January 08, 2016 12:00PM

Keeping readers up-to-date on the latest news in wealth, such as which well-known celeb is moving into your neighborhood and what is the trendiest new bar to get your gin martini also involves covering a lot of record breakers.

Our web site LLNYC.COM tracks when the highest price is paid for a luxury item, and it happens surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) often, with a new record seemingly broken in a different category every week, a testament to the strength of the luxury market.

For this issue, we feature our favorite record-breaking sales from 2015, including everything from the obvious (the most expensive painting) to the lavish (the most expensive Hermès Birkin bag) to the bizarre (the most expensive biscuit). Many of the sales were made anonymously, suggesting that buyers are less interested in calling attention to themselves and their own wealth than they are in rustling up a stir about the items themselves. The works, not the buyers, are what attract attention.

And yes, some of these items may not be for everyone, but what is luxury if not a justification for spending too much money on the superfluous?

In case you are wondering, there is a major record missing from the list: At $100.5 million, the duplex penthouse apartment at One57 was the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York City. While the news was reported in January, the sale actually happened in December 2014, and so it was excluded from our ranking.

But don’t worry; there are plenty of other fun buys to read about below.

No. 1 Paint by numbers
Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting “Les Femmes D’Alger (Version O)” sold in May at Christie’s in New York for $179.4 million, the most ever paid for a work of art at auction. Though (big surprise) the buyer was unnamed, rumors swirled that it was former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.

At the same auction that the year’s record-breaking Picasso sold, hedge-fund manager and art collector Steven Cohen bought the most expensive sculpture ever, Alberto Giacometti’s “Man Pointing” for $141.3 million. Though he bought it anonymously, he was later outed as the buyer by Page Six.

Chinese billionaire Joseph Lau paid a record-breaking $48.4 million for the “Blue Moon” diamond at Sotheby’s November auction in Geneva as a gift for his seven-year-old daughter, Josephine. We pity any man who ever tries to buy Josephine an engagement ring. 


A stainless steel Patek Philippe wristwatch sold in November for roughly $7.26 million as part of the 2015 Only Watch charitable event in Geneva, which raised money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder. That is the most ever paid for a wristwatch publicly and is 10 times as much as the watch was expected to fetch. That’s mighty charitable!

What’s the fun of going somewhere if you can’t do it in style? The most expensive car collection ever fetched a total of $65 million at the Concours d’Elegance auctions and shows in Pebble Beach. The priciest car of the lot was a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM that went for $17.6 million.

Someone really, really likes cat gifs. In November, Sotheby’s in New York announced the sale of the enormous cat painting “My Wife’s Lovers” by the Austrian artist Carl Kahler. The painting, which depicts 40 cats, was estimated to sell for $200,000 to $300,000, but ended up selling to an unnamed buyer for $826,000, making it the most expensive cat painting ever sold.

What’s better than an Hermès Birkin bag? A Birkin bag with diamonds on it! One such bag in fuchsia crocodile sold to an anonymous buyer at Christie’s in Hong Kong for $223,000 in June, setting the record for the most expensive bag ever sold at auction.


A bottle of 1960 Karuizawa Japanese whiskey sold to an anonymous buyer for $118,500 in August at Bonhams auction in Hong Kong, making it the most expensive Japanese whiskey ever sold. Only 41 bottles of this particular type of whiskey were ever made and presumably party boys on yachts have already consumed many of them.

A cracker that sailed on the Titanic sold to a Greek collector for $23,000 in October through the auction house Henry Aldridge & Son in England. This was the highest price ever paid for a biscuit, which actually comes from the survival kit on the lifeboat. Guess the passengers were a bit too stressed to eat it.

A pair of Queen Victoria’s underwear sold in July for $16,300 at Chippenham Auction House. This was the highest price ever achieved for a pair of her underwear, due to the way the garment was taken in, which allowed historians to date it to the last 10 years of her life.