Foods That Sold for Big Money at Auction

White Truffle: $330,000

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White Truffle: $330,000
MN Chan/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images AsiaPac

Forking It Over

It may be hard to believe, but food and beverages sell for exorbitant prices at auctions all the time. The reasons for the sky-high bids vary. Sometimes the item is a luxury food that commands high prices in restaurants. It may be a one-of-a-kind product or have an interesting tie to history. Often, interesting foods are sold at charity auctions where the rich and famous are happy to plunk down tens of thousands for a good cause. Here are some foods that have fetched eye-popping prices — including the world's oldest known bottle of rum.

Related: 25 Rare Collectibles Worth More Than Your House

Bottle liquor fine craft whiskey bourbon rum tequila gift package

Rum: $30,000

The oldest known bottle of rum ever to be sold at auction hails from 1780 and was distilled in Barbados. In total, 59 bottles of dark and light rum were found under thick mold and cobwebs in the cellar of Harewood House in Leeds, England — we can't help put picture Captain Jack Sparrow on his marooned island making a beeline for his secret rum stash. Just one part of the larger find, the nearly 250-year-old vintage rum raked in $30,000 at a recent auction. Captain Jack would be so proud.

Related: Best Rums Under $35 to Spice Up Your Home Bar

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
Wikimedia Commons

Slice of Charles and Diana's Wedding Cake: $2,565

Wedding cake is never cheap, but would you pay more than $2,500 for a single slice? How about if that slice was 40 years old? Someone did just that at a 2021 auction in Western England, where their bid netted a 28-ounce slice of one of the 23 cakes made for Prince Charles and Princess Diana's lavish 1981 wedding. Preserved since the big day in plastic wrap and an old tin, the cake was decorated with a coat of arms and was described as so well preserved that it could be "a good sales pitch for clingfilm." 

Related: Most Expensive Royal Weddings Around the World

Wikimedia Commons

Blue Cheese: $15,740

Some consumers hate blue cheese so much, you probably couldn't pay them to eat it. But in 2018, a group of 15 Spanish restaurateurs battled it out to buy a wheel of an artisanal variety known as Cabrales, with the winning bid clocking in at more than $15,000. Why so much? The cheese matures for three to six months, with weekly care, in the caves of Picos de Europa, most of which are accessible only via a 1-plus-mile hike. 

Related: The Funkiest Cheeses in the World

Bluefin Tuna: $3.1 Million
Ken Ishii/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images AsiaPac

Bluefin Tuna: $3.1 Million

Japanese tuna used primarily for sushi are sold at auction in fish markets. The most famous market, Tsukiji, was relocated to make way for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, leading to a January 2019 auction of the first tuna at the new market, Toyosu. It sold for $3.1 million. The winning bidder owns a sushi chain and has held the record for most expensive tuna purchase many years in the past.

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White Truffle: $330,000
MN Chan/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images AsiaPac

White Truffle: $330,000

Truffles are one of the world's ultimate luxury foods. They're fungi that grow underground and must be sniffed out by dogs or pigs. The most expensive truffle to date was a very large 3.3-pound specimen that was dug up in Tuscany. A billionaire Macau casino owner named Stanley Ho bought it for $330,000.

Single salted cracker

Cracker From the Titanic: $23,000

Anything that sailed on the Titanic is going to attract high bids. In 2015, a cracker from an emergency kit on board one of the lifeboats was sold for $23,000. The cracker was taken as a souvenir by James Fenwick, a passenger on a boat that came to the Titanic's aid the night it sank.

chocolate golden egg

Chocolate Egg: $11,107

A giant chocolate egg sold in 2012 snagged the record for most expensive chocolate egg sold at auction. The 3-foot, 110-pound egg was decorated with gold leaf and filled with chocolate and truffles. It was auctioned as part of an annual charity event. You have to wonder how long it took to eat.

Harambe-Shaped Cheeto: $99,900

Harambe-Shaped Cheeto: $99,900

In 2016, a toddler fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and zoo officials killed the gorilla to protect the boy. The boy was fine, but the public was not happy with the death of the gorilla, Harambe, who became an internet phenomenon. An enterprising eBay user decided to capitalize on the gorilla's infamy after finding a Cheeto shaped like Harambe. For some reason, the single corn puff sold for $99,900 on the auction site.

Virgin Mary Toast: $28,000

Virgin Mary Toast: $28,000

Before the Harambe Cheeto, there was the Virgin Mary toast. While a woman was eating a grilled cheese sandwich, she noticed that half of it seemed to have an image of Mary emblazoned on it. She kept it in a plastic box, and 10 years later auctioned it on eBay, where it sold for $28,000 in 2004. 

Macallan Amber

Macallan Scotch: $1.9 Million

A rare bottle of 1926 Macallan Scotch whisky aged in a sherry barrel sold for nearly $2 million in October 2019, which is notable because another had sold for $1.5 million at the end of 2018, and that bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon. Whatever deep-pocketed Scotch fan bought the most recent bottle at a Sotheby's auction is clearly more a fan of spirits than art.

Tom Merton/istockphoto

Bunch of Grapes: $10,900

Fruit is big business in Japan. All kinds of fruits are grown with exacting techniques to create what are seen as perfect specimens, which are then bought for exorbitant amounts and often given as gifts. In 2016, a bunch of about 30 grapes sold for $10,900 — more than $360 a grape. History repeated itself in 2019 when a smaller cluster of the same type of grapes — a Ping-Pong-ball-size variety called Ruby Roman with a sugar content and low acidity — sold for almost exactly the same price.

Japanese Melons

Pair of Melons: $45,600

Similarly, two melons sold in Japan for more than $45,000 in May 2019. They were bought by an employee of a Japanese beverage company that sells a Yubari melon-flavored soda. The final tally was well over the previous year's final auction price of around $29,000.

Vodka and Caviar: $139,000

Vodka and Caviar: $139,000

A charity auction at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 brought about the purchase of a $139,000 bottle of vodka and caviar. The vodka, a bottle of RussoBaltique, is filtered through diamonds and contains a diamond filter in the bottle. The caviar was produced by the same Latvian company as the vodka.

Fortune Cookie: $17,473

Fortune Cookie: $17,473

The most expensive fortune cookie ever sold at auction fetched $17,473. It was auctioned in London at the 2006 Chinese New Year gala dinner to benefit the charity Kids. Here's hoping it contained a really good fortune.

Collection wine

Bottle of Wine: $558,000

Sotheby's predicted a bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti Burgundy would sell for around $32,000, but that was way off. Instead, the wine went for $558,000 in 2018. Only 600 bottles were made by the winemaker in 1945, and the grapevines were dug up and moved at the end of the season.

Yamazaki Japanese whisky bottle

Japanese Whisky: $795,000

Whisky lovers can't seem to get their hands on enough rare bottles: They often fetch the highest prices of any alcohol at auction. A bottle from Japan's oldest whisky distillery, Yamazaki, sold for $795,000 in 2020. The whisky inside was 55 years old.

Royal Wedding Cake: $29,900
Royal Wedding Cake: $29,900 by National Media Museum (CC BY)

More Royal Wedding Cake: $29,900

If you think an old slice of Charles and Diana's wedding cake was expensive, hold onto your hat. When King Edward III decided to abdicate in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a love story for the ages played out. A piece of their wedding cake was saved in a small box and sold for $29,900 in an auction of their estate items in 1999.

McDonald's Szechuan Sauce

McDonald's Szechuan Sauce: $15,000

Back before McDonald's widened distribution of its Szechuan dipping sauce, there was a mad rush for the condiment originally created to promote the movie "Mulan" in 1998. It gained notoriety among fans of the adult cartoon "Rick and Morty," who included it in a gag. Thanks to the combination of popularity and scarcity, a bottle of the sauce sold on eBay for $15,350 in 2017.

Ham: $2.8 Million

Ham: $4.8 Million

An annual ham breakfast hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau at the Kentucky State Fair always includes a charity auction. In 2021, Central Bank and power couple Kelly and Joe Craft shelled out some $4.8 million for a 17-pound ham. In 2018, an 18.8-pound grand champion ham brought in $2.8 million thanks to two donors who combined their bids. The proceeds went to the University of Kentucky.

old champagne bottle

Shipwrecked Champagne: $275,000

During World War I, Tsar Nicholas II commissioned a Swedish ship to deliver bottles of wine and Champagne. The ship was sunk off the coast of Finland and not salvaged until 1998. The cold sea kept a bottle of 1907 Charles Heidsieck Champagne preserved. That "shipwrecked Champagne" brought in $275,000 at an auction in Moscow.

tall burger

Burger: $10,000

At an auction for the Pink Caravan, a breast-cancer charity, a burger sold for $10,000. The 2017 event was a culinary fundraiser in Dubai where chefs prepared extravagant dishes that were then auctioned off. The burger, created by chef Shaikh Al Thani, was bought by the owner of a magazine. Two years earlier, another of his burgers sold for $7,000.

Tray of Mangoes: $54,000
Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images

Tray of Mangoes: $54,000

Each season, a symbolic tray of mangoes is sold at auction at the Brisbane Markets in Australia. In 2012, the mangoes sold for $54,000 (AU$76,000) to Sam Coco, the owner of Coco's Fresh Produce Market, who was crowned as Queensland's Mango King. The money went to two local children's charities.

growing pineapple

Pineapple: $13,000

The Botanical Gardens of Heligan in England produced pineapples in 2012 in a Victorian-style greenhouse that used tons of fresh manure to fertilize and produce heat. According to the gardens, the pineapples were sweet and not stringy. They were auctioned off for about $13,000 each.


Taco: $27,960

A taco and a glass of tequila were sold at a charity auction in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2017 for $27,960. The decadent taco was made with langoustine, Kobe beef, caviar, and black-truffle brie cheese wrapped in a gold-flake-speckled tortilla. The tequila came from a Le Lay bottle encrusted with diamonds and platinum that was worth $3.5 million itself. Proceeds from the winning bid went to Los Cabos Children's Foundation.

Snow Crab
Andrey Rykov/istockphoto

Crab: $46,000

It's no surprise that the world's most expensive crab was bought at an auction in seafood-loving Japan. The snow crab weighed about 2.7 pounds and was sold in Tottori for $46,000 in fall 2019.

Cognac snifters with bottle on rustic wood table

Cognac: $156,760

In 2011, a bottle of 1858 Cuvée Leonie cognac was sold at auction for $156,760. It's rumored that Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower plotted the D-Day invasions while sipping from a different bottle of this 1858 Croizet. In 2020, a 1762 bottle of Gautier cognac sold for $144,525.

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani
Wikimedia Commons

Bottle of Water: $60,000

It's no regular bottle of water that earned a price tag of $60,000 in 2010. The 750 milliliters of water was sourced from Fiji and France, then put in a 24-karat-gold-decorated bottle designed in the style of late Italian artist Amedeo Clemente Modigliani. The auction benefited the Plan3t Foundation and the fight against climate change.

Oil Change
Christopher Jue/Stringer/Getty Images

Lincoln French Fry: $75,100

It's not food, but the Lincoln fry deserves a spot on this list. Created by McDonald's for a marketing campaign in 2005, the fry is molded plastic meant to look like a french fry with the profile of Abe Lincoln. After the campaign had run its course, including a Super Bowl commercial and a blog meant to look like the folks who "discovered" the fry had created it, the fry was auctioned on Yahoo for $75,100, all of which went to the Ronald McDonald House. The company that bought the Lincoln fry, ProgressPlay, which owns multiple online casinos, also bought the Virgin Mary toast.