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Collectors are drawn to the items they collect for many reasons—use, artistic value, historical or cultural significance or nostalgia. They collect glassware, pottery, toys, tools, silver, prints or figurines. But sometimes collectors are attracted to the unusual, and they buy items that are whimsical, unique or odd. Here are 8 of the most “out of the ordinary” items that sold in 2017.


1.  A gold necklace with real hummingbird heads was a stunner at the spring 2017 Chicago Antiques + Art + Design Show. It was swag-style with three actual hummingbird heads with glass eyes. Their beaks protruded from the 14-karat gold frames. Made in England about 1885-90, asking price at the show was $36,000.


2.  An old trunk for transporting human blood sold for $393 at a Rachel Davis auction in Ohio. The lined 23 by 22-inch trunk with metal brackets was marked “Transporting Human Blood, This End Up, Human Blood, Keep Cool, Must Not Freeze.” We knew one like it caused a rushed delivery from airplane baggage.


3.  A life-size jointed artist’s mannequin brought $45,000 at an October Rago auction. The 60-inch wooden figure with a carved face was made in France about 1860 and had been an admired fixture in a Manhattan shop window. We wonder how the new owner is displaying this wooden “man.”


4.  An unusual garden entranceway made from whale rib bones interested bidders at a spring garden and architectural auction by Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia. The unique two-rib arch brought $8,500, well past the $600 to $900 estimate. The 146-inch-high arch was from a New Jersey estate.


5.  Two amputation kits used by a Revolutionary War surgeon who served in the Continental Army sold together for $104,147 at an RR auction in Boston. They had been owned and used by Dr. John Warren, an Army surgeon who saw action at the the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Dr. Warren became a founder of Harvard Medical School in 1782. Odd, but great historic items.

6.  A Victorian diorama of two taxidermy squirrels playing cards at a table sold for $4,012. Taxidermists in the 19th century created imaginary scenes to display. This entertaining diorama is 15 inches high by 18 inches wide. It sold at a William Jenack auction in June 2017.


7.  A phone used by Adolph Hitler during World War II was auctioned last winter by Alexander Historical Auctions in Maryland. The winning bidder paid $243,000. The red Siemens dial phone originally had a black Bakelite body and had Hitler’s name engraved on it. It was found in his bunker in Berlin after the war and given to a British officer.


8.  Two new but crumpled “19th-century” porcelain vases looked in bad shape at a summer Treadway Toomey auction. But the unique vases were artwork made by Steven Y. Lee. They captivated the collector who paid $14,300. The vases are 23 inches high and decorated with cobalt inlay and decals.






#5 Victorian macabreMuchAdoAboutJunkin 2018-01-05 11:07
Thank you for sharing this unique list, esp. since some items may horror some people. However, this is a good educational tool on history and the Victorian fascination with the macabre.
#4 Thank Youmarilyn2011 2018-01-04 10:03
I, for one, thank you for showing us these unusual items including the necklace and the squirrels. While some are outraged, one must accept that items like these are part of history. While we may not accept things like this now and would not promote the use of animals in such a way, historically they were amazing works of art and a wonder to see. Thank you for sharing them.
#3 Gambling Squirrelsmedgarevans21 2018-01-04 00:33
I prefer my squirrels horizontal and scampering after nuts. Gambling is a dangerous path to follow and lying in wait behind wayside trees are dealers in misery, unsavoury beasts with voracious appetites, drooling at the prospect of a hot squirrel for lunch. Encourage your squirrel to stay away from poker tables and indulge in more outdoor, healthier pursuits . Nothing but heartache, loneliness, destitution, degradation and insanity lies that way.
I know I was that squirrel.
#2 Ridiculousrgilson7 2018-01-03 21:22
It’s ridiculous that in this day and age that you call out the sale of a necklace with real bird heads. You continued the outrage by showing taxidermist squirrels. Items created on the dead bodies of animals available for sale are an abomination, but you don’t have to be a part of it. Stop it.
#1 Strangest thing I've ever soldMommifer 2018-01-03 19:27
Nothing as strange as in this story. Bought an old electric toothbrush, with box, extra brushes still in wrap and the pamphlet. It was from the early 1950s. If I remember correctly it was made by Squibb.
Sold for just under $170. Suspect it went into a dental collection. It was one of the first sold in the US.
It plugged directly into the wall .... yikes!
Oh and I bought it at a yard sale for a whopping $.50!

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