Kurt Cobain’s paper plate sold at auction for $22,400.
Source: Julien’s Auctions
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as the saying goes. This was proven on May 18, when a paper plate was sold by Julien’s Auctions for $22,400.
But this wasn’t just any old paper plate. No less a celebrity than late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain had eaten a piece of pizza off of it, then wrote the band’s setlist on it for their April 23, 1990 performance at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.
If that seems either excessive or unusual, it isn’t. While it’s true that many celebrity artifacts that make it to Sotheby’s or Christie’s are more valuable in their pristine, flawless condition, it’s also true that some which reach the auction block are things that almost anyone would throw away, frequently for sanitary reasons.
Here’s a look at some of the items that celebrities left behind, and fans fished out of the garbage, to sell for unexpectedly large sums of money.
Britney Spears’ partially eaten food: $520
In 2006, pop siren Britney Spears and then-husband Kevin Federline supposedly ate an egg salad sandwich and a corn dog, respectively, at a catered affair at an unidentified hotel. The “Oops!… I Did It Again” singer didn’t finish her sandwich and Federline didn’t finish his corn dog, but when the server came to take away their plates, Spears took a bite of the corn dog, saying, “I can’t let that go to waste.”
The server put the unfinished foodstuffs on Australian eBay and after 43 bids, the Golden Palace Casino emerged victorious, winning the leftovers for $520, according to NBC’s Today show website.
Justin Timberlake’s abandoned french toast: $1,025
In 2000, Justin Timberlake, then still a member of the boy band ‘N Sync, was the subject of a morning interview on New York City radio station Z-100. He was fed French Toast, which he did not finish, and after the interview a station employee put the food on eBay, where 19-year-old fan Kathy Summers of Madison, WI snapped it up for $1,025.
“I’ll probably freeze-dry it, then seal it… then put it on my dresser,” Summers said when asked what she planned to do with the leftovers. As to why the French Toast was unfinished in the first place, Entertainment Weekly reported that she said it looked “a little bit on the burnt side.”
Britney Spears’ used pregnancy test: $5,001
In 2005, a year before her unfinished egg salad sandwich sold for hundreds of dollars, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline stayed at a Los Angeles hotel, where she supposedly used a home pregnancy test. She is said to have left it in the bathroom garbage, but that didn’t stop it from somehow winding up in the hands of the Morning Hot Tub show on the Hot 89.9 radio station in Ottawa.
As with her egg salad sandwich, the Golden Palace Casino won the bidding war once again but this time, it cost them $5,001, nearly ten times what they had paid for the sandwich. According to CNN, proceeds from the sale went to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Easter Seal Society.
Scarlett Johansen’s used tissue: $5,300
In 2008, “Avengers: Endgame” star Scarlett Johansen appeared on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” even though she was suffering from a cold. Leno offered her a tissue, she blew her nose into it, then put it in a baggie and signed it.
The diseased tissue showed up on eBay shortly thereafter, where it fetched a winning bid of $5,300, which was donated to the charity USA Harvest. It was not the first time Johansen had lent her star power to charity – BBC News added that earlier that same year, a fan had paid £20,000 for a 20-minute date with her, with all proceeds going to Oxfam.
Elvis Presley’s empty quaalude bottle: $8,320
Elvis Presley may have left this mortal plane 42 years ago, but the effort to make money off of his belongings lives on. Those belongings aren’t limited just to iconic items like his cape or jumpsuit either – in 2016, his empty prescription pill bottle for Quaaludes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $8,320.
Dated January 20, 1977, the prescription was given to him by Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, known colloquially as “Dr. Nick.” According to Julien’s Auctions, it came from the home of Dr. Elias Ghanem, who treated Presley when he was in Las Vegas, and whose estate provided the auction house with a letter of authenticity.
Lady Gaga’s acrylic fingernail: $13,000
In 2012, singer Lady Gaga was performing at Aviva Stadium in Dublin when one of the black acrylic fingernails that she was wearing came off. The nail, which was designed by artist Aya Fukuda, was retrieved by a crew member when Lady Gaga’s performance was over.
The fingernail was put up for auction and according to E! News, the winning bidder paid $13,000 for the nail. The listing said that the bidder also won a photograph of Lady Gaga onstage at the event, minus the fingernail.
John Lennon’s tooth: $31,200
Beatlemania has been known to drive fans to extreme measures, and it was no different in 2011 when Canadian dentist Michael Zuk won John Lennon’s tooth from the Omega Auction House. He paid $31,200 for the rotten molar, which had been yanked from the late Beatle’s mouth. Lennon then gave it to his housekeeper, Dorothy “Dot” Jarlett, according to her son, Barry. But why?
“She was very close with John, and one day whilst chatting in the kitchen, John gave my mother the tooth… and suggested giving it to my sister as a souvenir, as she was a huge Beatles fan,” he said. “It has been in the family ever since.” Although the tooth was too fragile to withstand a DNA test, the auction house said that the fact that it came from Lennon’s housekeeper was proof enough for them of its authenticity.