For some reason even the most mundane objects can become valuable if a celebrity owned—or even just touched—them. This article was first published in our 29th annual edition, Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.
Scarlett Johansson appeared on The Tonight Show in 2008 while sick with a cold. After the show, she was persuaded to put one of her used tissues in a plastic bag and autograph the bag. The bag and tissue sold for $5,300 on eBay. Proceeds were donated to USA Harvest, a charity that feeds homeless people.
In 2010, a set of Marilyn Monroe’s chest X-rays, taken in Florida in 1954, sold for $45,000 at a Las Vegas auction.
Sometime in the 1960s, John Lennon gave a rotten, extracted tooth to his housekeeper, Dot Jarlett. Lennon wanted her to throw it away, but jokingly told her to give it to her Beatles-crazed daughter. Jarlett did indeed pass it along, and in 2011, the younger Jarlett sold it to Omega Auctions in London. It sold to a Canadian dentist named Michael Zuk for $31,200. Zuk has bizarre plans for the tooth: he wants to extract Lennon’s DNA from it and someday create a John Lennon clone that “could be looked at as my son.”
Los Angeles police commissioner Steve Soboroff spotted pop star Rihanna at a Los Angeles Lakers game in May 2014. They met, but then Rihanna accidentally knocked Soboroff’s phone out of his hand. When it fell to the ground and broke, the singer tried to make up for the loss by signing the phone, “Sorry, I love LAPD, Rihanna.” Soboroff auctioned off the broken phone for $65,000 and donated the money to the LAPD Cadet Program.
While Michael Jackson was filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984, a fireworks display went off too early, and Jackson’s hair caught fire. He was badly burned, and in the chaos lots of his charred hair fell to the ground. A producer named Ralph Cohen collected some of it, and in 2009, he sold it at an auction. Price of 12 strands of the King of Pop’s hair: $1,600.
One of the black acrylic nails Lady Gaga wore during a 2012 concert in Dublin, Ireland, broke off during her performance. After the show, a member of the stage crew found it, snatched it up, and sold it for $13,000.
In October 2014, Willie Nelson’s signature braids were sold at an Arizona auction house for $37,000. They weren’t even fresh. Cut off in the 1980s, Nelson had given them as a present to country singer Waylon Jennings.
On a tour of Wales in 2004, Canadian pop star Bryan Adams took off his Armani socks in the back of a taxi. He left them behind, and the car company sent them to an auction house. Winning bid on the “Summer of ’69” singer’s dirty socks: £541, or about $770.
Queen Elizabeth II
In 1968, Queen Elizabeth II accidentally left behind a pair of monogrammed silk underwear on a private plane in Chile. Years later, the pilot gave the panties to Miami artist Baron Joseph de Bicske Dobronyi, and in 2012 his family auctioned them off for $18,101.
In a 2015 auction, Julien’s Auctions of Los Angeles offered a 1988 Visa credit card application filled out by Whitney Houston. Her request for a $5 million credit line was approved; the application includes Houston’s address and Social Security number.
A year after he died in 1987, an auction of Liberace’s personal effects was held in Las Vegas. The weirdest item: Liberace’s Nevada driver’s license, bearing his full name, Wladziu Liberace. It sold for $1,700.
By 2001, 1980s heartthrob Corey Haim had fallen on hard times. He approached a Las Vegas celebrity memorabilia store called Startifacts about auctioning off some of his possessions. One item—a bad tooth that had been removed by a dentist—was almost included…but was pulled at the last minute. (Get it? Pulled!)
Wil Wheaton starred in Stand By Me and on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Today he’s a blogger and Internet personality. In 2012, he put a dented table-tennis ball he found in his garage on eBay. Wheaton named it “Silas.” It sold for $1,135.
Pete Best’s claim to fame: he was the drummer fired by the Beatles right before they became the most popular band in the world. Despite being kicked out of the Beatles, he signed a Beatles drum head in 2015, and it was auctioned off for $1,024. (At the same auction, a baseball signed by the Fab Four sold for $100,000.)
Former child star Gary Coleman auctioned off a number of personal items on eBay in 2008 to help pay off some hospital bills. Among the lot: a pair of blue, size XL Gap Kids sweatpants that Coleman autographed. The winning bid: $400,000. But the payment was never received, so the sweatpants went to the second-place bidder—talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. His bid: $500.