First John Lennon's toilet sells, now his teeth: a look at 'strange' collectibles

How much would you pay for John Lennon's tooth? Or would you even buy it?

On Saturday, a collector paid £19,500 ($31,000) for the pleasure of owning the former Beatle singer's incisor - twice the tooth's £10,000 pre-sale estimate.

That the tooth sold to a dentist perhaps lends the sale some perspective... But it was only the latest in a series of unusual sales to have graced the collectors' markets.

At 'the other end' of the collectibles markets was the recent attempted sale of a 'unique piece' of Saddam Hussein's statue, which was famously toppled in central Baghdad during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The statue's 2ft (0.6m) wide bronze "buttock" was consigned by a former SAS soldier, Nigel Ely, who had brought it back to the UK. It went up for auction in Derby, UK.

In the end, the buttock attracted a £21,000 high bid in Hansons Auctioneers' sale from a telephone bidder in New York. But even that wasn't enough...

Ely reportedly wanted £250,000 and returned home with the bronze buttock, its reserve unmet.

John Lennon's tooth
How much for John Lennon's tooth? £19,500 ($31,000), believe it or not

Such disappointment remains alien to the seller of Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin in November of last year.

Bids on the casket which once held the body of President John F Kennedy's assassin opened at just $1,000, before rocketing all the way to $87,000.

While macabre, the coffin is undoubtedly a piece of America's history. It was exhumed in 1981 to successfully prove that the body inside was Oswald's - and not, as some had speculated, a Russian spy - before emerging on the collectors' markets three decades later.

All rather morbid. But at least the coffin hadn't grown out of Oswald's body, like John Lennon's tooth. Or like this unique item which has been valued at $100,000 after its whereabouts were unknown for decades...

Napoleon's penis was thought lost forever, until it finally popped up in 1916. Descendants of the priest who administered the last rites to Napoleon in 1821 sold an item claimed to be the emperor's penis to a rare book company that year.

The appendage, believed to be between an inch to an inch-and-a-half in length, was last seen at auction in 1977. A professor at Columbia University got his hands on it for $3,000, and Napoleon's penis has since been passed down through the family.

Collectibles from beyond the grave... Or inside it: Lee Harvey Oswald

Believe it or not, the professor's daughter recently turned down an offer of $100,000 to part with it...

That said, you don't need to resort to collecting body parts to get 'closer' to history's icons. Take this other example leaked to Beatle John Lennon, for instance.

While most collectors opt to bid on guitars, pianos, stage-worn outfits or even handwritten lyrics, something even more unusual appeared for sale at an auction organised by Fab Four expert Stephen Bailey in August 2010.

The sale offered John Lennon's porcelain toilet from his Berkshire house (his final home before leaving the UK forever for New York). It sold for £9,500.

To describe the above examples as 'varied' is an understatement. But how did today's collectors become fascinated which such strange and wonderful items?

The answer lies largely with collectors of the Victorian era who, in the words of author Jaqueline Yallop in her book on the subject entitled Magpies, Squirrels and Thieves, were "as much an expression of the age as cotton mills or railways."

Indeed, back in Victorian times you were more likely to acquire a lock of your favourite celebrity's hair than their autograph. Celebrity hair collecting today remains a strong and growing global market.

Your in the army now... Elvis gets the world's most famous buzz-cut

Just ask the online collectibles retailer, whose sock includes hairs from Victorian-era novelist Charles Dickens, the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, and even teen pop sensation Justin Bieber.

In other words, the markets for 'strange and wonderful' collectibles go back centuries.

And, as demonstrated by this week's £19,500 ($31,000) sale of John Lennon's tooth, they are continuing to go from strength to strength.

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