Auctions for non-profits prove to be an effective way to receive high donations, through exciting and competitive real-time bidding. Event planning committees work hard trying to find the perfect mix of unique auction items that really drive up bids and consequently, profits for your cause.

Some items reach truly astronomical prices by the time the winning bid is accepted. How can you be sure that your non-profit has exciting auction items? It’s never a bad idea to replicate the pros that have sold their items for millions of dollars. We can learn from the auction pros what sells for high bids.

Here is a list of some of the most expensive auction items ever sold:


1. Art as an Auction Item

Edvard Munch's 'Scream' broke the world record in April 2012 for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The final price: 119,922,500, Including commission. (Photo Source: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

Art has always been a high-prized auction item, but not every event planning committee can afford or has the connections to get a Picasso painting for their event. A more attainable, but still coveted auction item is autographed photography.  Like art, autographed guitarspresidential photosautographed animated art and autographed movie posters are of timeless value. Linked to a person’s past, present, and future, autographed photographs can have more of a sentimental value and quality for some people than a piece of traditional art.


2. Instruments as an Auction Item

1721 “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius Violin was at Tarisio Auction House for $15,894,000.The Nippon Music Foundation pledged the entire proceeds of the sale to Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. (Photo Source: The Times UK)

Instruments, like art, hold a special place in our hearts. Although every auction can’t get a 18th century instrument, autographed guitars are attainable. These items have been proven to be valuable items for non-profits. Research shows that autographed music memorabilia receives 260% above fair market value. 

pic33. Sports Memorabilia as Auction Item

With the winning bid of $3 million dollars, Mark McGwire's 70th-home-run baseball holds the record for the most expensive sports memorabilia. (Photo Source: AFP/Getty)

Authentic sports memorabilia is attainable to any auction event. Bringing life and excitement, autographed sports memorabilia creates an opportunity to receive high-bids from long-time donors who want to make their financial commitments to your cause, while leaving your event with a memorable item.

4. Hair Locks for Auction Item

The tresses from Elvis Presley sold for more than $100,000 in 2002. (Photo Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Corbis)

pic4Although Locks of Hair from old-time famous celebrities do raise quite a bid, imagine what offering an all-access, “Meet your favorite sports star” for a day with would do. Even planning committees could offer at their fundraiser a game of flag football with your favorite NFL player or a relaxing round of golf with a current PGA Star.