Auctions 2013: the year in review

With 2013 drawing to a close, it's time to look back on what was a banner year in the auction world. Records were broken, intriguing new finds emerged on the market, and some of the most interesting collectibles from pop culture were sold. And if 2013 was any indication, 2014 should be even more exciting.

Record prices at art auctions
According to Bloomberg, in 2013 the Top 10 most expensive lots in the art world were auctioned off for a total of more than $750 million. That represents an increase of 27 percent from 2012, and a whopping 82 percent rise from 2011.

Works by 20th century masters topped the list of the most expensive sales, with Francis Bacon's 1969 triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" coming in at number one, having sold for $142.4 million at a fine art auction on Nov. 12. Andy Warhol came in second on the year when his silk-screen painting "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)" sold for more than $100 million on Nov. 13.

Jeffrey Koons set a record for living artists on the same day Bacon's piece was sold. Koons' 10-foot-tall sculpture "Balloon Dog (Orange)" sold for $58.4 million, supplanting Gerhard Richter, whose painting "Domplatz, Mailand" was sold for $37.1 million in May.

Museum-quality discoveries
Works of art weren't the only pieces to make auction news in 2013. A walnut desk that was built in 1808 by famed American cabinetmaker John Shearer was sold for $354,000. Shearer was known for hiding cranky messages inside his works, and the walnut desk didn't disappoint. A note found inside the desk offered praise for one client, but denounced two others.

A black lacquer chest that had been until recently used as a television stand and minibar by a French citizen turned out to be worth nearly $10 million when it was sold at a fine art auction in June. It turns out the chest was manufactured in the mid-17th century by Japanese artisans, and scholars long assumed the piece had been destroyed during World War II.

Pop culture, old and new
When Charley Ross, the 4-year-old son of a wealthy Philadelphia dry goods merchant, was kidnapped in 1870 the case made national headlines, becoming a long-running public obsession. Earlier this year, a set of nearly 25 letters written by the kidnappers to Charley's father were rediscovered in a Philadelphia basement and sold at auction for $20,000.

To finish off the year, one of the most iconic pieces of pop culture of all time – Han Solo's blaster from Episodes V and VI of the Star Wars trilogy – sold for $200,000 in an online auction in December.

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