Top 10 Most Expensive Items Ever Discovered

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Top 10 Most Expensive Items Ever Discovered

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
One person's trash is another's treasure. For this list, we're looking at the most valuable finds of all time, some discovered by accident, some sought very much on purpose; and while some are individual objects worth an extraordinary amount, others are large quantities of riches. As well, note that some of these discoveries took place over a number of years or are still ongoing. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we'll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Expensive Items That People Discovered.
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Top 10 Most Expensive Items That People Discovered



One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Expensive Items That People Discovered.



For this list, we’re looking at the most valuable finds of all time, some discovered by accident, some sought very much on purpose; and while some are individual objects worth an extraordinary amount, others are large quantities of riches. As well, note that some of these discoveries took place over a number of years or are still ongoing.



#10: The Belitung Shipwreck




Around 1200 years ago, a ship carrying a wealth of treasures sank near Indonesia. The Arabian ship was on its way to China when it sank, though why it did and how it wound up so far away from its intended route remains a mystery The wreckage was finally discovered in 1998 and boasts the largest collection of Tang Dynasty relics ever recovered. Even the ship itself, a rare Arabian dhow, is worth a lot to historians and collectors alike. While it’s never been definitively valued, the Singapore government acquired much of the artefacts for a huge $32 million. However, the wreckage is plagued by controversy, with many claiming the excavations to be unlawful.





#9: World’s Largest Natural Pearl




In 2006, a fisherman from the Philippines discovered an enormous pearl hiding in the mouth of an equally large clam hidden deep beneath the ocean. Giant clams can weigh up to 880lbs, but it’s rare for them to produce pearls. Given the size of this particular pearl however, a giant one is the only bi-valve within which it logically could have formed. Weighing a staggering 75 or so pounds on its own, the pearl has been valued at over $100 million. That’s a lot of clams! Remarkably, the fisherman who found it didn’t take it to get it valued or sell it straight away, instead he slept with it under his bed for a decade as a good luck charm. And with a price tag like that, who are we to disagree?



#8: The Antikythera Treasures




The coastal waters off the small Greek island of Antikythera played host to quite the archaeological find when a ship was discovered by a group of divers in the year 1900. It’s such a wealth of treasure that new discoveries have been made as recently as 2017, when evidence of ancient Greek statues made of solid bronze was discovered in the depths – including a large arm. It’s thought that, hidden underneath large boulders, there could be a total of seven to nine such statues. This is the most exciting recent Antikythera treasure to be uncovered, but the wreck’s most famous offering to date remains the Antikythera Mechanism, which was discovered in 1901 and is thought to be the oldest analog “computer” in human history.



#7: Lost Caravaggio




Among the esteemed Renaissance painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s best-known works is Judith Beheading Holofernes, which was painted at the very end of the 16th Century. In 2014, however, a second version of the same painting, still allegedly belonging to Caravaggio but notably different from the original, was discovered in an attic in Toulouse, France. For years, the painting was banned from being auctioned as people worked to determine its authenticity – and even the Louvre, the world’s largest museum, turned down the opportunity to buy it. Valued at up to $170 million, it was bought for an unknown amount by an art collector in the summer of 2019.





#6: SS Central America




Dubbed the “Ship of Gold”, this boat and its contents immediately bring to mind images of unfathomable wealth. The SS Central America was a steamer ship that sank on the eastern U.S. coast in 1857 while carrying so much gold that its loss contributed to the great financial panic of the same year. This gold is today worth an estimated $550 million, but the wreckage remained lost for 130 years. A lot of the gold has yet to be recovered, with the most valuable piece being a single ingot that sold for $8 million. The ship is also a resting place for 425 of its passengers, and measures are being taken to preserve it, while legal battles complicate recovery efforts.





#5: The Black Swan Project




Treasure hunts are often controversial, with the parties involved constantly arguing about who has the right to what depending on the history of an object, where it was found and who did the finding; but few such cases are as controversial as the Black Swan Project. This was the name given to the effort to recover the wreck of a Spanish frigate, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1804. Originally a private company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, sought to claim the wreck, but after a drawn-out battle in court, it was ruled to be the property of the Spanish government. Considering it’s worth half a billion dollars, it’s no wonder they fought so hard for this prize.





#4: Venus de Milo




You could make a pretty solid case that the Venus de Milo is the most famous statue in the world, and certainly the most famous ancient statue. This armless Aphrodite was found as recently as 1820, by a humble farmer digging around some ancient ruins on the Greek island of Milos. The statue was taken by French sailors who were stationed nearby, hence the name being French and not Greek, and has been displayed in the Louvre since then. It was only moved when the Paris Commune threatened to destroy countless works of art in the late 19th Century and during World War II. Valued at a cool $1 billion, it’s a miracle that she’s only ever lost her arms.





#3: The Dead Sea Scrolls




Discovered in the mid-20th Century, these manuscripts are some of the oldest examples of biblical manuscripts, having been created over 2000 years ago. They’re incredibly important artefacts for Abrahamic religions, and the copper scrolls in particular point to all kinds of ancient treasures, many of which have yet to be discovered. The scrolls have been valued at around $1.2 billion, but their true value to mankind as a whole and the religions they pertain to is utterly priceless. Amazingly, the first scrolls were discovered entirely by accident in some caves in Israel, and since then, many more have been unearthed.







#2: San José Galleon




This sunken ship was carrying an enormous haul of gold and other precious metals and gems to Cartagena, Colombia in the name of the Spanish Empire, but was sunk during the Battle of Barú in 1708. It’s been nicknamed the “World’s Richest Shipwreck” for good reason, and people have been fighting for the right to explore and excavate it since its discovery near Colombia in 2015. The Colombian government has often refused to let private treasure hunters anywhere near the wreckage, bringing about numerous court cases, and to this day they keep the exact location of the wreck a closely guarded secret. Since it contains tens of millions of doubloons, today valued at $17 billion, it’s not hard to see why.





#1: Padmanabhaswamy Temple Treasure




This ancient temple holds some of India’s great treasures and its greatest mysteries. Painted entirely gold, you’ll find Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, and, inside, its secret vaults contain the most valuable treasure hoard in history. The vaults have been closed for centuries, but under the order of the Supreme Court of India, some of them were opened in 2011, revealing what some say is $1 trillion of hidden riches. The treasure is said to have been amassed over the course of thousands of years by the various royal families and dynasties donating to the temple.

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