Objects of Desire: Record Breaking Auction Sales in 2021
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Objects of Desire: Record Breaking Auction Sales in 2021

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Record Breaking Auction Sales in 2021

2021 may have been the year of the NFT, but wealthy collectors still dropped plenty of cash on physical objects. This included the usual items like paintings and cars, as well as some more obscure ones like meteorites.

To gain insight into the world of rare collectibles, this infographic summarizes the biggest auction sales of 2021, spread across 12 different item categories.

The Numbers

The key details of these sales are listed below in tabular format. Some broke all-time records, while others set the record for 2021 specifically.

ObjectCategorySale Price (USD)Auction House
Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise près d’une fenêtrePaintings$103.4MChristie’s
Final text of the United States ConstitutionPrinted texts$43.2MSotheby’s
15.81-carat Sakura diamondPurple-pink diamonds$29.3MChristie’s
1995 McLaren F1Automobiles$20.5MGooding & Company
1933 Double Eagle coinCoins$18.9MSotheby’s
The revolver used to kill Billy the KidFirearms$6.0MBonhams
Grande et Petite SonnerieWatches$5.3MPhillips
1993 Ron Arad “D-Sofa”Furniture$1.6MPhillips
Pair of Michael Jordan’s Nike Air ShipsShoes$1.5MSotheby’s
Necklace featuring a 56.87-carat emeraldEmeralds$1.0MPhillips
4.5B year old Fukang meteoriteMeteorites$702KChristie’s
Hermès Black Togo Birkin 35Handbags$155KBonhams

The Details

Here are some interesting facts and details about these rare collectibles, starting with:

Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)

This 1932 painting is a depiction of Picasso’s lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter (1909-1977). Walter is believed to have had a significant impact on Picasso’s work, and the pair had a child out-of-wedlock in 1935.

He loved the blondeness of her hair, her luminous complexion, her sculptural body.
– Brassaï

Sold by Christie’s in New York, this was the first painting to auction for over $100 million in nearly two years. The all-time record holder is Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450 million in 2016 to Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

1995 McLaren F1

Produced between 1992 and 1998, the McLaren F1 is widely regarded as one of the most desirable supercars in the world. It features many innovations that are still rare in modern road cars, including a carbon fiber monocoque (the main structure of the car), active aerodynamics on the underbody, and a centered driving position.

The F1’s legacy is cemented by the fact that only 106 were ever produced, many of which have been owned by celebrities. That includes Elon Musk, who famously crashed his F1 in 2000 without insurance.

The specific car highlighted above was sold by Gooding & Company, a classic car auction company. It has just 242 miles (390 km) on the clock, which translates to an average of 9.3 miles (15 km) being driven on the road per year.

1933 Double Eagle Coin

The 1933 Double Eagle is one of the last $20 gold coins ever produced in the United States. It dates back to an era when the U.S. dollar’s value was tied to gold, which is a system known as the gold standard. The coins were melted down when the U.S. transitioned to fiat money, and only 13 examples are known to exist today.

After selling for $18.9 million, this Double Eagle holds the title as the most valuable rare coin in the world.

The Revolver Used to Kill Billy the Kid

The Colt single-action revolver that was used to kill Billy the Kid is now the most expensive firearm ever sold at an auction. It belonged to Sheriff Pat Garrett, who killed Billy in 1881.

Billy is one of the most notorious figures from America’s wild west era and was responsible for the deaths of eight men, including two sheriff’s deputies during an escape from jail.

Because of Billy’s legacy, this revolver is lauded as one of the most desirable Western firearms in existence. Surprisingly, it was the gun’s first appearance in a public auction.

Final Text of the United States Constitution

This first-edition copy of the U.S. constitution is an incredibly rare and historically significant artifact. The story of how it sold is equally as impressive.

Bidding came down to two parties, one of which was Ken Griffin, billionaire CEO of Citadel. If you’re an investor, that name may sound familiar—Citadel was a hedge fund involved in the r/wallstreetbets saga of 2021.

The other party was ConstitutionDAO, a group of 17,000+ crypto investors who pooled together $47 million worth of Ethereum. The term “DAO” refers to a decentralized autonomous organization, which is an online entity that’s collectively owned by its members without centralized leadership—and that takes action based on transparent rules set on a public blockchain.

In the end, the copy was sold to Griffin for a total of $43.2 million. Organizers of ConstitutionDAO could not place a higher bid because they wouldn’t have had enough money to insure, store, and transport the document.

About Those NFTs…

NFTs only exist in the digital realm, but they’ve quickly become some of the world’s most valuable collectibles. How valuable, you may ask?

For starters, consider the $7.6 million sale of CryptoPunk #3100, a profile picture (PFP) NFT that depicts a blue zombie. Then there’s The Merge, a digital artwork comprised of 312,686 pieces. In December 2021, it was sold to a collective of 28,983 buyers who, altogether, paid $91.8 million.

All of this hype has led some of the world’s oldest auction houses to begin selling NFTs through online events. This includes Christie’s (founded in 1766), which surpassed $100 million in NFT auction sales in less than a year.

Whether this momentum can carry forward is questionable. Interest in NFTs has plummeted, and crypto markets remain incredibly volatile.

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Agriculture

Which Countries Produce the Most Wheat?

Global wheat production is concentrated in just a handful of countries. Here’s a look at the top wheat-producing countries worldwide.

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Visualizing Global Wheat Production by Country (2000-2020)

Wheat is a dietary staple for millions of people around the world.

After rice and corn (maize), wheat is the third most-produced cereal worldwide, and the second-most-produced for human consumption. And considering wheat’s importance in the global food system, any impact on major producers such as droughts, wars, or other events, can impact the entire world.

Which countries are the largest producers of wheat? This graphic by Kashish Rastogi visualizes the breakdown of 20 years of global wheat production by country.

Top 10 Wheat Producing Countries

While more than 80 different countries produce wheat around the world, the majority of global wheat production comes from just a handful of countries, according to data from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Here’s a look at the top 10 wheat-producing countries worldwide, based on total yield in tonnes from 2000-2020:

RankCountryContinentTotal yield (tonnes, 2000-2020)% of total (2000-2020)
#1🇨🇳 ChinaAsia & Oceania2.4 B17.0%
#2🇮🇳 IndiaAsia & Oceania1.8 B12.5%
#3🇷🇺 RussiaAsia & Oceania1.2 B 8.4%
#4🇺🇸 U.S.Americas1.2 B 8.4%
#5🇫🇷 FranceEurope767 M 5.4%
#6🇨🇦 CanadaAmericas571 M 4.0%
#7🇩🇪 GermanyEurope491 M3.5%
#8🇵🇰 PakistanAsia & Oceania482 M3.4%
#9🇦🇺 AustraliaAsia & Oceania456 M3.2%
#10🇺🇦 UkraineEurope433 M3.1%

China, the world’s largest wheat producer, has yielded more than 2.4 billion tonnes of wheat over the last two decades, making up roughly 17% of total production from 2000-2020.

A majority of China’s wheat is used domestically to help meet the country’s rising food demand. China is the world’s largest consumer of wheat—in 2020/2021, the country accounted for approximately 19% of global wheat consumption.

The second-largest wheat-producing country is India. Over the last two decades, India has produced 12.5% of the world’s wheat. Like China, India keeps most of its wheat domestic because of significant food demand across the country.

Russia, the world’s third-largest wheat producer, is also the largest global exporter of wheat. The country exported more than $7.3 billion worth of wheat in 2021, accounting for approximately 13.1% of total wheat exports that year.

Russia-Ukraine Impact on Global Wheat Market

Because Russia and Ukraine are both significant global wheat producers, the ongoing conflict between the two countries has caused massive disruptions to the global wheat market.

The conflict has had an impact on adjacent industries as well. For instance, Russia is one of the world’s major fertilizer suppliers, and the conflict has led to a global fertilizer shortage which could lead to food shortages worldwide.

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Markets

3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

Bad weather, the war in Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis. Here are three factors you should know.

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3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Bad weather, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis.

This infographic will help you understand the problem by highlighting three key factors behind the mounting food crisis.

#1: The Fertilizer Shortage

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the war has disrupted shipments of fertilizer, an essential source of nutrients for crops.

Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and ranks second in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer exports. Belarus, a Russian ally also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer. In addition, both countries collectively account for over 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.

Here are the top 20 fertilizer exporters globally:

RankCountryExports Value (Billions in USD)
#1🇷🇺 Russia$12.5
#2🇨🇳 China $10.9
#3🇨🇦 Canada$6.6
#4🇲🇦 Morocco$5.7
#5🇺🇸 United States$4.1
#6🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia $3.6
#7🇳🇱 Netherlands$2.9
#8🇧🇪 Belgium$2.6
#9🇴🇲 Oman$2.6
#10🇶🇦 Qatar$2.2
#11🇩🇪 Germany$1.5
#12🇮🇱I srael$1.5
#13🇪🇬 Egypt$1.5
#14🇱🇹 Lithuania$1.4
#15🇩🇿 Algeria$1.4
#16🇪🇸 Spain$1.3
#17🇯🇴 Jordan$1.3
#18🇵🇱 Poland$1.2
#19🇲🇾 Malaysia$1.0
#20🇳🇬 Nigeria$1.0

The main destination of fertilizer exports from Russia are large economies like India, Brazil, China, and the United States.

However, many developing countries—including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and Guatemala—rely on Russia for at least one-fifth of their fertilizer imports.

Furthermore, the war intensified trends that were already disrupting supply, such as increased hoarding by major producing nations like China and sharp jumps in the price of natural gas, a key feedstock for fertilizer production.

#2: Global Grain Exports

The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, along with Western sanctions against Russia, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks, causing inflation in food and energy prices around the world.

This is largely because Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly one-third of the global wheat supply. Wheat is one of the most-used crops in the world annually, used to make a variety of food products like bread and pasta. Additionally, Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil.

ProducerGrain Exports in Million Tons (MT)
🇺🇸 United States93MT
🇷🇺 Russia & 🇺🇦 Ukraine87MT
🇦🇷 Argentina 56MT
🇪🇺 EU50MT
🇧🇷 Brazil44MT
Other87MT

As a result of the blockade, Ukraine’s exports of cereals and oilseed dropped from six million tonnes to two million tonnes per month. After two months of negotiations, the two countries signed a deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that the international food crisis can be eased.

#3: Recent Food Shortages

Besides the war in Ukraine, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change resulted in nearly one billion people going hungry last year, according to United Nations.

France’s wine industry saw its smallest harvest since 1957 in 2021, with an estimated loss of $2 billion in sales due to increasingly higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

Heat, drought, and floods also decimated crops in Latin America, North America, and India in recent months. Between April 2020 and December 2021, coffee prices increased 70% after droughts and frost destroyed crops in Brazil.

In the face of multiple crises, the World Bank recently announced financial support of up to $30 billion to existing and new projects in areas such as agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.

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