The Weirdest Things Your Literary Heroes Have Auctioned Off

If you don’t know who Mildred Wirt Benson is, don’t worry — you’re not alone. However, if you don’t know her most famous work, you may have been living under a rock for the past, oh, 80 years. Or you just skipped your entire adolescence. Benson wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew novels under the pen name Carolyn Keene. And now, her personal effects are up for sale.

When Benson died, she left her belongings to her daughter, Peggy Wirt. When Peggy died in January, an auction was arranged in Ohio. The items auctioned seemed to garner higher bids the more intimate they were — cancelled checks written by Benson went for $900, while Rediscovering Nancy Drew, a book that details how the character and series were created, inscribed by Benson for her daughter, sold for $2,150. A set of 10 science-fiction books written by Andre Norton (with whom Benson had a “personal relationship”) pulled in the highest gavel price, at $3,200.

Celebrity auctions tend to be inevitably voyeuristic affairs. Remember Teresa Giudice’s foreclosure auction? If you didn’t spend at least a few minutes browsing her listings and contemplating bidding on a suit of armor, you’re a stronger person than I. Looked at one way, it’s a guilty pleasure to look over the banal contents of a person’s life, but looked at another, there could be some sentimental value there (well, maybe not for anything from Teresa Giudice, but you get the point).

With that being said, people who love books (and the authors that write them) have been known to bid on some items that make a suit of armor or a cancelled check look positively normal. Read on for some of the weirdest and most scandalous pieces of author memorabilia featured at auction. (And remember, no one will judge you if you consider bidding on a locket full of hair!)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Beloved" Mustache

Conan Doyle definitely had a thick, luxurious mustache that could put even the most staunch Movember participant to shame. However, it does seem a little sentimental of the Sherlock Holmes author to store a few stray hairs in an envelope inscribed with “My beloved mustache hairs”. Regardless, someone loved them as much as he did — they brought in roughly $240 at auction at Dominic Winter Books Auctions.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jane Austen's Creepy Hair-Tree

Maybe a few mustache hairs seem like amateur hour for you. If you really want to show your love for an author, why not bid on a lock of her hair fashioned into a weeping willow shading their grave (also made out of hair), embellished with her name (made from, you guessed it — hair!)? What may seem like shower-drain-meets-deranged-fan-art was actually pretty common practice in the Victorian era. Yep, people actually did wear jewelry made of their loved ones tresses — and now you can, too!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

"Everything That Is Not Nailed to the Floor" from Anne Rice

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When Anne Rice decided to sell all her possessions and move to a writer’s retreat in 2011, avid fans looking for memorabilia were probably disappointed — no coffins or crucifixes here. However, the sheer volume of possessions being sold in Rice’s digital yard sale was boggling. Rice said on her Facebook page “We continue to empty storage of many items, including furniture I once cherished in my New Orleans houses … We are selling everything that is not nailed to the floor.” While there were no occult items in sight, you could have gotten your hands on items like an antique replica of Marie Antoinette’s desk, or even some of Rice’s clothing.

Charles Dickens' Toothpick

Once you get over the novelty of a picking your tooth with something made out of teeth, Dickens’ ivory and gold toothpick is probably the most functional (and definitely the most lavish) item on this list. For a mere $9,150, you can pick your teeth like one of England’s most beloved authors.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jane Austen's Ring

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You’re lucky we like you, Kelly Clarkson, or this could have gotten messy. When a gold and turquoise ring belonging to Austen (one of the three known pieces of jewelry belonging to her) went up for auction earlier this year, the Jane Austen House Museum could not match the sale price — but Kelly Clarkson, who considers herself an Austen fan, could. The U.K. Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, stopped the ring from leaving England with an export bar, giving the museum time to receive a £100,000 donation from an anonymous donor, and allowing them to buy the ring.

Virginia Woolf's Beach

When Upton Towans beach in Cornwall went up for sale in 2009, bidders weren’t only interested in its idyllic setting and 76 acres of land. They also wanted a piece of Woolf’s literary legacy; the beach is widely believed to be the inspiration for To the Lighthouse. Although the anonymous buyer can’t develop the beach or make it private, owning a piece of literary history seems more than worth the £80,000 she paid.

Image: Wikimedia Commons