POST SALE RELEASE: Travel, Science and Natural History

World record prices achieved at Christie's

World Record Prices Achieved

At Christie’s

Travel, Science and Natural History Auction


South Kensington: The bi-annual auction of Travel, Science and Natural History at Christie’s South Kensington held on 29 September 2011 realized a total of £2,018,650 / $3,153,131 / €2,313,373, selling 78% by lot and 93% by value. This result is the highest total ever achieved for this category at Christie’s South Kensington saleroom; the sale was estimated to realize between £997,650 and £1,495,250. Bidders hailed from more than 30 countries, and 27% of lots were bought or directly underbid online. Once again proving the increasing popularity of Christie's Live, a new client to Christie’s chose to bid online for his first bidding experience and bought one of the top 3 lots; a George III portable orrery, W. Jones, circa 1787 for £97,250.

Nick Martineau, Director and Auctioneer, Christie’s commented, “The sale of Travel, Science and Natural History saw very strong results achieved across all sections of this diverse auction category, including topographical pictures, scientific instruments, and books and manuscripts. Items representing important moments in history and scientific discoveries from around the globe generated bids from over 30 countries, making it a truly International affair. Several items caused a bidding frenzy in the saleroom, with many world records being smashed.”

Highlights from the sale included: A three-rotor Enigma cypher machine in its original box, dated circa 1939 and in excellent working condition, achieved the world record price of £133,250 / $208,137 / €152,705. This particular example was used in the 2001 film Enigma. Three anonymous telephone bidders battled to own the historic piece. The previous world record price for an Enigma machine sold at auction was £67,250, achieved at Christie's London in November 2010.

A Huntley & Palmers biscuit found in the hut at the base used on the Nimrod Expedition (1907-1909) and still fully intact sold for £1,250 / $1,953 / €1,433. The biscuit was sold by a Private Collector, and was bought by an anonymous absentee bidder. Christie’s holds the world record price of £7,638 for a biscuit sold at auction, which was achieved at Christie's London in September 2001.

A pocket diary, once owned by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, CVO (6 June 1868 – c. 29 March 1912) sold for £27,500 / $42,955 / €31,515 – far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £6,000-10,000. Detailing Scott’s last month’s spent in England ahead of his fateful Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole, the diary includes a reference to his meeting with the Directors from the biscuit-makers, Huntley & Palmers regarding sustenance ahead of the expedition, as well as an audience with H.M. The King. The diary was sold by the family of Captain Scott and several bidders on the telephone, online and in the room battled it out in the auction room, with the winning bid coming from the telephone.

A rare album of 105 photographs recording two royal voyages made by H.R.H Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh around the world, and H.R.H. Edward Prince of Wales's to India sold for £82,850 / $129,412 / €94,946. This was the first time that the any member of the British Royal family visited Australia and included an assassination attempt on the second son of Queen Victoria. The Indian tour was made by the Prince of Wales in celebration of his mother’s ascension to Empress of India. The album included very rare and early views of Sydney, Perth and Western Australia.

A presentation penicillin sample, probably from the original culture, far exceeded the pre-sale estimate of £3,000-5,000, and sold for the world record price of £39,650 / $61,933 / €45,439. This example was given to the vendor’s father by Robert Fleming, son of Alexander Fleming. He was an employee of J and R Fleming Ltd., and was presented with the gift following his significant service with the company.


Please see top ten for further highlights

High resolution images and further information available upon request


Notes to Editors:

For a full results list please click here

 Christie’s South Kensington: Open seven days a week, Christie’s South Kensington is one of the busiest salerooms in the UK, annually holding over 100 sales and offering more than 20,000 lots. The recently refurbished saleroom facilities and exhibition spaces provide one of the most accessible, well lit and welcoming sales arenas in the world, consistently attracting over 200,000 visitors a year. Interiors sales dedicated to home furnishings are held three times a month alongside monthly Sunday sales of single-owner collections, and specialised sales for the avid collector are scheduled throughout the year according to category. Every lot is beautifully illustrated in a large scale magazine-style catalogue and in an online e-catalogue. Christie’s South Kensington appeals to a worldwide audience – in 2010 bidders originated from over 50 countries, with around 20% of bidders taking part in auctions from the comfort of their own home or office, using Christie’s unique online bidding facility, Christie’s LIVE™.



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Prices do not include buyers’ premium


About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s has sold 8 of the 10 most important single-owner collections in history, including the Paul G. Allen Collection—the most valuable collection ever offered at auction (November 2022). In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). 

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Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

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