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Rare and Ritzy Foods Are Hitting the Auction Blocks

  • ShackeltonBiscut.JPG

    This biscuit, which sold at auction for $1,953, nearly made its way to the South Pole with explorer Ernest Shackelton in the 1907 Nimrod expedition. (Christie's Images LTD)

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    The Art of Farming auctions off crates of locally grown heirloom vegetables to raise money and awareness for the local farming community. (Amanda Gentile, ADG Photogrpahy)

Prestigious auction houses sell some of the world’s most sought after works of art, jewelry and collectibles. 

But such extravagant items aren’t the only valuables to hit the auction block.  

Some may think a 104-year old cookie is not worth more than a bad stomach ache, but for bidders at Christie’s in London, $1,953 was a price worth paying. The pricey biscuit nearly made its way to the South Pole with explorer Ernest Shackelton in the 1907 Nimrod expedition. The donned “Shackelton biscuit” is one of the latest unique food items to develop major interest in an industry mostly fueled by Monet’s and works by Piscasso. Designed to keep the crew’s energy up on their voyage, the biscuit was found perfectly preserved in a hut where Shackleton was based during the expedition. The highest price ever paid for one of Shackleton’s snacks was in 2001 when Christie’s sold some biscuit crumbs from his Endurance expedition for about $10,994.

Chris Longly, a director at the National Auctioneers Association said that believe it or not, there are people out there that would want a Shackleton biscuit. 

“There is a market for it, it’s a unique market, but if it’s still intact there will be a value to it and there is a collectors market out there for everything,” he told FoxNews.com. 

One delectable food item to make its presence among auctioneers, but one you can actually eat, is the Japanese Densuke watermelon. The crisp and sweet melon is exclusively grown on the northern island of Hokkaido, and was sold for $4,000 at an auction in Sapporo this past summer. Although the stripeless black ball of fruit racked in more than what most would pay, the priciest melon was sold in 2007 for about $8,100. 

Another delicacy notorious for its high price tag is Italy’s beloved white truffle. Casino mogul, Stanley Hu bid $330,000 for a pair of white truffles in an international charity auction held last November. Though the distinguished truffle is oddly shaped and usually carries a strong odor, chefs and food lovers around the globe pine for its earthy and unique flavors. It is almost solely grown in Italy and northern Croatia for about four months out of the year (October to January). 

“Auction houses are smart. They have an audience that wants to buy, has the financial resources to do so, as well as the desire to support a charity,” Lisa Mamounas, CEO of Culinary Insiders told FoxNews.com. 

Sotheby’s auction house hosts an annual charity benefit for food enthusiasts. The Art of Farming (this year it was held on Sept. 27) auctions off crates of locally grown heirloom vegetables to raise money and awareness for the local farming community. 

At $1,000 a crate, bidders can walk away with 15 different varieties of tomatoes as well as other unique produce like black cherry tomatoes, Turkish Orange Eggplant, Pink Banana Pumpkin and Lady Godiva Squash. 

Collaboration meals with some of the world’s most costly and rare ingredients are also another popular way auctions raise money for charities. 

For example, a blend of luxurious foods went into a single bowl of Pho--traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup--  for the Bash Benefactor Dinner in Los Angeles. The bowl of soup --which got  $5,800 on the auction block -- included A5 Wagyu beef, White alba truffles, noodles made out of blue lobster meat and foie gras broth. Proceeds for the exotic soup went to Children’s Hospitals in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco. 

“Food continues in itself to be a growing trend and shows no level of slowing down,” Mamounas said. “I believe this is just the start of rarified historical foods being auctioned off,” she added.