Celebrity Body Parts: 10 Priceless Pieces of History

Albert Einstein's eyes, Abraham Lincoln's skull, Galileo's finger. You wouldn't think that these prized "bits" of historical memorabilia have almost as rich of a history as the people to whom they once belonged.

These and other celebrity body parts have been stolen, smuggled, auctioned off for thousands and even millions of dollars, and kept under lock and key in the name of historical posterity — or just pure profit.

How these came to be bought, sold or simply acquired — sometimes under sometime ghoulish circumstances — are the topic of a new book by historian Tony Perrottet entitled "Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped."

Here is his list of the top 10 morbid collectibles:

1. Napoleon Bonaparte's Penis

Its size may have shriveled (it is currently around an inch-and-a-half long), but its value has grown to colossal proportions. It sold as part of the so-called "Vignali Collection" of Napoleonic relics for about $800 in 1924. The collection was named after the priest, Abbé Ange Vignali, who smuggled the item from the Emperor's autopsy table to Corsica in 1821.

The relic failed to sell in London in 1969 but was snapped up in 1977 in Paris by urologist Dr. John Kingsley Lattimer of Columbia University for $2,900 — the equivalent of $10,000 today. Lattimer then hid the object under his bed in Englewood, N.J., in an attempt to take it out of public circulation. Lattimer died in 2007 and now his estate is considering putting it up for auction. The item is rumored to sell for $100,000, but the owners are hoping for more.

2. Albert Einstein's Eyeballs

Most people know that Einstein's brain was pilfered at his autopsy in Princeton, N.J., in 1955, but few realize that his eyeballs were also removed and spirited away by his ophthalmologist, Dr. Henry Abrams, who kept them in a jar in his dresser drawer for decades.

"When you look into his eyes, you're looking into the beauties and mysteries of the world," Abrams once said.

Abrams is now 96 years old and living in Beach Haven on the Jersey Shore, with the eyes in a security deposit in a local bank.

3. Che Guevara's Hair

A lock of the famously hirsute revolutionary's head sold for $100,000 at auction in Dallas in October, 2007. The hair was removed by a CIA operative after Guevara was killed in Bolivia in 1967. Bill Butler, the purchaser and a Texas bookseller and 1960s memorabilia fan, has it on display in his store.

4. Beethoven's Ear Bones

Stolen at the autopsy in Vienna and lost, but fragments of the composer's skull were purchased by San Jose University in California.

5. Galileo's Finger

It was removed when corpse was exhumed. It is now on display at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy, in a peculiar glass egg.

6. Fragments of Abraham Lincoln's Skull

Surgeons removed fragments of Abraham Lincoln's skull after the president was shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. These, plus the bullet that killed him, are on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Bethesda, Md.

7. English Military Leader Oliver Cromwell's Head

Taken after a posthumous "execution" in 1661, the skull was stolen, turned up in a freak show in 1799 and was later obtained by his descendant Horace Wilkinson. Cromwell's old college in Cambridge, England, accepted the head in 1960 and buried it in a secret location.

8. President Grover Cleveland's Jaw Lesions

In 1893, an operation was performed on President Grover Cleveland to remove a cancerous lesion from his left upper jaw. The grisly parts are today on display in the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

9. Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's Heart

This organ was carried around for years by his wife, Mary Shelley (author of the book "Frankenstein"), and was finally buried with his son.

10. Thomas Edison's "Last Breath"

It was captured in a test tube in 1931 by his son Charles at the request of Henry Ford because the automaker believed it contained the soul of his friend. The corked tube is on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.