They say flaws accentuate beauty. While I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with that, in some cases it’s certainly true. Some of the most desirable auction lots in history have been so not because they were perfect, but because they were in fact flawed.
We’re not talking about a Rolls- Royce that falls apart during its first time on the road, or a Patek Philippe that won’t wind. We’re talking about flaws that make a thing rare rather than rubbish, collectible rather than crap. In some cases, the difference a tiny factory mistake can make is astronomical.
Here then, is a quadrilogy of the most notoriously flawed items ever (incorrectly) created. Just remember, the next time you spot something wrong with your fresh pair of sneakers or out of the box fine timepiece, keep it. It might be worth a lot more than you realise.
Nike Air Jordans Reverse Shattered Backboard
Air Jordans have a cult following among sneakerphiles, and the Holy Grail of them is to be found in Milan. Andrea Canziani, co-owner of trainer resale store Dropout Milano, is the sole owner of a flawed pair of Air Jordan 1s. In a flaw that really should’ve been continued by the company, Nike’s swoosh is quite attractively sewn onto the trainer upside-down.
Andrea didn’t even have to pay over the odds for this rarity – he ordered the pair of “Reverse Shattered Backboard” Air Jordans directly from Nike and the factory mistake took the sneakerverse by storm. He’s selling them in-store for a slightly higher number: its current price is €125,000. Will he part with them? Who knows? Would you part with the Holy Grail?
The Wicked Bible
The Ten Commandments are pretty clear. Highlights include thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ass (meaning donkey, of course). Except, the Commandments weren’t completely correct in the 1631 edition – the adultery clause was missing its “not”. Praise be.
Now known as the Wicked Bible, there are multiple theories behind the misprint. While some believe it was a genuine mistake, it’s pretty difficult to believe that 17th century proofreaders would miss a mistake in a list of the 10 most important things in the book. One theory is that a disgruntled employee of the printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas did the deed, while another states that it was their rival Bonham Norton. No matter who it was, Charles I fined them £300, revoked their printing license and destroyed as many of the offending copies he could find. Me thinks the King doth protest too much.
There are only 10 known copies of the Wicked Bible remaining, and one sold at Bonhams in 2015 for £31,250. Take a look at the offending sacrilege above.
“Tropical Dial” Rolex
We had to include something horological here, and the watch world hasn’t disappointed. There was a time in the mid-20th century when Rolex applied a particular chemical finish to its black dials, with the aim of protecting them from years of sun exposure. With sod’s law in overdrive, this finish actually exacerbated fading, especially under the stronger sun of the tropical regions. These unfortunate timepieces are now commonly referred to as “tropical dial” watches.
The results range from pronounced fading to straight-up cracking of the dials – the more extreme the apparent damage, the more a Rolex collector will likely pay. A 1969 Paul Newman Daytona 6263 Oyster Sotto with tropical dials fetched just over £1.5 million in 2016. It might have been a perfect storm of various contributing factors for collectors, but the price was certainly boosted by those faded dials.
These three – all sold at Christie’s – are a little less valuable, but as an indicator of the stages of dial damage (and therefore value) they’re pretty clear to see.
Love Is in the Bin
It’s hard to know if you can call this one a ‘flaw’. For those who live in a world lacking any method of communication with modern society (thanks for travelling for miles to get your hands on a copy of OT Magazine), a print of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was recently sold at Sotheby’s for just over £1 million. As the gavel came down, the print’s frame duly shredded its contents. Well, most of it.
Needless to say, the new owner was horrified as they watched their investment unravel in front of everyone. “That’s a million down the bin!” they internally cried. “How can this happen? Curse Banksy and his delightfully anarchic showmanship!” And then it stopped, stuck halfway out of its frame.
Banksy posted a video afterwards showing that he had intended to shred the print completely, but the mechanism failed. In an attempt to destroy his own work, Banksy has created a flaw that has doubtless added millions on the price tag. Love is in the Bin is currently on long loan to Germany’s Museum Frieder Burda, where experts have recently disabled the shredder. That’ll be checkmate, Banksy.