A faded and cracked felt bicorne hat worn by Napoléon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction Sunday of the French emperor’s belongings.
Yes, $2.1 million.
The signature broad, black hat — one of a handful still in existence that Napoléon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe — was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction in Fontainebleau of memorabilia collected by a French industrialist who died last year.
But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.
“We are at 1.5 million (euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8 percent in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).
The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoléon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.
Would you spend $2.1 million on a hat if you had the funds? While it may seem like a steep price, the hat's iconic status could arguably justify the cost, potentially making it a worthwhile investment.