Money can't buy you love... but £20k buys a Beatle's tooth

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As Lennon's molar is sold at auction, Paul Bignell traces other body parts to go under the hammer

At first glance, the gnarled, yellowing molar looks unremarkable, if rather repulsive. Yet the rotten tooth was once pulled from the mouth of one of last century's most famous people, and yesterday it sold for almost £20,000.

John Lennon's tooth – the first Beatle molar to be sold at auction – was given to his housekeeper, Dorothy Jarlett, in the mid-1960s. It was bought at auction for £19,500 by a Canadian cosmetic dentist, Michael Zuk, who said he would display it in a case at his dental practice.

The Beatles star was particularly fond of "Aunty Dot", who was employed at his Kenwood home in Weybridge. He gave her the tooth as a gift for her daughter. Mrs Jarlett's daughter was a huge fan of the band. The gnasher was sold with a sworn affidavit, signed by Mrs Jarlett, to prove its provenance.

Over the years Mrs Jarlett, now in her nineties, received many gifts from Lennon, including the jacket he wore on the cover of the 1965 Rubber Soul album and a pearl necklace he and Yoko Ono purchased while on a trip to Japan.

Paul Fairweather, an auctioneer at Omega Auctions in Stockport, who sold the tooth, said: "It's by far the most weird and wonderful item we have ever had submitted to us. It was a very tense bid towards the end and a huge cheer rang out when the final bid was made."

Lennon's tooth isn't the only body part to sell at auction. Many such items have attracted bids and, seemingly, the more gruesome, the bigger their appeal. Alan Aldridge, an auctioneer from Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, who sold a strand of Elvis Presley's hair a few years ago, believes there has always been an appetite for this type of curiosity.

"They are often just conversation pieces at dinner parties," he said. "The Victorians were great ones for it. They had specimen cabinets, and after dinner gentlemen would show them off. We're a race that just likes collecting strange things. It's about how unusual the item is, at the end of the day, and if there are people who want the items."

Napoleon's penis Bought by US urologist John Lattimer in 1977 for £1,800.

Galileo's digits Thumb and finger turned up at auction,  unknown.

Justin Bieber's hair Proceeds went to charity, £25,000.

Mussolini's brain Put on eBay, but later removed. Asking price of £13,000.

Angelina Jolie's Breath, a jar of it sold for £330.

William Shatner's kidney stone Sold in 2006 for £15,600.

Beethoven's skull A fragment recently sold to US university, Unknown.

Che Guevara's hair Taken from his corpse and sold in 2007 for £58,000.

Elvis's hair Tiny strand kept by his barber sold for £1,055.

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