The "craven" auction of a vial of Ronald Reagan's blood by a British auction house has sparked outrage in America, with the former US President's Foundation threatening legal action over its sale.
Bidding on the glass vial, whose contents were taken at the hospital where Mr Reagan was treated after an attempt on his life in 1981, reached £7,587 yesterday evening. It's just one of many unusual items listed on the Guernsey-based PFC Auctions website, where other lots include the charred remains of Michael Jackson's hair and a stale slice of cake from last year's royal wedding.
Mr Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr in Washington, DC, on 30 March 1981, just 69 days into his first term. He suffered a punctured lung and heavy internal bleeding. His assassin, who was seeking to impress the actress Jodie Foster with his shooting prowess, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation issued a statement threatening legal action. "If indeed this story is true, it's a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase," said its executive director John Heubusch. "We've spoken to GW [George Washington University] Hospital and are assured an investigation as to how something like this could possibly happen is underway."
However, a PFC spokesperson said the Foundation hadn't been in contact, but that, "we would certainly discuss it with the foundation if and when they call".
The vial containing dried blood and labelled with the President's name comes complete with a letter of provenance from the seller claiming that his or her mother "did the blood work and testing for President Reagan" and was allowed to keep the sample. The seller said they contacted the Reagan National Library "three to four months ago", when the organisation expressed an interest in receiving the vial as a donation. But the offer was declined: "I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that President Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it."
Three bidders have expressed an interest in the auction, which closes at 6pm tomorrow. PFC said they would "expect a rush" over the coming hours, as bids normally "shoot up" as the auction reaches its end. The company specialises in the weird and wonderful, but admitted that blood vials are "not particularly common".
Also on sale are three strands of Michael Jackson's hair. They were taken when the singer's barnet caught fire while shooting a Pepsi commercial in 1984, but have yet to reach the minimum bid of £100. A lock of Justin Bieber's hair, however, has a minimum of £20,000. "It's a sign of the times," a spokesperson said. "I'm not sure how many teenyboppers will be bidding on the hair but we'll see."
On its Royal section, the race is on to see whose wedding cake is more valuable. A slice from William and Kate's Fiona Cairns creation will set you back £1,453, but a similarly sized piece of Charles and Diana's 1981 bake edges it at £1,464.
Teeth, hair... and kidney stones: Celebrity auctions
Jack Nicholson's teeth
In 2001, the now defunct channel Auction World.TV claimed to be in possession of 11 baby and adult teeth belonging to the Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson. Offers in excess of £6,000 were reported, but it is not clear whether the sale went through.
At the premiere of Mr and Mrs Smith in 2005, the air breathed by Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt was "captured in a jar". The jar sold for £336.
Britney Spears's chewing gum
"It is completely preserved... with Britney's teeth marks highly visible," promised the seller who put a discarded piece of the pop star's chewing gum up on eBay. It sold for £8,870 in 2004.
Che Guevara's hair
Despite protests from the revolutionary's widow and supporters, strands of hair taken from Guevara's corpse by a former CIA operative were auctioned off for £58,000 in 2007. There was only one bidder, a bookshop owner in Houston, Texas.
Napoleon Bonaparte's penis
The genitals of the French emperor were smuggled from the autopsy table, turning up in Corsica in 1821. The most recent sale came in 1977 in Paris, where they was purchased by urologist Dr John Kingsley Lattimer for £1,840.
William Shatner's kidney stone
"This takes organ donors to a new height, to a new low, maybe," said the Star Trek actor William Shatner on auctioning off his kidney stone. The 2006 sale raised £14,000 for Habitat for Humanity, a Christian housing charity.