Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Isha. Isha Wonders, “If something is called priceless, why does it cost so much money?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Isha!

Remember that fantastic picture you drew when you were little? You were so proud of it. You just couldn’t wait to show it to your parents.

Unfortunately, they misinterpreted your work. Your parents thought it was the prettiest hat they’d ever seen. Was it frustrating to have to explain that your picture was of a snake that had just eaten an elephant?

Don’t worry, though. Many great artists are misunderstood. Believe us, when your parents heard your explanation, that picture likely became priceless.

But what does it mean to be priceless? Everything has a value, right? Everything in a store has a tag, after all. That’s how you know how much it costs.

For example, many of the greatest works of art ever created are considered priceless. That means that an item is invaluable. These items are rare or of great quality. Their values are so great that they can’t be calculated in terms of money.

In another example, many of the greatest works of art ever created are considered priceless. Many of these works are owned by museums that share them with the world.

People might pay millions of dollars to own these works. But they’re considered too valuable to be owned by a private individual. That would mean taking them away from a museum where they are enjoyed by the public. We call such works priceless.

Many objects have value based upon what someone is willing to pay for them. Items are priceless because their owners are unwilling to part with them. They wouldn’t sell them for any amount of money.

That’s why the works of art that you create for your parents are precious. Some people might not be willing to pay much money for your “snake eating elephant” drawing. But that’s not the point!

The things you create are incredibly valuable to those who love you. They probably wouldn’t part with them for any amount of money. That makes your art priceless!

Not all great works of art are so valuable, though. Many famous paintings have been sold for tremendous sums of money over the years.

For example, private art collector David Geffen sold two works from his collection in 2006. Woman III by Willem de Kooning is believed to have been sold for $137.5 million dollars. Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948 was allegedly sold for $140 million. These sales were private transactions but, if true, they would be the two most expensive paintings ever sold.

Many major art transactions are private. So there may have been other paintings sold for even more money. One of the paintings in Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players series is said to have sold for over $250 million in 2011.

Many priceless paintings housed in museums around the world were created by the “old masters.” These were European painters of incredible skill who created their works prior to 1800. 

What other items can you think of that might be priceless? This term often describes works of art. But other things can have great value, too! What wouldn’t you sell for any amount of money?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.9

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow in Wonderopolis we’re bobbing for something much larger than apples!