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Louis Vuitton aluminium Explorer travel trunk – £130,000 at Christie’s.

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Louis Vuitton produced just a handful of these 2ft 6in (75cm) aluminium trunks in a single year: 1892. Today, only two examples are known to exist. One resides in the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. The other – described in the catalogue as “extremely rare and exorbitantly special” – was offered at Christie’s on December 12 with an estimate of £50,000-100,000.

The Explorer, with a flat top that could be stacked, was produced for tropical climes in zinc, copper and brass throughout the 1890s, but aluminium models were by far the most luxurious.

Precious metal

At the time, the now common material was considered a precious metal. It was not until 1905 that Georges Vuitton received a patent for perfecting the use of aluminium for travel items.

No record exists of who originally owned this trunk: initials printed to the side are impossible to decipher. Dents and scratches suggest it may have seen the world, but it spent much of its life stowed in a UK basement, kept by a family who were unaware of its historical importance or commercial value.

Pitched at a level way above what even a typical LV trunk might bring, it generated spirited competition between three phones – a battle that only ended at £130,000 (plus 25% premium).