Spotted on the Web: Shopping Sprees So Wild They Made History

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For most of us, shopping sprees don’t even go into thousands of dollars. Sometimes, even buying two pairs of shoes at the same time makes us feel a little tinge of guilt or regret. But no matter how crazy you get when you think you find a bargain – or when you just MUST have that new bag- rest assured that you’ve done nothing compared to some of the biggest shoppers in history who had millions at their disposal.

I’ve adapted this from The Cut. You can read the rest here.

The Philippines’ dictator’s wife left her collection of 3,000 shoes behind when she fled the country in 1986. Imelda’s most famous shopping spree occurred during a 1983 trip to New York, Rome, and Copenhagen. She spent $7 million in 90 days. In a single day in New York, she spent $3 million. Sometimes she shopped by catalogue: In 1981, Sotheby’s abruptly cancelled a $5 million art auction because Imelda had offered to purchase every item in the catalogue before the sale even began.

imelda marcos quote 2

President Abraham Lincoln’s lightning-rod wife was criticized for her extravagance. Arriving at the White House, she overspent her four-year budget for home repairs and décor in less than one year — half of it on fine china and French wallpaper. Meanwhile she continued to shop, amassing a wardrobe that included a $2,000 dress and 300 pairs of kid gloves.

After the death of his mother in the 1919 flu epidemic, William Randolph Hearst inherited $11 million and launched two parallel buying sprees. Professionally, he acquired 28 major newspapers and eighteen magazines, building the largest media network in the world and amplifying his wealth by a magnitude of ten. Personally, he embarked on his lifelong quest to build and furnish the castle of his dreams.
The estate was 127 acres and featured 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, and nineteen sitting rooms. He filled it with paintings from the great masters, 155 ancient Greek vases, Egyptian sculptures, marble and bronze statues, a movie theatre, and a private zoo.

They found no skeletons in my closet, only beautiful shoes.
—Imelda Marcos

In early twentieth-century America, mining heiress wife Evalyn Walsh McLean was not known for her discretion. She lived with husband Edward McLean, who owned the Washington Post, in a 60-room D.C. mansion that is now the Indonesian Embassy. The couple eloped in 1908, then went on a European honeymoon where Evalyn spent more than $200,000, a small fortune that included the purchase of the 94-carat Star of the East diamond. The trip launched a lifetime obsession with shopping and jewels; on one occasion, Evalyn conducted a shopping spree from the back of her chauffeured Rolls Royce, with shopkeepers carrying the wares to her.

Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.
—Imelda Marcos

German journalist Gerd Heidemann was a Nazi memorabilia shopaholic. In the seventies, he mortgaged his home to purchase Luftwaffe commander Hermann Georing’s yacht, intending to repair and resell it. But the repairs drew him into a spiral of debt, that he did not escape until 1983 — when Heidemann “found” a 62-volume set of Adolf Hitler’s personal diaries. The diaries were a forgery, but Heidemann convinced West Germany’s Stern magazine to pony up a rumored $5 million to purchase them.
In the course of mere days, the diaries were proved to be forgeries, riddled with factual errors and made with modern paper, ink, and glue. But before he could be prosecuted for fraud, Heidemann blew close to $1 million on “two villas in Spain, two luxury sports cars, expensive jewellery, rare WWII memorabilia for his collection, and extravagant vacations.

If you had just $1 million to splurge what would you spend it on?

Natasha Beckles

Natasha Beckles is a freelance copyeditor, writer and content creator. She has over a decade's experience in both traditional and online media. In addition to blogging about fashion and travel, she uses the written word to help brands and individuals tell their unique stories.

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  1. June 1, 2013

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