How much would you pay for a clump of Elvis Presley's hair? What exactly is on a $175 burger? And what goes into a $33,000 mattress? It turns out that plenty of items are tailored just for the ultra-wealthy and well-heeled — proving that when it comes to money, some people want to use it and lose it.
Here are 12 examples of splurges that are so silly, so decadent and so unexpected that they will a) blow your mind and b) make you happy that the economy tanked and frugal is the "new normal."
The $15,000 hair clump
Yes, Elvis Presley was the King. But seriously, now: How much is a clump of hair from his head worth?
A lot of Benjamins, apparently. Even though it looks like the aftermath of a home improvement project involving Drano, the hairball pictured here sold for $15,000 at a Chicago auction house in October 2009. The locks are thought to have been clipped when Elvis joined the Army in 1958.
In addition to dropping $15,000 on the hair clump, the purchaser also had to pony up $3,300 in auction house fees.
Related: Elvis' hair sells for $15K at auction
The $33,000 mattress
Sure, a mattress is important. You use it every single day, and if it's uncomfortable, life can be miserable. But — BUT! — would you spend $33,000 on one? You can, thanks to E.S. Kluft & Co., makers of the most expensive American-made mattress set money can buy.
The fit-for-a-king mattress contains "10 layers and more than 10 pounds of cashmere, mohair, silk and New Zealand wool that has been washed, dried and crimped," according to the Wall Street Journal.
If the $33,000 price tag doesn't alarm you, just wait: Kluft has pans to start selling a $44,000 mattress later in 2010.
Related: Could a mattress ever be worth $33K? You decide!
The $1,000 pizza
Mama mia! A thousand bucks for a 12-inch pizza pie? You betcha, says New York restaurateur Nino Selimaj. He dreamed up a thin-crust pizza that comes loaded with six kinds of caviar and lobster tail.
"The idea came because I've been 29 years in this city," Selimaj told TODAY in 2007. "It's a great city, maybe the greatest city on Earth. I believe we deserve something to show ... I wanted to be different."
At the time of the TODAY interview, he estimated his production costs to be about $720 per pizza. He's still serving up the pies today at his restaurant, Nino's Bellissima, on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Related: Mama mia! That's an expensive pizza!
The $582,000 dog
Most of us would be hard-pressed to put a price tag on our beloved pets — but this price tag was such a whopper that it understandably made headlines in September 2009. That's when a young Chinese millionaire known only as Ms. Wang forked over $582,000 for a dog — and then had the pup picked up at the airport by a motorcade of 30 black Mercedes-Benz cars.
The dog, an 18-month-old Tibetan Mastiff named Yangtze River Number Two, belongs to a breed that is prized in China for its guarding skills. "Gold has a price, but this Tibetan Mastiff doesn't," the mysterious millionaire told Chinese publications.
Actually, Ms. Wang, he does: Tibetan Mastiffs usually sell for about $2,000 in the West.
Related: The world's most expensive dog cost $582K
The $1 million cow
Her life resembles that of most ordinary cows: Producing milk, having babies, staring off peacefully into the distance. But what makes a lovely red bovine named Apple stand out is her price tag: At $1 million, she just might be the most expensive cow ever sold in United States.
It may have been a classic case of auction fever when a group of partners from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin placed the winning bid for Apple at a Connecticut auction in July 2008. The bidding began at $200,000.
Observers said the hefty sum was justified because Apple's genes, breeding potential and rare red color made her "very marketable."
Related: Holy cow! Rare red bovine sold for $1M
The $9,150 toothpick
Save your toothpicks, everyone — if you ever become famous, you could make your grandchildren rich. As evidence, consider Exhibit A: An ivory and gold toothpick once owned by Charles Dickens that just sold at a New York City auction for $9,150.
In case you're wondering whether the British writer really used the toothpick — (and secretly hoping that maybe he didn't) — an authentication letter from sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth says Dickens put the toothpick to use "when travelling and on his last visit to America."
Related: Charles Dickens' toothpick sold for $9,150
The $175 burger
An absolute extravagance at a diner where a standard hamburger sells for $4.50, this $175 hamburger has been characterized as "a work of art."
That's how Heather Tierney, co-owner of the Wall Street Burger Shoppe in Manhattan, described the burger, which is made of Kobe beef and comes with foie gras, black truffles and Gruyere cheese along with ... drum roll ... flakes of real gold.
Tierney said the burger is a hit with Wall Street folks who like to show off to their friends for fun. (Oh please don't tell us you showed off with bailout money!)
The $25,000 cupcake car
So if you go out and spend $25,000 on a car, you might want it to travel faster than 7 mph — unless, of course, you're in the market for a cupcake car. Yes, you read that right: A cupcake car.
Courtesy of Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer that knows just how to captivate our imaginations with decadent gifts, the cupcake car can be customized to your unique tastes and can reach a maximum speed of 7 mph with its 24-volt electric motor.
The cupcake car began as a cooperative art project at Burning Man. (And we promise not to insert any gratuitous jokes here about what the artists may have been smoking.)
Slideshow: World's most extravagant gifts
The $100,000 book
Talk about a luxury gift idea. How about a 62-pound book — bound in white marble and red velvet — that is lovingly made by hand in Italy and that depicts the life and work of Michelangelo? Yowza!
More than 20 copies of "Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano" — valued at more than $100,000 each — had been sold as of November 2008. That's when the book made headlines as it arrived at the New York Public Library. (That copy was donated, by the way.)
Six long months are required to make each extravagant book — a detail that contributes to its hefty price tag. On the upside, though, Amazon.com offers free shipping on most book purchases over $25. (Cha-ching!)
Related: Need a luxury gift? Try a $100K book
The $200,000 private spaceship flight
OK, so who doesn't want to travel on a spaceship? The thing is, unless you're an astronaut for NASA, you probably won't get that privilege unless you've got lots and lots of cash.
So far, about 300 private individuals have lined up to take a flight on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo as soon as passenger travel begins on the spaceship in 2011 or 2012. They've plunked down a total of $40 million in deposits to secure the opportunity.
A 2.5-hour trip on SpaceShipTwo is supposed to cost $200,000. According to msnbc.com science writer Alan Boyle, "SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to the edge of outer space, past the 100-kilometer (62-mile) altitude mark. The flight profile would provide about five minutes of weightlessness, a commanding view of a curving Earth below the black sky of space, and the world's highest roller-coaster ride going up and coming down."
Five minutes? That's it?? C'mon, Virgin — it's not too hard to figure out how to achieve that floating effect right here on Earth with the right combination of drinks.
Related: Cosmic Log: Spaceship debut causes chills
The $1 million sword
Dubbed the "Glassic Katana," this $1 million glass sword can't kill anybody — and it may not even do such a great job slicing up a loaf of bread. What it does have going for it, though, is 70 carats of flawless rubies and diamonds. BusinessWeek reports that glass artist Monique Schloss spent more than six months crafting the sword by hand.
The sword, which will go up for auction through Bonhams New York in January 2010, was among the extravagant items featured in Amsterdam at the ultra-decadent Millionaire Fair — an event that thumbs its nose at that silly ol' Great Recession. After all, if you're still staggeringly wealthy, where else are you supposed to learn about $1 million swords?
Related: Luxury items for sale at the Millionaire Fair
Your own butler: Priceless!
Think of him as an executive assistant who's really good at ironing. And if you're Batman, he can totally help you stay organized as you juggle a crazy, late-night crime-fighting schedule.
Yet another excessive option held out to the ultra-rich at the Millionaire Fair in Amsterdam was — you guessed it — butler services. Apparently the International Butler Academy does a smoking good job of training butlers to welcome guests, clean, iron, pour wine and manage a staff. (Manage a staff?? Wow.) So for a price that varies according to your needs, you could have your very own Jeeves.
Related: Super rich at luxury fair ask, 'What recession?'