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. It was a little frustrating to have to explain to them that your picture was actually of a snake that had just eaten an elephant!

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

But what does it mean to be priceless? Everything has a price, right? If you go into a store, everything for sale has a price tag on it to let you know how much it costs.

Priceless means that an item is invaluable. Because of its rarity or quality, its value is so great that it can’t be calculated in terms of mere money.

For 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.

Although many people might pay millions of dollars to own these works, they’re considered too valuable to be owned by a private individual and taken 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. Priceless items are priceless precisely because their owners are unwilling to part with them — for any amount of money.

That’s why the works of art that you create for your parents are priceless. Of course, depending upon how good of an artist you are, people might not be willing to pay much money for your “snake eating elephant” drawing. But that’s not the point!

The point is that the things you create are incredibly valuable to those who love you…and they usually wouldn’t part with them for any amount of money. That makes your art priceless!

Not all great works of art are priceless, 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 and 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.

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

Many of the most valuable — and priceless — paintings housed in museums around the world were created by the “old masters.” The “old masters” were European painters of incredible skill who created their works prior to 1800. Paintings by these artists are also often called “old masters.”

“Old masters” were trained artists who were Masters of their local artists’ guilds and worked independently. Some famous “old masters” you may have heard of include da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Goya.


32 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (20 votes, avg. 4.15 out of 5)
    • Great job, Rahul! We’re glad you visited this Wonder of the Day® and learned more about what makes some art pieces priceless! :-)

    • Hello, Dan! Thank you for showing your enthusiasm for Wonderopolis by leaving us this great comment! We’re glad to count you as a Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Thanks so much for stopping by this Wonder of the Day® and for sharing your opinion of Wonderopolis, Martin! We appreciate your comment and hope you will visit us again soon. There is SO MUCH to learn here! We encourage you to visit any one of our more than 460+ past Wonders…we bet you’ll find a few that you will like! :-)

    • Hi, Grant! We want to thank you for being such an awesome Wonder Friend and for letting us know you think Wonderopolis is AWESOME! :-)

    • We’re so happy to hear that, Erika! Thinking and learning are so much FUN! We always learn something new by exploring the Wonders of the Day here in Wonderopolis, and we hope you do, too! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT guess, Zoey! Thank you for leaving us this super comment today and for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  1. I liked the video. One boy in the video had a eye patch on one eye. I think it was his right eye. The words Mr. Quisenberry read, I liked them. Ms. Workman did not show us the video, but Mr. Q, did.

    • Happy Tuesday, Ronald! You’re super lucky to have great teachers at Kerrick Elementary who share the WONDER of learning with you and their other students! Ms. Workman has been an AWESOME Wonder Friend since Wonderopolis first started! She ROCKS! Please be sure to thank Mr. Q for us…we’re glad he shared the video for this Wonder with you, too! :-)

    • You and your Kerrick Elementary classmates are REALLY great at leaving us comments, Noah…THANK YOU! We’re happy that you all enjoyed today’s Wonder and the video that went along with it! :-)


    • We bet you are AWESOME at art, Tomiya! We’re so glad to learn that you like to paint! We do, too! We like to paint, and draw, and sculpt, and make pottery, and….ALL ART is exciting to us! :-)

  3. Hello, my name is Madison and I like to visit Wonderopolis. It is a very appropriate place for my little brothers, unlike you tube. I think that all art is priceless. I have millions of papers full of art. I stick them around my room and look at them when I am scared or lonely.

    • Thanks so much for leaving us a comment today, Madison! We’re so happy to hear that you and your brothers like exploring Wonderopolis! We also think it is SO COOL that you put your artwork up all over your room. It must be a great feeling to see all that creativity surrounding you! :-)

    • We are soooooooo glad to hear that, Mary! We really enjoy receiving comments from AWESOME Wonder Friends like YOU! Thank you! :-)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I guessed right! I learned that some paintings and sculptures can be worth millions and millions of dollars! That’s a lot! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about outer space.
    Paige ;)

    • Way to go, Paige! You are super clever to have guessed what this Wonder of the Day® would be about! Thank you for letting us know an interesting fact you learned by exploring this Wonder, too! :-)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis
    You have an AWESOME WEBSITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hello, Marco! We think you are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! Thank you for letting us know how much you enjoy exploring Wonderopolis! :-)

  6. Wow. I LOVE to paint. I would like to be an artist when I grow up more than ANY other job. :P
    You WONDER people who are making this site ROCK! You should do a wonder about how to ride a bike or… just something around those lines. :D

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What makes art priceless?
  • Who were the “old masters”?
  • What is the most expensive painting ever sold?

Wonder Gallery

little girls painting_shutterstock_44807413Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Do your friends or family have anything they consider priceless? Talk with your friends and family about their most treasured possessions. What do they own that they wouldn’t part with for anything?

Many parents might mention family photographs, videos or special pieces of artwork made by their children. These items have sentimental value that is too great to express in dollars and cents.

If today’s Wonder has put you in the creative mood, get out your art supplies and make your own piece of priceless artwork. Choose a particular friend or family member you’d like to make something for.

What could you make that would show this person how much you care about them? Take some time to think about your chosen person, and let those thoughts inspire you. Perhaps you could personalize your artwork in a special way, such as including a fingerprint, footprint or a handprint.

When you’re finished, share your work with us and the rest of the world. Email us a picture of your artwork or post it on our Wonderopolis Facebook page. We can’t wait to see your priceless art!


Still Wondering

In EDSITEment!’s Picturing First Families lesson, children take a virtual trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Portrait Gallery.


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