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The most expensive skins in gaming history

Now that modern games are able to thrive under a microtransaction business model, there's a lot more to online gaming than just being the best player on a given battlefield. Sure, locking down a clutch kill in a team shooter or picking off the opposition's biggest threat in a MOBA are feel-good moments, but is there any replacing the adrenaline rush of having an opponent know you're willing to spend way more money on a game than they are? 

While most skins in games come at a relatively affordable cost, not all of them are equal, especially when a developer is okay with people spending real currency on them. League of Legends and Overwatch might be massive titles in their own right, but they both use in-game currency as a stop-gap that prevents any given skin from becoming too expensive. The same can't be said for hits like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, however, and the sheer insanity of those games' secondary markets warrants an in-depth look into gaming's most expensive skins.

Skadoodle-Signed Dragon Lore AWP Skin - CS:GO

It pays to be a part of history. When Cloud9 became the first-ever American team to win a CS:GO Major in early 2018, it was a historic moment in one of the most storied esports titles of all-time. Cloud9's Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham was named the MVP of the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, and it's that legendary performance that informs what amounts to the most expensive skin in gaming history.

One day after the tournament concluded, a Dragon Lore AWP was sold for a truly mind-boggling price. Dragon Lore is already expensive, being one of the more popular aesthetic skins in CS:GO, and this particular weapon was both Factory New and had stickers that were Unscratched — two modifiers that multiplied its rarity several times over.

The kicker? The weapon had also been signed by Skadoodle, who was now a hero of North American CS:GO. It was the perfect storm of characteristics that saw this weapon sold for $61,000 USD — nearly double what its original owner, a player named Drone, had bought it for earlier.

Given how much had to go right for the Skadoodle-Signed Dragon Lore AWP to reach its astronomical price, there's a very real chance we don't see a skin top this for a long time. That's probably a good thing: though they do exist, there aren't a ton of collectors able to shell out this kind of cash for a virtual item.

Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog - Dota 2

The Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog is like the Dota 2 equivalent of the Skadoodle gun in CS:GO. It's a one-in-a-million courier, and that's probably severely understating its rarity.

The War Dog is a legacy courier, which means it had to be opened within the first few weeks of it being made available as an "unusual" unboxing. That means there are only so many of them available in the first place, and their supply can't grow.

This specific War Dog also featured the color pink, an extremely rare color in Dota 2 because it isn't one of the ten set colors Valve created after the company found a bug within the black-colored couriers a while back. Basically, legacy couriers can have colors that aren't within those new, standardized ten colors, making pink extremely rare as well. Pair that with Ethereal Flames, one of the most difficult to find and popular visual effects, and the Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog was always going to fetch a high price.

That being said, the price it did hit was pretty incredible. The Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog sold for $38,000 USD in a private listing, making it the most expensive skin in Dota 2 history.

StatTrak AK-47 Blue | Case Hardened - CS:GO

The StatTrak AK-47 Blue | Case Hardened is yet another example of why the CS:GO scene is filled to the brim with players trying to get rich quick off some lucky loot rolls. Blue is one of the most sought after colors for this particular gun type, and this skin came in pristine, Factory New condition, further compounding its rarity. The YouTube video made about its unboxing didn't hurt its overall value either, generating some hype within the community.

The StatTrak AK-47 Blue is tough to get a specific value on because it wasn't actually sold, but was traded by the user who opened it for other sought-after guns and keys, the latter of which is how CS:GO value is measured in trade. A quick estimate on the player's returns and their initial valuation of the gun reveals that it is probably worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 USD, however, making it yet another virtual weapon worth more than most brand new, entry-level vehicles would cost someone.

Golden Ornithomancer Mantle of the Benefactor - Dota 2

The Golden Ornithomancer Mantle of the Benefactor represents a pretty steep drop-off in terms of value when compared to the previous skins we've discussed, but is that necessarily a bad thing? The more $30,000 USD skins kicking around, the harder it is to style on enemies.

This skin holds the unofficial honor of being the most expensive character-specific skin in Dota 2. Whereas couriers are able to be used by any character and are tied to the account they belong to rather than one specific hero, the Golden Ornithomancer Mantle of the Benefactor skin is available only for Rubick.

Luckily for anyone who has had the pleasure of unboxing this skin, Rubick is one of the more popular heroes in Dota 2 thanks to his Spell Steal ultimate. That ability lets Rubick thieve the last skill another hero used and claim it as his own, leading to some truly ridiculous, flashy, play-of-the-game kind of moments that Dota 2 fans can't get enough of. What better to complement all of that panache than an overdose of gold? Yours for the low, low price of around $2,000 USD.

Stat-Trak Karambit | Crimson Web (Factory New) - CS:GO

The Stat-Trak Karambit | Crimson Web Factory New is yet another weapon in CS:GO that follows the same formula as those that have come before it for value, stringing together a series of desirables on top of a weapon that was already popular to create a wallet-decimating force of nature.

This knife has a bit of a backstory to it, however. There are rumors that suggest that it was originally sold for as much as $30,000 USD back in the day, but the proof we have now amounts to a few YouTube videos and Reddit posts and not much else. Nowadays, the weapon hasn't been seen for over a year, so the websites that track CS:GO skin costs don't have an accurate number on what it might be going for.

What we do know is that the Stat-Trak Karambit | Crimson Web (Factory New) goes for at least $2,000 USD. It's on several buylists on Steam for that price, but no one has fulfilled those orders, so it's a safe bet that the knife is worth even more — if someone even has one kicking around for sale at all.

Unusual Golden Baby Roshan - Dota 2

Another Dota 2 courier that is worth way more than its virtual weight in gold, the Unusual Golden Baby Roshan is an adorable miniature version of the game's pit boss, Roshan. For those unfamiliar, teams will attack Roshan once he has spawned in an attempt to win some seriously juicy items, either the Aegis of the Immortals or the Cheese. Both of those items can swing a team fight drastically in the favor of the team that killed Roshan, so as a character, he's synonymous with victory.

Unusual Golden Baby Roshan, though, is synonymous with something else: scarcity. The courier hasn't appeared for sale since January 2018, and it seems pretty unlikely that one will crop up in the near future. The last recorded value for the courier was $1,800 USD, but since it's now been so long since it made an appearance on the market, it's actual worth is probably closer to that tantalizing $2,000 mark or higher.

Trove Carafe 2015 Autographed by 7ckngmad - Dota 2

While it isn't on the same scale as Skadoodle's fabled signature, this Dota 2 item has become significantly more valuable in the wake of The International 2018. Dota 2's biggest annual tournament awarded the winning team an absurd $11,000,000 USD, and 7ckngmad came out of retirement to play a key role in OG's unexpected victory.

That kind of performance makes for a highly marketable personality, so the Trove Carafe 2015 bearing Sebastien "7ckngmad" Debs' autograph has now become a collector's item for those looking for a piece of history. Though it's from well before 7ckngmad took home the top prize in Dota 2, that hasn't stopped the carafe from being appealing to gamers with a little extra money to throw around. It's currently valued at $1,850 USD, and could become worth even more since it's not like they're making more of the 2015 edition any more.

If there's one takeaway from some of these player-signed items, it's that the savviest collectors hold onto them in the rare case the player becomes famous for a crucial victory or spectacular play. That strategy obviously doesn't always pay off, but given just how much cash is involved when it works, it seems like a relatively safe gambit in the world of expensive skins.

The Olive Branch Pan - PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Despite being one of the most popular games of the last several years, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds actually checks in relatively low in the world of expensive skins, having very few items eclipsing the thousand dollar mark. Of those, the most interesting of them is the Olive Branch Pan, an item that has only been sold around fifty times on Steam.

The Olive Branch Pan is the rarest skin in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, meaning it fetches a princely sum for those who want to prove their superiority through the possession of a much more expensive cooking tool. The Olive Branch Pan averages about $1,750 USD on the Steam market with no signs of falling in price, although the item was also famously sold for under a hundred bucks by one user. No one was ever able to adequately explain why and it hasn't happened since, though, so don't hold out hope for a deal on one of these in the future.

Galaxy Skin - Fortnite

Finally, we come to the most modest contribution in this collection of most expensive skins in gaming history. Surprisingly, it's from the massively popular Fortnite, a game that has shattered revenue and concurrent view records on its way to becoming one of the most influential titles in entire industry.

The Galaxy Skin in Fortnite is a gorgeous, unique aesthetic that is unobtainable by any means within the game. The Galaxy Skin comes with the purchase of a new Samsung Note 9 or Galaxy Tab S4, two of the newest offerings from the electronics giant. Depending on which one fans of Fortnite pick up, they can expect to pay anywhere between $650 to $1,000 USD for the privilege of owning the Galaxy Skin. While it's tempting to complain that this price barrier is a little steep, just looking at what players in Dota 2 and CS:GO go through to get their rare items might make fans think twice about lamenting their own pricey Fortnite skins.

Besides, at least in this case, you get a new phone out of the deal.