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30 Of The Absolute Most Expensive Mistakes Made In History

30 of the most expensive mistakes in history

Everyone makes mistakes, we are all human. However, you’ve probably never made a mistake as badly as this. These huge oversights and mistakes have costed these people millions. Here is a list of the absolute most expensive mistakes made in history.

French train company orders trains that are way too large for the platforms

SNCF train

In 2014, French company SNCF, made a mistake purchasing 2,000 trains that were too large. Most of their platforms were too narrow to fit the new trains. This little situation costed them about 50 million euros. This issue happened, when the operator neglected to factor in measurements of the train platforms that had been built more than 50 years ago. Expanding the 1,300 platforms to accommodate their trains took two years. This process was not only expensive, but it was also time consuming.

‘Walkie Talkie’ building can melt cars

The walkie talkie building reflects the sun intensely on a sunny day

This building can actually melt your car. This building had to put out some extra funds for sun protection, after complaints that it had melted a person’s Jaguar that was parked across the streetGeneral view of the Walkie-Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street seen looking down Lombard Street from Bank on June 19, 2018, in London, England. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images) Martin Lindsay was walking to his car one day, when he saw a photographer taking pictures of his car. His rear-view mirror and part of the body had dented under the heat generated by the reflection off of the side of the building. The developers of the building had paid the 946-pound fee to Lindsay, and they also had to use a temporary fix on the building to prevent more damage to other people’s property from being done- until a more permanent fix could be made.

Superman’s mustache problem

Superman, mustache CGI, bad CGI

After filming Justice League, Warner Brothers realized that a couple of scenes needed to be added. However, Henry Cavill had already begun shooting for a different film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. This scheduling problem quickly became a hairy situation… Literally.

Cavill’s role in his other movie required him to grow a mustache. Paramount didn’t want him to shave to reshoot his scenes as Superman; however, Warner Brothers begged them to let him shave it. Coordinating the reshoots costed them around $25 million, and on top of that- the studio had to pay a visual effects crew to remove Superman’s mustache in those scenes.

The metric system vs. imperial system

https://cdn.history101.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/orbiter.jpg

NASA lost a $125 million satellite, due to miscommunication, in 1999. When calculating coordinates of a communication station, Engineers at Lockheed Martin used the imperial system, while NASA used the metric system. This mistake caused the Mars orbiter to miss its mark, and its engine burned up and vanished. It’s a common struggle to compete between measuring systems. In this case, a minor mistake ended up costing this team of engineers huge. We are positive that the team will never make this minor mistake again.

Publishers turned down Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling twitter, picture of rejection letter

You’ve heard the story about Harry Potter- you may not have read the books or watched the movies, but you have at least heard the name. J.K. Rowling is the author of the books and she definitely had humble beginnings. She wrote the Harry Potter stories on mostly scrap paper.

J.K. Rowling shared a couple of her rejection letters on Twitter, to inspire her many followers. One publisher says “I regret that we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not publish [Harry Potter] with commercial success.” Just book sales alone, the Harry Potter series have grossed approximately $7.7 billion.

The Spanish government almost built a submarine that couldn’t resurface

Submerged submarine

The Spanish government put $2.2 billion into a new submarine called The Isaac Peral, in 2013. Before they finished building it, the engineers saw an issue with the design. It wasn’t even finished at this point, yet the submarine was already extremely heavy. With the vessel being this heavy, it ran the risk of not being able to reemerge after submerging itself underwater.

The engineers were able to trace the issue back to an easy miscalculation when drafting the design. The issue was that someone put a decimal point in the wrong place. Luckily, the mistake was caught before the submarine was built.

A Japanese company lost $225 million due to a stockbroker’s typo

Mizuho Securities President Makoto Fukuda

A minor mistake cost Mizuho Securities Co., a Japanese company, a lot of money in December of 2005. A stockbroker mistyped the data. Originally, he meant to offer a single share in J-Com’s stock for 610,000 yen (about $5,000) on the New York Stock Exchange, but instead, he ended up offering 610,000 shares for 1 yen.

Investors jumped on the opportunity, buying up a fantastic deal of the mispriced stock. The loss was somewhat mitigated by stock exchange rules, which only allowed the stocks to be sold for as low as 572,000 yen. Due to this mistake, the company lost around $225 million.

A record label passed on signing The Beatles

25th November 1963: Liverpudlian beat combo The Beatles, from left to right Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon (1940 - 1980), and George Harrison (1943 - 2001), performing in front of a camera-shaped drum kit on Granada TV's Late Scene Extra television show filmed in Manchester, England on November 25, 1963.

It’s hard telling what band is going to make it big in the future. When you’re a record label company, you constantly have to roll the dice on artists you think will have a bright future. Dick Rowe, executive at Decca Records turned down a band called the “Silver Beatles” when they auditioned for the label. He passed on this band, because he thought guitar music was a fading trend in 1962. Shortly after, The Beatles were signed to EMI. Just in the year 1964 alone, The Wall Street Journal estimates their record sales grossed $50 million.

Yahoo! sells to Alibaba

Yahoo CEO and Alibaba founder announce deal

Yahoo! owned 30 percent of Alibaba, a profitable Chinese multinational e-commerce, technology, and retail behemoth, in 2005. Seven years later, they sold half their stake to Alibaba at $13 a share. It seemed like a great deal, at the time. Yahoo! made $7.6 billion. In 2014, Alibaba goes public and breaks records when their stocks rose to $68 a share. Today, shares in Alibaba are worth $150 and Yahoo! sold its internet business to Verizon in 2017, for $4.8 billion.

A missing Oxford comma had cost Oakhurst Dairy $5 million

dairy company, truck drivers, oxford comma

The oxford comma separates the penultimate and final items in a list and is usually considered optional. It is quite a sore subject for the Oakhurst Dairy shipping department — an overtime dispute between the company and its drivers hinged on the lack of one. Lawyers representing the drivers fought that there was a sentence in a contract the employees all signed, needed the oxford comma to clarify that overtime pay was forfeited in a specific situation. By settling the lawsuit, the company paid the drivers $5 million.

$39 to fly across the world

Cheap flights, cost airline a ton of money

$39 is an excellent price to fly from Los Angeles to San Diego, so travels were ecstatic to get tickets at that low of a price. This happened to chagrin of Alitalia, the airline company that offered this price to travelers by accident. This price was actually a typo — the tickets were supposed to cost $3,900. However, their website offered the tickets, by forgetting a few zeros. Approximately, 2,000 people got tickets before the company could fix the price. But, the company did the right thing and they honored the low priced tickets, which costed them about $7 million.

Kurt Russell destroys a-one-of-a-kind guitar

Martin Guitar in the 'Hateful 8," expensive mistakes

The production crew for the film The Hateful Eight, borrowed a one-of-a-kind guitar from the Martin Guitar Museum. The guitar was intended to be used for one scene, where Kurt Russell grabs the guitar from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, then smashes it. Before smashing the guitar, the film crew was supposed to cut right before and switch the guitar with a cheap replica.

However, Russell didn’t know about the plan and he went ahead and smashed the one-of-a-kind instrument as the whole crew looked at him in shock. Actually, Leigh’s reaction to the guitar being smashed in the film is completely genuine; it seems like everyone knew about the priceless guitar except Russell. The Martin Guitar Museum was not happy about the incident and they decided to never lend another instrument to filmmakers again.

New Mexico actually lost control of a controlled fire

Surveying damage, the Cerro Grande fire, expensive mistakes

Prescribed fires are actually needed for the preservation of the wilderness. Old trees accumulate an excess of fossils, which makes them more flammable and dangerous. By burning targeted zones, experts can lower the chance of a fire spreading throughout the entire area.

In the Cerro Grande in New Mexico, workers lost control of a controlled fire in May 2000. Gusts of winds quickly spread the flames across the wilderness, and the fire raged for a month before it was extinguished. This costed them around $1 billion in property damages. Thankfully, no humans died in the fires.

James Howell threw away 7,500 bitcoins in 2009

Trash compactor, landfill, lost bitcoin

Very few saw the way cryptocurrency would take off in the coming years in 2009. James Howell was not one of the few blessed with the foresight. Not long after acquiring 7,500 bitcoins when they were worth very little, Howell spilled coffee on his computer. He was able to salvage it and he sold most of the parts, and got all the information he thought he needed off of the hard drive.

The hard drive sat in his drawer for quite a while, before he threw it away during a move. When he discovered his mistake, (and after seeing the way bitcoin had taken off), he began searching for the lost hard drive in the city dump. To make things worse, the Newport City council barred him from continuing the search, due to concerns about the environmental impact of disturbing possible hazardous waste. In December 2017, Bitcoin skyrocketed when it hit $19,783. This meant that Howell basically threw away $148 million.

King Tut loses his beard on priceless funeral mask, man glues it back on

CAIRO, EGYPT - DECEMBER 16: The golden funerary mask of Tutankhamun, a king of Ancient Egypt is being displayed during an unveiling ceremony at the Egyptian Museum after its restoration process completed by German restoration specialist Christian Eckmann and his team, on December 16, 2015 in Cairo, Egypt.

When museum workers realized that King Tut’s beard on the funeral mask was coming off, an inexperienced restorer glued it back on. Apparently, there’s actually a better way of fixing priceless gold artifacts than using permanent epoxy-based glue.

A curator at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo said, “Epoxy has a very high property for attaching, and is used on metal or stone — but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamen’s golden mask.” To be honest, there are much worse things the worker could have used to restore it. We are just happy they didn’t use duct tape.

Priceless Elias Garcia Martinez painting is ruined

restoration failure, Borja, Spain, Ecce Homo

When an 80-year old parishioner noticed the fresco Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) at the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja was fading, she knew how to restore it. Or, at least she thought she did.

The restored result looks a tad different to the original piece, which prompted jokesters on the internet to re-dub the painting Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey). The original painting may be ruined, but there is a positive side to this situation. So many travelers flocked to Borja to see the painting, that the church began charging people to see it — generating 50,000 euros to charity.

‘Star Wars’ merchandise loss

star wars merchandise, Target, action figure

George Lucas is a very rich man — however; it’s possible he could have been a whole lot richer. The film studio was loathe to hand over the needed cash to film a certain science fiction story involving spaceships, robots, and light-up swords, so Lucas decided to sweeten the deal.

He signed over the merchandising rights for all Star Wars films to 20th Century Fox, which means that Lucas doesn’t see a penny from every TIE fighter, toy droid, or lightsaber sold. Star Wars action figures alone exceeded $100 million in sales, in 1978. Today, sales are well into the billions.

Bridge fail

https://cdn.history101.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/1300612536_1238695399_stroiteli_01_resize.jpg

This kind of fail makes you wonder if someone was playing a prank. You wouldn’t think that anyone could mess up that important of a project On the plus side, one lane on each side lines up with the other, so hopefully they can just get a couple of ramps to fill in the gap.

A Shanghai apartment complex falls on its side

Apartment complex that collapsed

Due to bad construction practices, a residential complex in Shanghai collapsed. Ten meters of displaced soil was piled against one side of the building as a 4.6-meter car-park was being dug beneath the opposite side. Unfortunately, a worker died in the collapse- due to returning to the site to collect his forgotten tools. The real estate company responsible for this situation, kept ignoring warning signs about the mud-pile. Just by moving the soil before the incident, would have saved the company approximately $800,000 and one man’s life.

A swaying bridge

Millennium bridge across the River Thames, swaying, expensive fix

Construction was completed on an 18.2 million-pound bridge connecting both sides of the River Thames on June 10, 2000. The bridge closed three days later, due to it swaying. About 160,000 people crossed the pedestrian bridge during the weekend it opened, and many people were alarmed by the rapid movement of the fixture. The bridge’s popularity caused the issue; due too many people stepping in unison along the path. The bridge immediately closed following the concerns; however, more money had to be raised to correct the problem. The bridge didn’t open again, for two years.

Russia sold Alaska to the U.S

Glacier Alaska mountain, Russia sold to USA, mistakes

“The Last Frontier,” used to belong to Russia. Alexander II didn’t think much of Alaska; the rough weather made it hard to farm, and high transportation costs kept it from being especially profitable as a trading port. In 1867, he sold the colony to the U.S. for $7.2 million. Very few Russians had explored the land’s interior up until that point; otherwise, they would have noticed what a big mistake the sale was. The U.S obviously got away with robbery during negotiations: Alaska is rich in natural resources like gold and oil. A century and 20 years later, economists estimate Alaska’s oil and gas reserves alone are worth $200 billion.

Robert Wayne sold his Apple stock for $800

Ronald Wayne at Macworld, founder of Apple, sold off shares

Steve Jobs is a well-known name, and most people are familiar with Steve Wosniack, but many are unfamiliar with Apple’s third founder Ronald Wayne. Wayne drew Apple’s logo, and served as an intermediary between the two innovative Steve’s. Jobs’ personality clashed with Wayne, which eventually prompted him to sell his 10 percent stake in the company for $800 in 1976. This decision prevented him from becoming a multi-billionaire. (Apple became worth over $1 trillion last month). Despite missing out on large earnings, Wayne said he has no regrets in leaving the company.

In 2000, Blockbuster could have bought Netflix

Netflix cofounder, Blockbuster failure

Before video streaming services, you used to have to go to video stores to rent movies. Blockbuster was the biggest of these video store chains, until Netflix came along. Reed Hastings, the cofounder of Netflix met with John Antioco, the CEO of Blockbuster to propose a partnership, in 2000. Netflix would run Blockbuster’s online brand and Blockbuster would promote Netflix in stores. Antioco and his team basically laughed at Hastings. Nearly Ten years later, Blockbuster went bankrupt, and Netflix is currently worth $15.8 billion.

Excite could have bought Google

Google symbol, excite didn't buy, investor mistakes

Excite was the second most popular search engine (Yahoo! was number one) in 1999. Google, then called BackRub, was a promising new competitor in the search engine market. Excite wanted to buy the company for $750,000, but passed when Google insisted that its technology replace Excite’s. One of the main reasons cited for Excite passing on Google’s technology, was because they thought it worked way too well. Users would find the information they wanted and move on too quickly, and Excite would lose precious revenue. In 2004, Excite sold to Yahoo! and recent estimates value Google at $167 billion.

New Jersey lost $400 million due to not proofreading

Teacher in front of students

Due to not proofreading an application, resulted in New Jersey missing out on a huge federal grant to be put toward education reform. In a bid to the federal government for educational reform money, a huge error cost the Garden State $400 million. Instead of comparing the state’s budget information between 2008 and 2009, the state provided information for 2010 and 2011 instead, costing them five points, 10th place, and $400 million.

Morgan Stanley lost $9 billion, due to Howie Hubler

Morgan Stanley, bond trader mistake, financial crisis

Few traders have messed up as badly as Howie Hubler. Hubler bought some risky credit default swaps for $2 billion and sold some rock-solid collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) for $16 billion. The only problem was that the AAA rated-CDOs weren’t nearly as secure as he thought; actually, they weren’t secure at all. If he had taken action sooner, his group could have greatly minimized their losses. Eventually, Morgan Stanley had enough and forced Hubler to resign, but the damage was already done. After the market crashed, Stanley was only able to recover $7 billion of a $16 billion loss.

Mercedes-Benz bought Chrysler

CEO of Daimer Chrysler with Chrysler CEO, expensive mistakes, bought company

Daimler-Benz acquired Chrysler for $37 billion, in 1998. About nine years later, they sold the company for only $7 billion. Though it was sold to investors as an equal merger, it became clear that Daimler-Benz was calling the shots. In 2001, everything was going smoothly, stocks rose to $108.62 a share. However, rough times were shortly ahead. Chrysler reported a loss of $1.5 billion despite launching 10 new vehicles that year, in 2006. The instability and loss of profits proved to be too much for Daimler-Benz who sold off 80 percent of its shares in the company the following year. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and in 2009, was famously bailed out by the Treasury Department.

Texaco and the Lake Peigneur disaster

Louisiana waterfall caused by Lake Peigneur disaster

An oil rig contracted by Texaco drilled a bit too deep below the lake and struck a salt mine, which created a giant hole that quickly swallowed the lake in 1980. A giant whirlpool ensued, which swept up trees, boats, and barges. The accident caused giant geysers as the displaced air and water filled the caverns of the mine. This situation was caused by a minor miscalculation, which resulted in the rig drilling in the wrong coordinates. Fortunately, no one died as a result, but Texaco ended up needing to pay $44.8 million in out-of-state settlements (almost $149 million adjusted for inflation), and the ecosystem of the lake was irreparably changed.

B-2 Bomber crashed from rain

B-2 bomber flying

Despite its primary purpose of being stealth, the B-2 military jet is one of the most recognizable military vehicles. It’s also the most expensive, and in this case, the high price did not guarantee the quality of materials. The $1.4 billion military machinery stalled and crashed upon takeoff during a practice flight in Guam when faulty sensors caused altitude, airspeed, and trajectory errors in 2008. Luckily, both pilots ejected before the crash and survived the incident. It’s been said that the problem was more than likely caused by heavy rain, as moisture seeped in and damaged the sensors. Today, this is considered one of the most expensive crashes in history.

The Titanic sinking, due to hitting an iceberg

big mistakes, titanic sank, expensive

In 1912, the Titanic was the largest passenger ship in history. Unfortunately, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and disproved its nickname of the “unsinkable” on its very first voyage. Despite being warned of the possible danger, the crew still wanted to test out the ship. The boat scraped its right side along a huge glacier, causing the vessel to take on water and sink on April 15, 1912. The monetary loss is approximately $7.5 million. Sadly, over 1500 people died.

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