A Brief History of Smart Bargains and Big Payoffs
1492: The Spanish crown pays Columbus (left) one million maravedis to sail the ocean blue; in return, gets control of much of the Americas for three centuries.
1759: Arthur Guinness rents out an old, rundown brewery in Dublin and negotiates a shrewd lease: 45 pounds a year until the year 10759. The St. James's Gate Brewery has been the home of Guinness ever since.
1803: Napoleon sells President Thomas Jefferson the Louisiana Territory for roughly 4 cents an acre, doubling the size of the United States overnight.
1845: The American Review reportedly pays $9 for a poem called "The Raven," by a little-known writer named Edgar Allan Poe.
1866: Former slave Biddy Mason buys a $250 plot of land in Los Angeles' future downtown. As the city grows, she continues to make real estate deals, amassing nearly $300,000.
1867: For $7.2 million, Russia hands over Alaska to the United States. The area has since generated more than $141 billion worth of oil.
1891: Atlanta pharmacist Asa Candler pays $2,300 for sole proprietorship of a fountain soda called Coca-Cola.
1897: The Staten Island Ferry lowers the fare from a quarter to a nickel for a ticket to cross the harbor (and million-dollar skyline views).