The Most Expensive Crab Ever Sold Cost More Than Most Cars!

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: October 5, 2023
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In a stunning display of extravagance, a Japanese man unleashed a torrent of cash in 2019 to secure the world’s most expensive crab ever sold. The lucky crustacean, a Matsuba crab, boasted a massive shell width of 14.5 cm and tipped the scales at a whopping 2.7 lbs. The crab earned the prestigious label “Itsukiboshi,” or five shining stars, a title only bestowed upon the crème de la crème of crabs that meet stringent criteria in the area.

But what made this particular crab so extraordinary and so obscenely expensive? What else could you buy with such an enormous amount of money? In this article, we’ll explore these questions and more.

Snow Crab, What is it, and Where Does it Come From?

Snow crab on the sea bed

The most expensive crab ever sold was a snow crab, and went to auction in 2019.

©Kondratuk Aleksei/Shutterstock.com

This record-breaking creature was a snow crab. Its scientific name is Chionoecetes opilio, but the people in Japan call it the Matsuba crab. This kind of crab loves to dwell in subarctic zones in the northern hemisphere. It roams freely in the Sea of Japan and fearlessly wanders through the icy waters of the Bering Sea in Alaska and British Columbia. 

The snow crab also braves the frigid temperatures from west Greenland down the Canadian Atlantic coast to Nova Scotia.

Snow crabs are super popular due to their delicious and delicate meat. People in Japan enjoy using them in dishes like sushi and sashimi. But getting your hands on them is problematic, considering they’re only available for five months each year – November to March. This short period increases their rarity, making them even more valuable.

Species Description

On the ocean floor, snow crabs scuttle around like arachnids, sporting a spidery appearance that’s hard to miss. Their circular carapace, or shell, is flat and complemented by slender, elongated legs. But their color changes as they age. Young snow crabs have a reddish tint on top, while their underside is snowy-white. As they mature, their red pigment fades to an olive shade, and their bottom half turns yellowish.

Incredibly, these crustaceans can achieve a maximum carapace width of approximately 15 centimeters, with males surpassing their female counterparts by more than twofold. This renders female snow crabs unharvestable due to their small stature. Snow crabs have a relatively short life, lasting between 12-13 years.

Habitat Preferences and Distribution

Soft mud bottoms are the preferred habitats for snow crabs. However, smaller crabs can be found in more complex habitats that offer shelter. More giant crabs can be found at depths ranging from 50 to 300 meters, with temperatures ranging from -1 to 11°C. Exposure to temperatures greater than 7°C is believed to harm snow crabs.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Snow crabs feast on a wide range of food, such as shrimp, fish, starfish, worms, sea urchins, detritus, other crabs, sea anemones, sea snails, large zooplankton, and mollusks. These primary food sources provide a rich and varied diet for these crustaceans.

Predators and Threats

Snow crabs face uncertain danger in their habitats as many creatures hunt them. Halibut, cod, skates (especially thorny skates), squids, American plaice, seals, and other crabs feed on snow crabs. Crabs that measure 3 to 30 mm in carapace width are especially vulnerable to being eaten. Climate change also affects snow crabs, and Alaska’s snow crab population dropped by 87% in 2022.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

In spring, female snow crabs lay a staggering 16,000 to 160,000 eggs. The mothers care for these eggs for up to 2 years, depending on food availability and the temperature. In late spring or early summer, the eggs hatch and give birth to pelagic creatures that feed on plankton.

They stay in this stage for 3 to 5 months before settling at the bottom during late autumn and winter. After that, they shed their old exoskeleton or molt twice a year until they hit their 5th growth stage. Then, they molt once a year until their final molt, when males reach 9 to 14 and females reach 9 to 11 growth stages. Snow crabs take a few years to reach their 9th growth stage, at which point they can mate and reproduce.

The Most Expensive Crab Ever Sold

Fresh and clean snow crab

Snow crabs are a delicacy in Japan and are auctioned for high amounts.

©Kairos_JC/Shutterstock.com

In Tottori Prefecture, Japan, an auction was held in November 2019 where a male snow crab was sold for a staggering amount of 5 million yen, equivalent to around $46,000. The auctioneers said this crab smashed records for being the priciest crab ever sold! It was a giant crab, measuring 14.6 cm (5.74 inches) wide and weighing 1.2 kg (2.7 pounds).

Tetsuji Hamashita, president of a fishery wholesaler in Tokyo, won the top prize at the first seasonal auction held annually. This event marks the beginning of the crab fishing season and attracts enthusiastic buyers and bidders from all over the country to compete for the year’s first catch.

Japanese believe the first bidder will experience fortune throughout the year, leading to heightened fervor and anticipation at the event. Therefore, participants arrive prepared to spend ridiculous amounts, with bids frequently beginning at astronomical prices. Winning the top prize is a big deal, not only because it guarantees the season’s first catch but also because it brings prestige and recognition to the winner and their business.

Comparison to the Previous Year’s Record

In 2018, a bidder from Japan successfully bid 2 million yen at an auction held on November 7, 2018. Kanemasa-Hamashita Shoten Co., Ltd. won the Guinness World Record for the bid, equivalent to around US$17,648.40. The auction occurred at the Tottori Prefectural Fisheries Cooperative Karo Branch in Tottori, Japan. However, the crab that broke the record in 2019 exceeded the previous one by over twice the amount.

Highest Bid Auctions for Snow Crabs from 2021-2022

Several cooked Snow Crab claws with the meat displayed

Snow crabs sold for thousands over the last few years.

©Pipipan/Shutterstock.com

Let’s examine the world’s mind-boggling sales events for snow crabs from 2021 until 2022.

2021: $7,000

In 2021, at the beginning of the fishing season on November 6, a snow crab was sold for an eye-popping $7,000 at an auction in Fukui Prefecture’s fishing port. This price was unheard of for a male crab marketed under the “Kiwami” brand by the prefectural government. The winning bidder was a Toyooka City hotel owner.

2022: $21,500

In the initial auction of the fishing season on November 6, 2022, the priciest snow crab raked in a whopping $21,500 at Shibayama Port in Hyogo Prefecture. The winning bid was for a male snow crab of the “Matsuba Gani” variety. The prefectural Tajima fisheries office disclosed that 39 boats from five ports in the northern section of the prefecture headed out and cast their nets at the same time, precisely at midnight on November 6. 

Later that day, seven vessels returned to Tsuiyama Port in Toyooka, where crabs were carefully sorted based on size and overall condition. The scene at the port was a frenzy of excitement as crowds eagerly surrounded the boxes brimming with the precious crustaceans. Around 25 middlemen feverishly competed in successive bids for the crabs.

How Does the Price of the Crab Compare To Other Expensive Seafood?

Fastest Sea Animal: Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

A Bluefin tuna once sold for $3.1 million in Tokyo.

©lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

Check out how the priciest crab ever sold stacks up against other costly seafood that shattered global records.

The Bluefin Tuna

A giant Bluefin tuna weighing a whopping 278 kg (612 lbs.) was captured off the northern coast of Japan in January 2019. Later, it was sold for a jaw-dropping $3.1 million at an auction in Tokyo. This made it the most expensive fish ever sold. The buyer, a sushi restaurant owner, said he wanted to ring in the New Year in style by serving his customers the most exquisite fish in the market.

Almas Caviar

According to the Guinness World Book of Records, Almas caviar is the most expensive in the world. It comes from rare Albino Beluga sturgeons found in Iran. In Russia, a diamond is known as Almas. Interestingly, caviar has been named after this precious stone, owing to its exorbitant price of $34,500 for just one kilogram.

The caviar is harvested from wild southern Caspian Sea beluga sturgeons around 60 years old. These sturgeons are almost extinct in the Caspian Sea, and importing wild Iranian beluga products in the USA is illegal.

How Does The Price Of The Crab Compare To Most Cars?

Snow crab underwater

The most pricy crab ever sold cost more than several cars.

©iStock.com/LaSalle-Photo

To grasp the value of the most expensive crab ever sold, let’s compare it to some of the most popular cars, shall we? 

Toyota Corolla: A Budget-Friendly Option

The Toyota Corolla clinched the global top-selling car spot in 2022, with 1.12 million units sold. Strangely, the sedan’s starting price that year was roughly $20,075, way lower than the winning bid for the record-smashing crab in 2019.

To give an idea, one could acquire over two new Toyota Corollas for the same amount that went to the crab! This indicates the stark worth discrepancy between the two items, notwithstanding their impressive accomplishments in their respective fields.

Although the crab set a world record, the Toyota Corolla has demonstrated to be a dependable and budget-friendly car that appeals to a broad audience, leading to its top-selling car position for the year.

The Honda Civic also made waves in 2022, selling 120,000 units around the globe. A fresh-off-the-boat Honda Civic would set you back roughly $22,400. That’s two Honda Civics for the price of one crab, with some pocket change to spare!

A Tesla Model 3: An Eco-friendly Option

You could own a Tesla Model 3 for $43,000 and keep $3,000. This car is a game-changer in the auto world, known for its advanced features and broad appeal.

BMW 3 Series: A Posh Option But Still Cheaper Than Crab

Consider the BMW 3 Series if you are searching for something posher. It sold more than 30,000 cars in the United States in 2022. The BMW 3 Series’ starting price for 2022 was roughly $41,250, signifying that you could acquire one and still have some change after paying for one crab!

What Advantages Does Crab Offer For Our Health?

A plate filled with steamed snow crab legs served with butter and lemon

Snow crab and crab meat, in general, offer many health benefits.

©GoodFocused/Shutterstock.com

Crab meat offers a wealth of health benefits. Let’s take a look at a few:

Promotes Healthy Bones and Teeth

Phosphorus is essential for keeping bones and teeth healthy. It works alongside calcium to make bones strong and rigid, reducing the fracture risk. Most of the phosphorus in the body, approximately 85%, can be found in bones and teeth.

Our bones can become weaker and more prone to breaking as we age, especially for osteoporosis patients. Osteoporosis makes bones brittle and fragile by causing a decrease in bone density. Crab meat, a food rich in phosphorus, has the potential to bolster bones, decrease the chances of bone fracture, and ward off osteoporosis.

Boosts Cognitive Function

Crab has a mixture of nutrients such as vitamin B2, selenium, and copper that might be good for your brain and nervous system. These elements help enhance myelin and defend your nervous system while decreasing plaque and inflammation in neural pathways. By consuming enough crab regularly, it can be a potent cognitive cocktail.

Improves Heart Health

Crab meat is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the good fats that help balance your cholesterol levels and fight inflammation all over your body. These fats ease pressure on your heart, reduce your blood pressure, and even prevent atherosclerosis, a fancy word for blocked arteries. That means you could be less likely to have a heart attack or stroke if you eat crab regularly.

Enhances Immune System

The immune system battles numerous threats regularly, so it requires great assistance. Selenium can help the immune system function effectively and safeguard the body from long-term ailments as an antioxidant. Antioxidants can suppress free radicals that cause cell mutations.

Crab meat is rich in selenium. Only 100g of crab meat is enough to cater to men’s 112% daily recommended value, while women get 140%. This is due to crab meat having 12 times more selenium than beef and an incredible three times more than cod!

Aids in Detoxification

Our immune system defends us, but sometimes it’s not sufficient. Toxins and waste products can be dangerous to our well-being, and that’s where the liver and kidneys come in. They serve as detox hubs, filtering out harmful substances to keep us healthy.

Interestingly, crab meat may provide extra support to these organs. High phosphorus levels in crab meat have been linked to improved kidney function. By helping eliminate waste, phosphorus may speed up detoxification, improving metabolic efficiency and overall health.

Promotes Better Circulation

Crab meat contains a decent amount of copper. Copper is essential for many bodily functions, including absorbing iron effectively. By aiding iron utilization, copper supports the production of healthy red blood cells, which are crucial for proper circulation. Good circulation is necessary to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all body parts and remove waste products. Furthermore, it helps heal by providing oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues to regenerate and repair.

Final Thoughts on the World’s Priciest Crab

A large quantity of fresh-caught snow crabs

Snow crabs are popular in the luxury food and beverage industry.

©chuck hsu/Shutterstock.com

Japan’s record-breaking snow crab recently fetched an astronomical amount of money. Although this price may seem incomprehensible to most people, it’s not unusual in the luxury food and beverage industry. Other foods, like Japan’s famous wagyu beef or Italy’s white truffles, can fetch equally exorbitant prices. Food enthusiasts worldwide seek out these exclusive ingredients and are willing to pay top dollar. Alaska’s snow crab population is dwindling, and high prices for these crustaceans may continue soaring.

Although purchasing a crab worth thousands is unlikely for many, it’s fascinating to learn about the diversity and value of seafood across the globe. Whether you’re a food lover or just curious about the gastronomic world, there’s always something exciting to discover about the foods we consume.

Which Crab is More Tasty?

Largest King Crab - Red King Crab

King crabs are thought to be delicious when eaten straight from the shell.

©Don Serhio/Shutterstock.com

There are over 4,500 species of crabs although not all are edible due to a variety of reasons – some are too small to have enough meat and others have body parts that are toxic. There are only a few species that are edible and used in cooking, and some of the more popular ones are:

  • Blue Crab (Calinectes sapidus)
  • Dungeness Crab (Cancer magister)
  • Snow Crab (Cancer quanbumi)
  • King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)
  • Stone Crab (Menippe mercenaria)

Which one is the best though? Each crab tastes different and while it depends on your palate, and what flavor you might prefer, it is thought that king crab reigns supreme over the competition. The King of crabs is said to hold its own and is not only considered a delicacy but can be eaten as is, with nothing added. Snow crab, while also delicious on its own, is known for being more savory and is used in mixes, like dips, salads, and soups.

Whatever your preference, with a variety of tasty crab to choose from, you are sure to find something to enjoy.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/LaSalle-Photo


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