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Overview: I am not trying to return a post. I simply want the single highest value for a particular meta_value across all posts... just the value itself.

Details: I have added a custom meta_key "price" to all my posts. The value is always an integer (no decimals or non-numeric characters). I am trying to do a query that returns the highest / largest / maximum meta_value associated with this particular meta_key.

Buggy Code

function max_meta_value(){
    global $wpdb;
    $query = "SELECT max(meta_value) FROM wp_postmeta WHERE meta_key='price'";
    $the_max = $wpdb->get_var($query);
    return $the_max;

Buggy Results: At first I thought the above code worked, because it does if all the meta_values are less than 999. I soon discovered that if the meta_value is greater than 999 then it is ignored. So really the code above is giving me the max(meta_value) for meta_values less than 1000.

Plea to Community: Obviously I do not know why it fails, but I have a feeling that it has something to do with how WP stores the value - perhaps its datatype related? Or maybe I should not be using $wpdb->get_var(). Any guidance will be greatly appreciated.

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The meta_value is not of an integer type for max to return proper values. You can use mysql cast method to convert into integers as follows:

SELECT max(cast(meta_value as unsigned)) FROM wp_postmeta WHERE meta_key='price'

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Excellent, that worked perfectly. Thank You! –  Kirkland Jun 11 '12 at 6:44
Including only published posts: pastebin.com/pR6SDEdf –  npc May 15 '13 at 23:24
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I modified the original function and KDM's solution to have a more universal function. It goes like this:

function end_meta_value( $end = "max", $meta )
    global $wpdb;
    $query = $wpdb->prepare( 
        "SELECT %s( cast( meta_value as UNSIGNED ) ) FROM {$wpdb->postmeta} WHERE meta_key='%s'",
    return $wpdb->get_var( $query );

This way you can get both minimum and maximum values of any custom meta_value. I also changed wp_postmeta to $wpdb->postmeta to fit any prefix you use.

Note: If you want query for a digit, replace %s in the $wpdb->prepare() statement with %d.

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