Collectors should go for gold

Classic cars have proved to be amongst the best collectible investments.

Anyone who's ever had young children understands the power of the collector's instinct. When I was growing up, the collectibles of choice were comics, old stamps or foreign currencies we'd scour the bric-a-brac shops and hone our negotiating skills in the playground, swapping our booty with one another.

Toy manufacturers long since cottoned on to this psychological frailty, and today's children are assaulted on all sides by potential collectibles to obsess over swathes of cards and stickers and plastic figures line the aisles near the tills, all crying out for your offspring to "collect the set".

This compulsion doesn't fade as you get older and wealthier: the collectibles just get bigger and more expensive. For example, according to Forbes, Steve Green, son of David Green, the billionaire founder of US arts and crafts group Hobby Lobby, recently paid more than $1m for a 12th-century Byzantine New Testament. It is being added to the family's existing library of bibles a collection of 40,000 or so which will eventually form the basis of a museum.

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But since the financial crash, this collecting frenzy has taken on new dimensions. International estate agency Knight Frank has just put together the Passion Index, which tracks the performance of key collectible assets over the past decade. It seems that, since 2008, high-net-worth individuals defined as those with more than $30m in net assets are keen on collectibles not only as a hobby, but also as an alternative place to put their money.

Over the ten years to the third quarter of 2012, classic cars proved the best collectible investment, rising in value by nearly 400%. Watches have been the weakest of the assets covered, rising by 76%, yet still beating high-end property in New York, up just 72%.

One impact of this surge of interest from the super-rich has been to skew the priorities of the collecting business. Jonathan Dodd of Waterhouse & Dodd galleries tells the FT's Teresa Levonian Cole that his gallery has made a decision to move away from little-known artists towards "dealing in major works by major artists".

The trouble is that the "separation between the very rich and the rest seems to be at its greatest since the Victorian era". As a result, while the very rich are buying only "the best of everything", the rest of the market is "stone-cold".

Of course, the main problem with collectibles is that not only do you have to be rich to buy them, but you also have to be rich to store them. Wine cellars, extensive garages and insurance to cover it all doesn't come cheap. Offloading these assets in a crash isn't easy either.

But the good news for those of us not yet among the echelons of the high-net-worth individuals is that one easily accessible asset beat the lot, including the old bangers and the Hong Kong penthouses (up 221%): gold (up 434%).

Tabloid money beer hike is a bitter blow to ordinary people

"Britain is becoming a nation of petty thieves," according to Nathan Rao in the Daily Express. A recent poll of 1,000 adults reveals that nine out of ten of us believe there is nothing wrong with taking items such as towels and slippers from hotels without offering to pay for them.

But it doesn't end there: 88% of us are happy to use someone else's unsecured internet connection, a third of us help ourselves to office stationery and 17% of us see a pick n' mix counter in a shop as fair game for freebies. Apparently, in most cases the logic is that the cost of the items being pilfered is so low that shops and hotels "won't miss them". Tut, tut.

One-third of the proceeds of every over-priced pint in Britain's pubs now goes to the Treasury, says Ale Seizer in The Sun. That's down to the Beer Duty Escalator, which hikes the tax on beer every year by 2% above the rate of inflation. "To well-paid MPs swilling subsidised champagne in Westminster bars that may seem like small beer", but "to ordinary people, it matters".

It is also crucial to our pub industry, already ravaged by price hikes and the smoking ban. This is just one of several tax "calamities" inflicted on us by Chancellor George Osborne. "Scrap the April beer hike in the Budget, Chancellor", as it will be a "desperate day" when we can't even afford "to drown our own sorrows".

Irony is lost on the coalition government it seems, judging by a story from Lucy Osborne in the Daily Mail. The latest report detailing the environmental impact of the new high-speed rail line runs to 50,000 pages and weighs "half a ton". That's the equivalent of 34 copies of War and Peace.

It will need ten trees worth of paper to print it just once. It gets worse. The copy that is delivered to parliament has to be hardbacked, taking the total weight to roughly the same as that of a smart car. It will then be reprinted for every local authority on the rail route. Madness.