Prized first editions may look good on the book shelf, says Chris Carter. But for investor-collectors, that’s not where the real money is.
As an “investor-collector”, you would be better off thumbing your nose at rare books than thumbing their pages. That’s the conclusion of a new study from Credit Suisse and the London Business School, which for the first time includes a chapter comparing the returns on collectables – or “treasure assets” as it calls them.
According to the research, the average high-net-worth individual (those with at least $50m) has 6% of his or her portfolio invested in art, cars, wine and other collectables. Not much of that will be going into books from now on, if these multi-millionaires pick up a copy of the Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns report. First editions came bottom of the “treasure” pile, returning their owners a mere seven times their money (in real terms) from 1974 to 2015.
So, never mind that Heritage Auctions in New York is selling (on 7 March) a signed, inscribed first printing of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, valued at $100,000. Or even the signed presentation copy of JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, expected to fetch a more modest $20,000. You’re better off without them. Art? Forget it – unless you happened to be selling the “lost” Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, which went for $400m last November. As a treasure asset, art made just a nine-fold return since 1900.
Violins? 16-fold. Stamps? 20-fold. So, what was the best bet? Wine? Not quite – although you would have made 65 times your initial investment, which, let’s face it, is still pretty good. The overwhelmingly best-performing collectable asset was classic cars.
First, a few caveats. The authors of the study freely admit they had to shop around for relevant indices compiled in different places. Also, collectables by their nature are usually one of a kind and infrequently traded. For example, the index in classic cars, produced by historic car analysts HAGI, only tracks 50 models from 19 makers, comprising 21,000 cars in total. And since classic cars haven’t been around for as long as, say, valuable art, the index starts in 1980. Nonetheless, the value of classic cars grew by a whopping 242-fold in that time.
Now you know where to invest, one of the best places to buy is the upcoming Goodwood Members’ Meeting in Chichester on 17 March. At the auction, held by Bonhams the next day, is a 1963 Jaguar E-Type roadster with a price tag of between £130,000 and £160,000. As The Times notes, its original owner would have paid about £2,250, the equivalent of £45,500 today. If the value of classic cars continues to rise – and it might not – collectors will want to make tracks and get down to the venerable car lovers’ jamboree.
An investment worth a toast
A rare bottle of Macallan Select Reserve 1946 is to lead Bonhams’ whisky sale in Edinburgh on Wednesday. Because coal was scarce at the end of World War II, the malt was dried in peat-fired kilns instead, “resulting in a whisky with distinct and complex tastes and aromas”, say the auctioneers. The bottle is expected to fetch between £12,000 and £14,000.
Whisky fans in Sweden whose budgets may not stretch quite that far, will soon be able to invest in a fund specialising in rare whiskies, reports The Independent. The whiskies in the fund – which is the brainchild of Swedish whisky enthusiast Christian Svantesson – will be chosen by five portfolio managers. When the fund wants to liquidate (as it were) part of its holding, the bottles will be offered first to the fund’s investors via its website.
The Single Malt Fund, which is only being marketed to Swedes, will be supervised by the Swedish financial regulator. It has also been approved for launch on the Nordic Growth Market (NGM) in Stockholm, making it the world’s first regulated and publicly-listed single malt whisky fund.
“Knowing how much my own limited rare whiskies have appreciated in value, I spotted an opportunity to take a more professional approach to the whisky investor market,” says Svantesson. “As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t resist the temptation to combine my passion for whisky with my entrepreneurial drive.”
An error-strewn job application filled out by late Apple boss Steve Jobs is set to fetch at least $50,000 at RR Auction in Boston on 8 March. The form dates from 1973, after Jobs had dropped out of university, but before he went to work for Atari a year later, where he met Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The iPhone pioneer stated he had no phone, and under “access to transportation”, he wrote, “Possible, not probable”.
A mint-condition Apple Lisa 1 computer, first released in 1983, and deemed the “Holy Grail” of early Apple computers by collectors, sold for $56,100, plus $990 shipping, on auction website eBay last month. The pioneering computer was the first to feature a graphic interface and mouse, yet it was a commercial failure, selling only 100,000 units. Very few examples are known to still exist, and be in such good condition.