Collectables: The Christmas gift for people who have everything

A collectable is deeply personal. It is the archetypal thoughtful Christmas gift.

Christmas symbols. Merry Christmas. Christmas abstract geometric background with simple shapes, Santa Claus, celebration symbol, holiday food. Creative modern art. Bauhaus style Merry Christmas poster
(Image credit: Getty Images)

"Something collectable” is the answer to the great question that comes up every Christmas: what do you get that person who already has everything (or, at any rate, grumpily tells you they don’t need anything)? Nobody needs a rare vinyl or a first edition. They are just nice to have for those who are into that sort of thing, and everybody, no matter what they tell you, has an interest in something. And it’s not about whether that vintage snuff bottle or Toby jug will sell for more than you paid for it a few years down the line. If that’s your goal, you might as well get them a long-dated government bond. But that’s not very festive. A collectable item is something deeply personal and meaningful. It is the archetypal thoughtful gift.

Naturally, auctions are a great place to find such gifts. But Christmas is stressful enough without the uncertainty of whether your bid will be successful, or deciding how much to spend and when to make your offer. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be running out of time as the big day draws close. That’s when “buy now” platforms come into their own. Sotheby’s offers such a service on its website, selling everything from six-figure Hermès handbags to prints for just a few hundred pounds.

The auction house even offers a “Gift Guide” to help you decide on what to buy depending on whether you are buying for “him” or “her”; looking for a “classic gift”, or out to make a “grand gesture” (read, “expensive”). Just be aware that taxes are not included in the listed prices, and some items need to be shipped from abroad.

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Sotheby’s main rival, Christie’s, has a “Private Sales” section on its website, focusing more on fine art, furniture, and jewellery. If you’re looking for something in particular, its “global network of specialists” will try to find it for you. 

Dropshop is a new online platform from Phillips that sells new artworks directly to buyers, including from emerging artists – a section of the art market that has seen robust growth in recent years, buoyed by social media and the search for “the next big thing”. It’s worth keeping an eye on. 

Of course, there are still traditional galleries and don’t forget your local auction house for the possibility of grabbing a bargain if you have the inclination to bid. If you know what you’re looking for but not where to find it, aggregators such as The Saleroom can point you in the right direction.

What if you’re not after a big-ticket Renoir to buy now (see Christie’s), or a pair of diamond-studded earrings with a pair of emeralds the size of grapes (£825,204 from Sotheby’s)? What if the person you are buying for would prefer a phaser, used in the filming of Star Trek: Discovery? Or how about a life-sized medical pod from Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus? The Propstore, a leading film and television memorabilia auction house based just outside London, has you covered. Both are available to buy now.

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Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.