Coming soon... The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong memorabilia
34 years on from his death, is Mao set to become the market leader of political collectibles?
September 9, 1976 is a significant day for over 1.3bn Chinese people. It marks the anniversary of the passing of political theorist, revolutionary and communist leader Mao Zedong.
Mao helped to establish the People's Republic of China in 1949 and led the country until his death, 27 years later. Ultimately though, he is seen as a divisive figure within world history.
Detractors point to the socio-political policies and infamous purges of his party as costing the lives of tens of millions of innocent people.
Yet for many of the Chinese public he remains a figure of national respect, having laid the foundations for the economic and technological advancements of their economy, which has seen China begin to emerge as the ultimate superpower of the world.
In August 2010, China officially became the world's second largest economy with an economic output of $1.33tn. In the same month, it was estimated that the number of dollar millionaires residing in the country had reached approximately 870,000.
With affluence in China reaching an all time high, investors from the Far East have already begun turning to collectibles.
In November 2009, China's first wine auction brought sales figures of £841,350 ($1.3m). Whilst classic cars are also set to make a huge impact in The People's Republic over the next twelve months, as investors look to diversify their assets and buy into classic western status symbols.
But what of Chairman Mao - arguably the most famous Chinese icon of the twentieth century?
Well, the biggest Mao related collectibles news of recent times have come from the country's ever increasing stamp market. China now accounts for approximately 18m serious collectors. This figure equates to around 37.5% of the global stamp collectors market. In recent years, this huge collector base has seen prices for Chinese stamps soar.
And with Mao's image emblazoned on many of the designs, he remains a figure of importance to Chinese collectors and investors alike. In February 2010, a Chinese auction of stamps saw the sale of a block of four stamps from the 1968 which depicted Chairman Mao standing alongside military leader Lin Biao. The rare block of four sold for an impressive £555,740 ($858,700).
It was a well documented fact that Mao detested stamp collecting as a bourgeois pursuit and subsequently banned it in China. However, following his death, the collecting of stamps and in particular, the famous Communist designs have clearly gone from strength to strength.
In a recent interview, rare Chinese stamp expert Jeffrey Schneider also noted the following:
"Stamps from the Cultural Revolution have become very popular; the value of Chinese stamps from the '60s and '70s is enormous."
The interest surrounding stamp from the Cultural Revolution has already led to world record prices for these Chinese collectibles. Yet, Chinese investors could soon be turning to other forms of collectible from the period.
One area of collectibles offering relatively low entry level investment prices alongside huge growth potential is Mao Zedong memorabilia. After all it was Mao that instigated the Cultural Revolution of 1966.
This would clearly place memorabilia from his time in power as an ideal investment for any collectors looking to invest in historical pieces of the Cultural Revolution.
Furthermore, with entry level prices for these collectibles, coupled with the growing interest in the period of the Cultural Revolution, an investment now could pay rich rewards in the mid to long term.
You only have to compare the prices of memorabilia from Western political leaders of similar eras to see that Mao memorabilia is currently undervalued.
According to the PFC40 autograph index, which monitors the value of the top 40 most sought after autographs on the market, the value of Winston Churchill 's signature has seen a significant increase.
Back in 2000, a signed photograph of Churchill was worth £2,600. On today's market the same photograph would be worth £5,950. That's a rise of 128.8%
In comparison, signed Mao photographs are incredibly rare, with few entering the market. In April 2007, a 1970 copy of LIFE magazine which featured his famous meeting with Richard Nixon and included the Mao's autograph in black ink sold for £1,710 ($2,640), against an estimate of £970 ($1,500.)
Given the renewed interest in memorabilia from the Cultural Revolution, this unique autograph could easily reach a higher figure at future sale.
Particularly when you consider that the equally unique and historic autograph of John F. Kennedy, signed on a newspaper on the day of his death, sold for £25,240 ($39,000) in January 2010.
A first edition, first print of Mao's "Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong" which featured the signature of Chinese military leader Lin Biao sold for £6,600 ($12,256) in London in June 2006. On today's market, this rare book could fetch even more.
Especially when you note that a 1932 first edition of Winston Churchill essays entitled "Thoughts and Adventures" sold for £20,000 ($30,000) in June 2010.
October 2010, will also see one of the biggest auctions of entertainment collectible hit Macau in China. The sale is set to further demonstrate the emergence of memorabilia as a serious investment amongst Chinese collectors.
And those collectors investing in Mao Zedong memorabilia could see high returns sooner than we think. 2013 will mark the 120 year anniversary of Mao's birth, whilst October 2019 will see the 70th anniversary of the Mao's formation of the People's Republic of China.
These events are sure to have a positive impact on the value of rare Mao Zedong memorabilia. Investing now could see you witness the benefits of another cultural revolution...this time in the world of Chinese collectibles.
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