Unique collectibles = investment success: 'How to choose the right path'
From doggy statues to pieces from the Eiffel Tower - these items are as unusual as they are valuable
There has been much talk about Halloween collectibles in the Paul Fraser Collectibles newsroom this week. Memorabilia of the October 31 festival is more popular than you might think. For instance, a creepy 'Veggie Man' jack-o-lantern recently sold for $4,387 at a US auction.
Clearly, there is some money in unique Halloween collectibles - although I'm not sure if I'd recommend them to you as investment grade assets. Instead, I want to show you some unique collectibles from the high-end of the markets, and some of the factors you can look out for in order to spot a great investment...
A 'Veggie Man' jack-o-
Firstly, what do we mean when we say 'unique'? My definition of a unique item is something that is one-of-a-kind, and occupies a distinct niche all of its own. This may sound like fairly simple criteria, but the sheer breadth of collectible items that fall under this definition never ceases to amaze me...
Even better, the markets for unique items are thriving. It was only last week that a World Record auction price of $302,500 (£191,000) was achieved by a unique collectible. What was the item? No joke: it was a Barbie doll, sold to a collector at Christie's New York. So, what was unique about the doll?
Well, it just so happens that the Barbie was wearing jewellery and clothing designed by jeweller to the stars, Stefano Canturi. Canturi's pieces have been worn by Nicole Kidman, Oprah Winfrey and Kylie Minogue and Linda Evangelista. Yet the buyer at Christie's New York sale now owns a Canturi piece more unique than any of those stars could hope to own.
Put simply, if an item is unique then it's more likely to arouse the desires of bidders and other private buyers. What's more, if you add history to the equation then you could have an excellent appreciating asset on your hands...
Consider the rare Qing Dynasty jade stamp once used by an Emperor, which was sold for a World Record price of £7.9 ($12.2m) at Sotheby's in April. The value of this remarkable piece of history is likely to continue to grow in future years.
Elsewhere, other unique collectibles offer investment opportunities that some collectors aren't savvy enough to spot. For instance, how much would you pay for this doggy statue...?
It was sold for $30,000 in January at a Florida auction. Even more impressively, the statue was estimated at just $8,000. So why did it sell for so much?
The 39 inches wide, 33 lbs tableau is actually dated to circa-1900 and was carved by the noted artist Walter Mader. Mader's works reflected his lifelong fascination with dogs; in this case depicting a St Bernard and her puppies.
The winning bidder was a major Colorado art collector of some 30 years, who participated in the sale by telephone. My point is: the art dealer had the knowledge to spot an asset and opportunity that many other people would have missed.
And as for the sheer variety of unique items out there... I've already shown you a piece of history with the Qing Dynasty stamp. But how about if we take the 'piece of history' concept one step further...?
One of the most fascinating unique items to sell in 2009 was a piece of Paris' Eiffel Tower. Dated to 1889 and measuring 7.8 metres high with 40 steps, it isn't just a staircase but also a vital piece of Paris's architectural history. In the end, the stairs sold for €105,400.
Elsewhere, at Christie's, an iconic vintage cast iron relic from the corner of New York's Broad and Wall Street auctioned for $116,500. Episodes in the sign's history include the infamous Wall Street bombing of 1920 which killed 38 people and injured several hundred.
In each case, the new owners of the Eiffel Tower stairs and the Wall Street sign each own an asset that museums and similar institutions around the world could pay large amounts for in future years.
Finally, never underestimate the unique items which can be attached to famous historical figures... After all, collectibles are not just about autographs. For instance, Charles Dickens remains one of the most famous authors in the Western world.
Yet it was a dog collar worn by Dickens' dog, a St Bernard named Linda, which sold for £6,000 at auction in January 2010.
Unique collectibles are continually proving themselves at auction and, as assets, can bring you profits and surprises that most people would struggle to imagine.
You can find more information on the continued successes these collectibles in our dedicated Unique Items news section.
And if you want to see some truly unique pieces that are currently for sale click here.
For now, good luck and happy collecting!