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Put down the wine and cognac, now is the time for whisky and beers

Wine and cognac have long been the preserves of wealthy collectors, who fill their ample cellars with the best bottles, ready to break out when the time is right – or to save as an investment.

An investment hangover awaits those who bought wine too eagerly - image: Sotheby's

An investment hangover awaits those who bought wine too eagerly – image: Sotheby’s

These collectible drinks hold a special place in the world of collectibles investment. They hold their own kind of insurance against any potential losses, with the owner able to pop open a bottle and drown his sorrows should profit go down the pan.

Not much of a consolation, but far more enjoyable than losing thousands on stocks and shares.

But the market for Bordeaux – once the big-hitter of wine auctions everywhere – has been ailing since 2011, when a bubble pushed prices unsustainably high and they were sharply corrected soon after.

There are only so many sorrows you can drown before you have to throw in the towel, and with just 1.5% growth in the second quarter of 2013, many wine collections are being sold off.

But there is hope for the collectible beverages market: whisky and beer.

Those oh-so-manly and uncouth drinks have been taking off lately, with collectors forking out top sums to own the very finest the world has to offer.


A cellar full of whisky proves more potent than wine when it comes to investing – image: Spink

Whisky in particular has proved its potential as an investment, and those aficionados that would have drank a bottle down without a second though now think twice before doing so.

While Bordeaux languishes, the whisky world has seen two world records in the past year, both for a cask and a single bottle, with Scotch the decided favourite. Meanwhile, the top 100 bottles have seen an 18.75% increase in value in the past year, making them a better investment that the S&P500.

This is a young market, and its being spurred by foreign collectors, with figures showing that Russia is actually the biggest importer of Scotch whisky. This rise is supported by the newly-wealthy middle classes in growing economies emulating the traditions of the rich around the world.

Now, the beer market isn’t as well established as whisky, but there is an increasing global interest in “artisan” ales and the like and some of those bottle are fast becoming collectible.

See some of the top-selling collectible beers in the world.

One of the world most valuable beers comes inside a taxidermied squirrel: we're not sure about this one - image:  Brewdog

One of the world most valuable beers comes inside a taxidermied squirrel: we’re not sure about this one – image: Brewdog

These aren’t for investment, as beer will spoil in little over a year, making the contents almost worthless. Rather, beer collectors will cherish a few precious bottles, while gathering breweriana.

You may not have come across the word breweriana, but collecting artefacts from brewers – such as beer taps, kegs and advertising – is a long established market that regularly sees sales held across the world.

What’s more, breweriana leaves the collector free to enjoy their drink, while appreciating the history of their favourite pastime.

A $29,000 beer can that sold at auction last year - image: Morphy Auctions

A $29,000 beer can that sold at auction last year – image: Morphy Auctions

Check out this guy’s collection of beer cans and breweriana – it’ll soon get you drunk on collecting.

by Joe


Man Ray’s objects

In November, Man Ray’s archive will auction at Sotheby’s Paris.

Consisting of over 300 lots the sale will include a wealth of materials from his estate that span his life and career – including a huge array of photographs.

It is the largest collection of his work to come to auction in almost 20 years.

In addition, a number of surrealist objects are offered.

These include a work titled Ce que manque à nous tous or “What we all lack”, which consists of a clay pipe (inscribed with the title of the work) topped by a glass bubble that inverts the world around it.


This forced new perspective was one of the primary aims of the dadaists and surrealists.

Additional lots include a model of photographer Lee Miller’s lips in gold and two modernist chess sets.

Man Ray’s objects are less widely known than his photographs, as the majority have been lost over the years, but are equally fascinating.

He began working on them during the 1920s. Some were intended primarily for use in photographs and destroyed afterwards, meaning collectors covet those that do survive.

This scarcity is partly explained by the story behind Object to be Destroyed (created circa 1922-1923 and not included in the sale), a metronome with an eye photo clipped to the arm, which is housed in the Tate.

He explained: “I had a metronome in my place which I set going when I painted – like the pianist sets it going when he starts playing – its ticking noise regulated the frequency and number of my brushstrokes…

“A painter needs an audience, so I also clipped a photo of an eye to the metronome’s swinging arm to create the illusion of being watched as I painted.

“One day I did not accept the metronome’s verdict, the silence was unbearable and since I had called it, with a certain premonition, Object of Destruction, I smashed it to pieces.”


The world’s biggest collection

In some respects Zero Fretas is just like any other obsessive record collector.

He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music.

He has a beard.

But in other ways Fretas is very different.

Largely because he’s one of the richest men in Brazil – and he cannot stop buying records.

Fretas owns the world's biggest record collection

Fretas owns the world’s biggest record collection

He is the owner of the world’s biggest record collection.

In fact it’s the world’s biggest collection, period.

No one is able to put an exact number on it, but cautious estimates place it somewhere in the region of several million.

At present, he employs a host of people to catalogue it – a task that is expected to take around 20 years to complete.

It’s breathtakingly eclectic.

It includes a copy of almost every record ever pressed in Cuba (around 100,000) and a set of 15,000 polka albums.

While many of his records are unique, around 30% are duplicates. He owns 1,793 copies of the first album he ever bought, Roberto Carlos Sings to the Children.

His mission? To own a copy of every record ever produced.

Fretas is certainly not alone.

The Sultan of Brunei, for instance, owns the world’s largest collection of cars – around 7,000 in total.

That’s an astronomical number, particularly when you take into account that we’re talking Ferrari Berlinettas and Lamborghini Diablos rather than Ford Fiestas and Nissan Micras.

At the weirder end of the scale we have Danny Fleming from Grimsby, who owns a collection of 105 pairs of bagpipes.

There is something awe inspiring about a truly vast collection and the same urge, whether or not it takes on this epic scale, is something that drives all collectors.

We can all relate to that heart-pounding moment when you come across the one thing that you’ve been looking for and equally, the satisfaction that a collection brings.


The most lucrative collection you’ve never heard of…

San Diego Comic-Con 2014 was treated to a surprise from Profiles in History this year.

Everett's collection is the world's largest nad most comprehensive of movie ephemera

Everett’s collection is the world’s largest nad most comprehensive of movie ephemera

If you were among the thousands of collecting nerds that flocked to the event and happened to stumble upon the auction house’s stall, dozens of the finest movie posters, lobby cards and ephemera would have greeted you.

Profiles in History are well known for handling some of the greatest memorabilia collections (they were behind the astonishing Debbie Reynolds sales in 2011 and earlier this year), but this stunning selection came from an unfamiliar name – Morris Everett Jr.

You may have heard his name if you are a devotee of movie poster collecting, but to most his name doesn’t ring a bell – despite featuring in newspapers and magazines daily.

That’s because Everett, a man with a plan that started gathering all the movie ephemera he could more than 50 years ago and now owns the world’s largest collection of its kind, also collects movie stills and rare images.

When he found himself on the brink of bankruptcy in 1990, his collection came to the rescue.

Approached with a business offer he couldn’t refuse, Everett began to licence some of his images to magazine and newspapers across the world.

Everett's images earn him some serious money, with the world's top publications regularly calling on his collection

Everett’s images earn him some serious money, with the world’s top publications regularly calling on his collection

Remember when Frank Sinatra died in 1998, and TIME magazine published his image on the cover? Yep, that was Everett’s image.

Likewise for Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, when Everett supplied an iconic shot to the National Enquirer.

Now, one of the main issues investors have with collectibles is that, unlike stocks and shares, unique memorabilia doesn’t pay dividends. It may perform better in the long term, but what about in the mean time, when regular payments help to pay the bills?

Everett’s collection provides just one answer to that problem, but there are many ways collectors in any area can supplement their income while enjoying their collection.

Classic car collectors may choose to rent a portion of their collection for those who fancy a day’s driving in a luxury motor, art collectors may loan their best works to museums for a fee.

Your chance to combine work and pleasure

Your chance to combine work and pleasure

For music memorabilia collectors, Paul Fraser Collectibles has a unique photograph of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, which is being sold with copyright and full licensing rights – this could be the first step to your lucrative collecting business.

by Joe

An introduction to collecting baseball cards

Great advice from the Crazy World of Baseball blog!

The Crazy World of Baseball starring Andrew H

I have had many hobbies over my life but none that have held true to my heart like baseball cards. Even at almost 30, I get giddy when I see the latest products come out. Though only Topps is still around in the officially licensed baseball game, there are other companies that still make baseball cards such as Leaf, Onyx, and Panini.

So you’re a kid/teen/adult/alien who wants to start collecting. What should you do first? Here are my 5 recommendations.

1. Find a set/player/etc… project to do and STICK WITH IT! : This is one of the things I’ve regretted as a collector. I have moved from set to set and not completed projects. Complete you projects as best as you can.

2. Buy supplies: Don’t go too “Wile E. Coyote looking at the latest ACME catalog” crazy though. Buy only what you need and can afford. You have…

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Who’s next? Memorabilia from the most raucous rock ‘n’ roll act

The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin.

Who’s missing?

The Who, of course.

Formed in 1964, The Who were among the biggest British rock bands of their day, and have stood the test of time with over 100m records sold.

Nine studio albums. A historic appearance at Woodstock. Two rock operas. Some of the most incendiary live performances ever seen.

They inhabit the same pantheon as those rock gods that receive huge bids at auction today.

And yet the market for their memorabilia remains undervalued. How have collectors passed up the opportunity to own items from the band’s remarkable career?

Perhaps it’s due to rarity. The band are well known for their on-stage antics, smashing just about everything in sight as a form of “auto-destructive art”.

This hasn’t left many items for the collectors to fight over, yet rarity is often the fuelling factor behind some of the biggest prices at auction.

Townshend's guitar is up for sale at Lelands

Townshend’s guitar is up for sale at Lelands

Besides, I’d pay a fair sum for a Pete Townshend guitar in pieces – I might even fork out more than I would for a complete one.

The deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle have capped the market for memorabilia from the original line-up, though Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue to tour – refreshing interest in the band and bringing new collectors to the market.

So their memorabilia is both rare and in demand, yet remains at prices not befitting the band’s status as one of the greatest of the 20th century.

Yet recent auction results suggest that prices are creeping up.

A Pete Townshend guitar sold for $32,450 in 2008, yet in 2014 it made $63,717 – a 2.4% per annum increase in value.

However, that’s still far behind the prices seen by the likes of the Beatles, with a guitar from the Fab Four recently seeing $605,000 in a US sale.

Our signed photograph of The Who is priced at just £295. A fully-signed shot of The Beatles is worth around £27,000, according to the PFC40 Autograph Index.The-Who-signed-Photo

I don’t think prices for The Who will ever soar that high, but if you’re a fan of The Who, now is the time to buy – music memorabilia as a whole is on the rise, and it’s only so long before the boys behind Quadrophrenia get paid their dues from collectors.


A shadowy organisation…collecting the Knights Templar

A set of 13th century deeds granting lands in Yorkshire to the Knights Templar will appear at Dreweatts later this month – the largest archive of its kind to come to auction in 50 years.


The Knights Templar land deeds

The fascinating history of the order has been capturing imaginations for centuries (particularly those of conspiracy nuts) and the extreme rarity of memorabilia is likely to ensure a strong sale.

Legends and conspiracies abound.

But what do we know about the Templars?


For a start, we know that the order was formed to protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.

The name derives from their original moniker: The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (hence Templars for short).

When the order started out in 1120 it was reliant on donations of food, but within 10 years, it grew rich on charitable donations.

Its power continued to grow after the pope granted exemption from law in 1139.

The orders wealth was diversified through various channels (including fort building, manufacturing and farming) leading some to qualify it as the first multinational corporation.

The deeds offered in the sale date to this era at the height of the Templars’ power.

But all good things must come to an end.

In 1244, the Turks recaptured Jerusalem and by early 1300, the order was forced out of the Holy Land for good.

This left the people of Europe in a predicament. An enormously wealthy, powerful and lawless army without a purpose is a dangerous thing.

It was at this point, in around 1307 that the new pope decided enough was enough and ordered the leaders to be rounded up and burned at the stake.

The legends, including that of the Holy Grail, began circulating around this time and gestated over the preceding centuries – although no hard evidence for any of the conspiracies that dog the order have ever been found.



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