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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.

Whisky-550

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.

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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.”

Tom

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – my personal picks

Phew, what a weekend!

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is over for yet another year, and this year saw even more of the world’s finest collector cars cross the block than ever before.

A new world record for any car sold at auction was set by the Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta (as expected!), while Ferrari blew away all the competition.Pic: Bonhams

Just look at the top 10 sales in California this weekend:

1962 Ferrari 250GTO coupe – $38,115,000 (Bonhams)

1964 Ferrari 275GTB/C Speciale coupe – $26,400,000 (RM Auctions)

1961 Ferrari 250GT California SWB Spider – $15,180,000 (Gooding)

1964 Ferrari 250LM coupe – $11,550,000 (RM Auctions)

1967 Ferrari 275GTB/4 coupe – $10,175,000 (RM Auctions)

1953 Ferrari 250MM coupe – $7,260,000 (Bonhams)

1965 Ford GT40 prototype roadster – $6,930,000 (RM Auctions)

1962 Ferrari 250GT SWB Speciale Aerodinamica coupe – $6,875,000 (Bonhams)

1958 Ferrari 250GT Series 1 cabriolet $6,820,000 – (Bonhams)

1959 Ferrari 250GT Series 1 cabriolet $5,610,000 – (Gooding)

Even the Best in Show award winner was a Ferrari – the first time a post-war car has ever been selected.

Now, I know Ferrari reigns supreme at the top of the market for a reason – beautiful cars matched by impeccable performance and an impressive racing pedigree – but they just don’t do it for me.

I’ve yet to get my driving license (hey, I’m working on it!), but if I was to part with my hard earned cash at Pebble Beach, I’d be looking away from the high-end and towards the more unusual models.

Take a look at my top five picks of the bunch:

1937 BMW 328 Roadster

Pic: Bonhams

Just look at it!

For me, the 1930s was the pinnacle of car styling – I like my cars curvy and this one certainly ticks that box.

Even better is the fact that it was made in the 1930s by BMW, and wouldn’t look out of place being driven by a villain in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade.

The BMW 328 Roadster can also hold its own on the track. Upon its release it was one of the most successful sports cars at Germany’s feared Nurburgring and has gone on to become one of the most iconic cars of all time.

1959 Fiat 500 Jolly

Pic: Bonhams

I imagine myself cruising round my huge estate in this one, picking up friends with a cocktail in my hand.

A classic beach car, the Jolly is the four-wheeled equivalent to the Vespa scooter, designed so sun-kissed jetsetters could swan around the seafront in style.

Now a beloved collector favourite, the Jolly sees big bids at auction, with this example coming in at $88,000.

1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 Paxton Prototype

Pic: RM auctions

Gotta love a bit of American muscle right?

This one packs an extra punch in bring one of only two Paxton supercharger prototypes ever made under the direction of the legendary Carroll Shelby, famed for his dangerously powerful machines.

His attempt to “turn a mule into a racehorse”, the result was the 1965 Shelby GT350 – the most successful of the famous line – with this used as a demo car, boasting a supercharger V8 engine.

At $572,000, it was actually something of a bargain for those looking to own automotive history outside of Ferrari.

1966 Volkswagen 21-Window Deluxe Micro Bus

Pic: RM Auctions

What better way to ferry around friends than the iconic VW bus?

This stunning restoration is just about one of the nicest you can find and is in highly original condition.

However, I’m not much of a stickler for the rules, so I’d probably drop in a bigger engine – hey, a man needs more than 40HP to get off the line.

While you can pick up a shabby-chic version for less than $20,000, this example – the rarest variant with 21 windows – had an estimate of $90,000-120,000.

1965 Aston Martin DB5

Pic:RM Auctions

Now, I needed a touch of class in the collection, so I’ve opted for none other than Aston Martin.

The DB5 screams “prestige”, not only as an incredibly beautiful British sports car, but also as the famous drive of James Bond.

I can just see myself now, ejecting my enemies from their seats with a beautiful Bond girl in tow…

Sadly, it’ll be a long while before I can afford one – this just made $1.6m.

by Joe

Collectors gear up for Elvis auction

A major sale of artefacts from the life of Elvis Presley is due to take place at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee later today. The auction consists of 72 lots and includes everything from his marriage certificate to his front door keys.

Ahead of the event, let’s take a brief look at some of the most interesting lots.

Early signature

The signature is one of the  earliest known examples

The signature is one of the earliest known examples

Elvis signed this library card in 1947 when he was in 7th grade. During that year he was beginning to gain recognition for his singing and performed twice on local personality Mississippi Slim’s radio show.

The piece is one of the earliest known examples of Elvis’ signature, meaning its likely to attract a high degree of interest from collectors.

Shooting target

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis had an enormous collection of guns. After a number of death threats he carried one on his person at all times, even while he was on stage.

His penchant for firing at the TV whenever singer and longtime rival Robert Goulet appeared onscreen in the stuff of legend.

This target was set up in his smokehouse in the grounds of Graceland, which he used as a shooting range.

Marriage certificate

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

This marriage certificate records Elvis’ wedding to Priscilla in Las Vegas in 1967. The couple spent a total of eight minutes in the chapel before jetting off for their honeymoon.

Ironically it was sent back to the marriage office stamped “return to sender” and was kept by one of the clerks, who sold it at auction in the mid 90s.

Keys

These keys were used in the couple's honeymoon

These keys were used in the couple’s honeymoon

This set of keys for Elvis’ holiday home in Palm Springs, California were taken on his honeymoon with Priscilla. The couple spent a couple of days in the luxury apartment before flying on to Memphis.

A Los Angeles Police Department keyring is a nice touch. Alongside his gun obsession, Elvis was an avid collector of police badges.

by Tom

The world’s most valuable signature

Day in day out we sell some of the world’s rarest autographs.

From James Dean to Henry VIII, if you can imagine it we’ve either got it or can get it.

However, there’s one I can guarantee that we’ll never have in stock.

I’ll give you a clue.

It belongs to the greatest writer in history.

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

There are only six known copies of William Shakespeare’s autograph in existence – all of which feature on legal documents and are housed under lock and key in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

If one was to ever sell, it’s estimated that it would go for around $5m.

That figure would increase significantly if it was attached to a manuscript copy of one of his plays, not a single copy of which has ever surfaced.

Shakespeare's will - one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

Shakespeare’s will – one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

The extraordinary value placed on his signature is far above that for any other person, a phenomenon that can be explained both by his extraordinary contribution to literature and the air of mystery that surrounds him.

Despite his fame and status, we still known very little about Shakespeare.

The fact that very few records or relics are known to have survived means that there is no market for memorabilia pertaining to him, despite enormous demand.

As a result copies of his folios, printed after his death, regularly break six figures – with one selling for $6.1m in 2001.

World’s largest video game collection teaches a valuable lesson

There’s a oft-repeated saying in collecting: “buy the best you can afford”.

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we’d generally agree that’s a good strategy, with the finest items often holding value far better than a collection of mid-level pieces.

Yet exactly the opposite was true for Michael Thomasson, owner of the world’s largest video game collection, who states that he never spent much more than $500 on any game, yet sold the entire collection for $750,000 this week.

Dedication is the name of the game with collecting

Dedication is the name of the game with collecting

In fact, he used his position as a game store manager to simply buy the games for retail price as they were released, proving that patience is indeed a virtue for collectors. He says he limits himself to just $3,000 a year, which affords him around 2 games a day.

Over 11,000 games, dozens of consoles, issued over three decades – that’s dedication for you.

The sale can teach us an important lesson about the merits of collecting, as well as giving great inspiration for actually completing your collection (something most of us have trouble achieving!).

Thomasson states that, several times over his collecting career, the game collection has bailed out him and his family, with a quick sale of a complete run of games for a particular console helping to pay off medical bills and the like.

Without the collection, he’d otherwise not have the money to pay off such costs, and this week’s sale has apparently helped in a family emergency.

He’s been using the collection as a great way to store wealth – an enjoyable investment that’s free from the complications of the stock market.

What’s more, he’s done this several times over the years, and has been able to rebuild his collection each time, still attracting the attention of the Guinness Book of Records.

Back in 1989, Thomasson sold off his collection to pay for a Sega Genesis and then again 1998, to help pay for his wedding.

“I simply have an immediate family and extended family that have needs that need to be addressed. While I do not wish to part with these games, I have responsibilities that I have made to others and this action is how I will help meet them,” he said in a statement.

“No worries, I’ve sold my collection many times in the past and still managed to capture Guinness’ attention, and it is entirely possible that I may again”

So collecting is not only an enjoyable way to store money for those family emergencies, it can also bring big profits. What’s more, it’s worth completing collection of low-value items, as the value of the entire lot with often outperform the individual pieces.

Thomasson - a smart-minded collector

Thomasson – a smart-minded collector

Amazing grace: Margot Fonteyn’s costumes now selling at PFC Auctions

Amazing grace: Margot Fonteyn’s costumes now selling at PFC Auctions

When Adrian first walked in announcing PFC Auctions’ sale of two costumes worn by Margot Fonteyn, my first response was, “who?”Margot-Fonteyn-410

Call me ignorant, but I had never heard of the dame. The rest of the office were – as I’m sure you are – well aware of Fonteyn and were obviously excited.

A quick Google revealed that Fonteyn was actually one of the greatest ballet dancers ever to have lived, famed for her unrivalled partnership with the world renowned Rudolph Nureyev.

Margot Fonteyn, skirt, ballet, costumes, memorabilia, autograph, collectible, Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev, Romeo & Juliet

Fonteyn’s skirt worn in Romeo & Juliet with Rudolph Nureyev

For years, their immortal performances in Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet among others had passed me by. Admittedly, I’m not the most dedicated lover of ballet, but the way that Fonteyn moves across the stage has had me captivating from the first demi-plié down to the final faille.

But what really piqued my interest was the fascinating character behind one of ballet’s most beautiful dancers.

Prima Ballerina Assoluta of The Royal Ballet, performing for Queen Elizabeth II, Margot Fonteyn had formed one of the most successful ballet partnerships of her day with Robert Helpmann by 1961.

Standing at the top of the ballet world, she was expected to retire aged 42.

The beautiful jewel-encrusted bodice worn by Fonteyn in Swan Lake - one of her defining performances

The beautiful jewel-encrusted bodice worn by Fonteyn in Swan Lake – one of her defining performances

However, one of the most exciting young male dancers, Rudolph Nureyev, decided to defect from the Soviet Union just as she was due to announced her departure.

Fonteyn couldn’t resist one last moment in the spotlight, and immediately formed a partnership with Nureyev, performing Giselle when he was just 24.

Despite rumoured love affairs with the bisexual Nureyev, Fonteyn had married Dr Roberto Arias, a Panamanian diplomat, in 1955 and remained loyal to him. So much so, that she became embroiled in her husband’s failed coup d’etat on the South American state in 1959, forcing her to return to England from her adopted home.

But Dr Arias had made his enemies, and in 1964 one of them shot him, leaving him quadriplegic. It seems Fonteyn’s desire to continue dancing was not only spurred by her love of the art form, but also by the need to pay for her husband’s increasing medical bills.

She continued to dance until 1979, when she was a remarkable 60 years old. Amazingly, she returned to the stage in February 1986 for one final performance as The Queen in The sleeping Beauty – even then her skills surpassed many of the young dancers that night.

Simply put, Fonteyn was an icon, one of inimitable charm and beauty, whose dances are skill widely talked about today among ballet fans.

I only wish that I could have seen her perform in the flesh, yet the stunning costumes currently selling at PFC Auctions have brought me closer to the world’s greatest ballet dancer than I could ever have hoped.

Discover more about Margot Fonteyn and place your bids here: www.pfcauctions.comFonteyn-Swan-Lake-2

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