RSS Feed

Tag Archives: collecting

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

Advertisements

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.

Tom

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

A new world record for Chinese art?

A 15th century “chicken cup” is once again poised to shatter the record for a Chinese work of art at auction, 15 years after it achieved the then record price of $4m in 1999.

Following a string of increasingly high profile sales of Chinese art, a new figure of $32.4m was set for a Qing dynasty vase at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2010.

It seems almost a certainty that the cup will break the current record, due to the extraordinary regard with which it is held in Chinese culture.

The 15th century chicken cup

At first glance, the diminutive cup does not look much like a contender to become the most valuable anything, but like many of the most fascinating collectibles – there is more than meets the eye.

The story begins in the Chenghua period of the Ming dynasty (1464-1487), where the cups were produced in tiny quantites in the imperial kiln.

They were designed specifically for the appreciation of the emperor and as a result, the quality of the porcelain and the simple, elegant painting is unmatched.

Their delicate beauty fascinated subsequent generations, who saw in the cups an unmannered and unaffected aesthetic perfection.

Subsequent emperors and scholars sang their praises, resulting in a meteoric rise in value throughout the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

They took on an almost legendary quality, becoming symbols of Chinese artisanship.

Poet and writer Zhu Yizun (1629-1709) wrote: “Chicken cups were not obtainable in the city for less than five pieces of white gold and those who did have the means to buy them greatly cherished them.”

Similarly another writer, Cheng Che, commented in the 17th century, “A pair of Chenghua cups was already worth 10,000 cash.”

Endless copies have been made throughout the ages to feed the public demand for these iconic wares and now, of the very few originals, only three survive.

Tom

Curse of the Hemingways – a hereditary horror story

Around a month or so ago at PBA Galleries, an archive of Ernest Hemingway’s family photos came up for auction.

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

A great set of collectible photographs from a great writer, but little more. They sold for $4,800.

Then, last night, I was channel hopping when I came across a documentary on Hemingway’s life. Having read a few of his books, I decided to give it a watch.

If nothing else, his famous Action Man-style machismo would keep me amused…

Ernest Hemingway family

Hemingway with Pauline and his sons

I was surprised when the show featured a number of Hemingway’s relatives. It’s rare that any great writers’ family want to be interviewed, especially with the famously unhappy childhood that Hemingway’s children shared.

The man was stern and had little time for small children. One of his sons remembered being yelled at for making the smallest noise while his father was writing upstairs.

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

Their mother, Hemingway’s second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, was a socialite who worked in Paris for Vanity Fair and Vogue – she had little affection for the children, spurred by difficult pregnancies, and they would be ushered in to kiss her on the cheek before school, their only contact with her each day.

“I hated her guts!” Patrick Hemingway exclaimed in the documentary.

Hemingway shared an equally unhappy relationship with his own mother, but had a fondness for his father, whom he often favoured in his parents’ endless arguments: “I hate her guts and she hates mine,” he wrote in 1949. “She forced my father to suicide.”

Of course, Hemingway followed in his father’s footsteps. A heavy drinker, possibly suffering from bi-polar and severe depression, he shot himself in 1961.

A gloomy bunch, but it’s not just these two generations of the Hemingway family that have been blighted with this curse.

Hemingway and sons at the writer's Finca in Cuba

Hemingway and sons at the writer’s Finca in Cuba

In fact, in four generations of the Hemingway family, there has been five suicides – Ernest, his father, his sister Ursula, brother Leicester and granddaughter Margaux. Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, lived a chequered life after having gender reassignment surgery, and was described by Ernest as having “the biggest dark side in the family except me.” He died in 2001.

In the show I was watching, the two surviving brothers, Patrick and Jack explained they had a friendly competition to see how long a Hemingway can survive for. An old documentary, Jack died in 1991 following heart surgery.

But it seems there may be an answer to their family’s plight, albeit a little too late…

Both Hemingway and his father’s behaviour became increasingly erratic in their later years. His father was extremely paranoid, locking all the drawers in his home obsessively and distrusting all those around him. Ernest followed suit as he reached old age, becoming constantly worried about taxes and the FBI’s investigations into him.

Checking himself into the Mayo Clinic, he was treated for hypertension with electroconvulsive therapy. It was here that they discovered that Hemingway suffered from hemochromatosis, an overload of iron in the blood that causes mental and physical deterioration.

Exacerbated by his drinking, this was certainly a strong contributor to Hemingway’s suicide. What’s more, it was also revealed that his father might also have suffered with the hereditary disease.

Yet it’s not certain what exactly drove so many Hemingways to despair, with depression, the family’s secretive nature and other mental health issues also to blame.

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

You can find out more in Running from Crazy, a 2013 film by Barbara Kopple starring Hemingway’s granddaughter and actress Mariel Hemingway.

by Joe

The mystery of The Hollywood Hat – an autographed anomaly

A hat mysteriously appears at auction, covered in the signatures of 400 of the top names of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, the list goes on.

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The huge Stetson cowboy hat is a remarkable relic, but autographs just aren’t what those in attendance are looking for, and bids are slow to appear.

One man, realising the hat’s potential value, puts his hand up and places the winning bid – it’ll make a good talking point, if nothing else.

Yet when our bidder takes the hat home, he’s drawn by its power. Just how does one person get all of those autographs? Where did it come from? How much is it really worth?

You might say our enterprising bidder – Joe Blitman – was hooked on the autograph collecting hobby…

And so, research got underway. With limited experience in autograph collecting, Blitman was uncertain to say the least. However, after hours of pondering, he noticed one thing: all of those that signed the hat worked for either MGM or Fox, as opposed to other major studios Warner Brothers, Paramount or RKO.

What do Fox and MGM have in common? Blitman was at a loss, noticing only one similarity: they’re both on the same side of Hollywood, with the other situated on the other side of town.

Blitman began to dissect the hat (not literally, don’t panic collectors!), grouping together the autographs that fill every inch of space. 90% were actors, with a couple of boxing champions thrown in for good measure.

The history of the hat still eluded its new owner…but then Blitman struck gold.

Four of the names on the hat were those of make-up men. Very few collectors would bother to trouble a make-up artist for their John Hancock, so all clues pointed to an insider…but who?

A guard at the gates, a receptionist, a work experience kid. It could’ve been anyone.

Digging deeper into those four names, Blitman became dismayed at the lack of information. Turns out, very little knowledge of the early make-up artists was passed on to future generations, and there was almost no trace of Jack Dawn, Ward Hamilton, Bob Stephanoff or Cecil Holland to be found.

Just a few short biographies of each exist, yet one mentioned that Cecil Holland had a daughter, who Blitman discovered is still alive. A chance email is fired off, but Blitman isn’t hopeful and is on the verge of giving up.

A week passes and no reply. Then…

Dear Mr. Blitman,

I was delighted to receive your email with a request for information about the cowboy hat. You have reached the right person for its background. It was my father, Cecil Holland, who got all those signatures from the actors who sat in his makeup chair… many of whom later became friends … It was his pride and joy.

Margaret, Cecil Holland’s daughter had replied – and what a reply it was!

Joe Blitman was now the owner of Cecil Holland’s pride and joy. But who was Cecil?

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Blitman lists him as an “accomplished actor, engraver, etcher, photographer, painter, jewelry maker, sculptor, wood-carver and most importantly, a dedicated and deeply talented make-up artist”.

An Englishman born in 1887, Cecil Holland shared the same enterprising nature as Blitman, embarking on several varied careers before becoming a make-up artist at the dawn of the silent-era. He went on to provide the make-up of almost every star of the era, as well as acting alongside the likes of Rudolph Valentino.

As each of the stars entered his make-up room, Holland would request their autograph, each dutifully adding their name to the historical hat.

Obviously, Blitman isn’t keen to part with the hat now, but he is eager to tell the story of Cecil Holland, a remarkable star whose name should never have been forgotten. Learn more about Holland’s Hollywood Hat here.

by Joe
IMAGES: JOE BLITMAN/AUTOGRAPH MAGAZINE

Unseen archives – have we already seen the last?

A recent auction of the archive of Martin Burgoyne, a friend of Madonna in the 1980s, included a number of unseen and unpublished photographs that offer a rare glimpse of the singer before she became a global superstar.

They show her in a relaxed state with friends, unencumbered by the burden of living in the public eye. In just a few short years, she would be transformed into one of the most famous people on the planet.

Madonna and Martin Burgoyne in the 1980s.
Image: Myers Fine Art

This transitional period between anonymity and fame is a particular draw to collectors.

In 2011, a set of Beatles photographs taken by 18 year old Mike Mitchell in 1964, just days after their storming performance on the Ed Sullivan show, sold for $362,000.

They capture the band as the hype around them reached fever pitch, reminding us that these pop icons who would go on to define their era were also simply young men in their early twenties.

In a similar vein, a set of photographs of Queen Elizabeth II performing in a series of pantomimes as a child sold in a December 2013 auction, making £3,200 ($5,249).

They too show a playful, youthful side to one of the most significant icons of the 20th century.

It’s not just photographs that can give us an indication of the roots of who these people would become. The upcoming sale of an archive of letters from Lucian Freud, written in his late teens, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest painters of his generation.

These brief insights undoubtedly drive many collectors.

The question is, are the days of the unpublished archive over?

The proliferation of  methods by which celebrities are presented as attainable bring us closer to the figures that shape our culture, but has led to the loss of a level of mystique that was widespread in the analogue age.

It seems unlikely that such archives pertaining to today’s celebrities will be as widespread in the future as the democratising power of the internet systematically removes the barriers between the public and private.

Tom

%d bloggers like this: