Christmas presents that will grow on you

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The Independent Online
Christmas presents do not have to deliver instant gratification. While it is fun to eat and drink gifts, and children still like lumps of gaudy plastic that struggle to survive intact into the new year, there are plenty of presents that can grow in valuewith a little care and a bit of luck. Dido Sandler and Vivien Goldsmith and have found some examples A magnum of 1988 Chateau la Mission-Haut-Brion claret, price £84.75

A Christmas present for the tenacious, this claret will not be ready to drink for at least another 10 years. Matured bottles are currently selling for £120. But a spokesman for Berry Bros wine merchants points out that1988 is an excellent year for such clarets. So the investment may grow more than 50 per cent.

Moreover, the longer you keep your bottle, and the rarer it becomes as others drink theirs, the more valuable the investment.

The Australian tree fern, £75.

The Bonsai tree, £7

Practically any baby plant will increase its worth as it grows older, according to Helen Derrin, marketing manager of Clifton Nurseries. A Bonsai tree costing £7, with five years of green-fingered care and attention, will increase in value to anything upto £20. Bonsais remain the same height, and grow by thickening.

For more excitement, try the Australian tree fern, which will increase from 18 inches to four feet in five years. A £75 baby will grow to £200-£300 worth of fern in five years in optimum conditions - a humid, not too exposed, semi-shade.

Premium Bonds There is a chance of winning £1m with Premium Bonds and you can get your money back within a week.

The minimum you can buy for both adults and children is £100 worth. Only close relations are supposed to buy the bonds for children. The Children's Bonus Bond for the under 16s is less exciting. For a minimum investment of £25, the savings roll up tax-free and earn 7.85 per cent after the full five years.

If the "child" is over 16 and a taxpaying wage earner by the time the bond matures, then the proceeds are still tax-free.

Mercury Christmas card 1994 limited edition phonecard, price £4.50

Mercury Christmas card 1992 limited edition phonecard set, price £60

With the demise of the Mercury payphone, rare phonecard values are on the up. Christmas theme cards make an attractive gift for would-be speculators. This year's edition is a £2 card set in its own Magic Eye greeting card, a three-dimensional image of a snowman, little houses, and of course the Mercury logo.

If you have more to spend, the four-card set from Christmas 1992 displays the 12 days of Christmas, 1990s style, complete with images of fax machines, telephone operators and the like.

Mercury card collectors tend to look for themes. Train enthusiasts, Star Trekkies and boat lovers are all well served. For more information call Portfolio Phonecards on 081 550 0488, Scotia Phonecards on 031 652 0846, or write to JB Cards, PO Box 364, South Croydon, Surrey, CR2 9YU.

Antique English teddy bear, from £50

Why not go for cuddles as well as growth, with an English teddy from the Second World War or before. British bears from Chad Valley, Merrythought or Chiltern were hardly collectors' items 10 years ago. Now examples like the Merrythought Cheeky Bear can sell for £250. Phillips Auctioneers recently sold a German teddy for £110,000.

For the genuine article, make sure your purchase is fully jointed and is stuffed with wood wool, as opposed to the later "kapok" cotton variety.

Unit Trusts You can buy a child units in the Invesco Rupert Bear Trust for £50 or start a regular savings scheme with £20 a month. A Rupert scarf costs £5 or comes free with a £400 investment. A Rupert glove puppet costs £10 or is free with investments of £800.

Unfortunately any child who was given £100 worth last Christmas would now only have about £92.50 worth. The fund is invested in larger UK shares which have not fared brilliantly but the fund was only ranked 107th out of 138 UK growth funds. The average loss in the sector in the year to 1 December was 5.1 per cent.

For something with a bit more investment potential you will have to pay a little more and keep them out of the pudding. The young head of Queen Victoria in an extremely fine state costs between £40 and £60. The most expensive sixpence to come on the market recently was a Cromwell coin by Thomas Simon, which sold for £10,000.

Sixpence A traditional sixpence for the Christmas pudding is not hugely expensive. A pack of 10 used coins, which includes the heads of Victoria, Edward VII, George V and George VI, costs £9.95 from Coincraft in Bloomsbury, London.

Penny Black stamp, £100 plus The Penny Black is an English classic but Glyn Page of Phillips Auctioneers warns that only serious collectors should be interested. "If you buy and it's your hobby, that's fine. If you sell for more than you paid for it, youare lucky. It's a minefield," he said.

Penny Black values plummeted in the early Eighties, and have never reached their previous heights. These stamps can work as an investment, but only with serious research into the market and interested potential buyers.

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