Desirable objects: instant profits
Collect to invest: John Windsor on how to cash in on limited editions
Saturday 12 April 1997
This year, a twin set of fountain pens called Peter and Catherine the Great is retailing for pounds 1,300. By the end of the year it will be selling at Bonhams, the London auctioneers, for pounds 1,600-pounds 1,800.
There are three reasons for the premium value: the twin set is by Montblanc, German makers of the world's best-known brand of quality pens: supply is limited to 4,810 (Mont Blanc's height in metres): such special editions are annual, making them a must for fountain pen collectors wanting complete runs (this happens to be the first twin).
When, as recently as 1992, Montblanc issued its first limited edition pen, the Lorenzo de Medici, knowledgeable collectors snapped it up, sensing correctly that they were in at the start of something lucrative. At auction, even in its first year, the splendid pen sustained its pounds 850 retail price and the year after was fetching pounds 1,100 - a sign that the time taken for some contemporary collectables to acquire added value was shortening drastically.
They are now worth pounds 3,000 mint and boxed in factory condition - a 350 per cent increase in five years. Subsequent Montblanc annual limited editions have earned more modest premiums but are still nice little earners: the Octavian of 1993, also pounds 850 retail, commands pounds 1,500-pounds 2,000 at auction, and is still a good investment.
Pitfalls for speculators: uneven allocation by fountain pen manufacturers, leading to premium prices in some countries and discounting in others.
Investment tip: Dunhill's first limited edition pen, the Namiki, with lacquer designs hand-painted by named Japanese artists, issued last year in four editions of 200, prices pounds 820 to pounds 5,200 for a special in powdered gold. Dunhill's original Namikis of the Thirties can fetch over pounds 5,000 at auction.
Sheer quality can yield instant profit. How's your literary discernment, for instance? In the past decade, auction prices for mint-condition first editions complete with dustwrapper of John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman have dropped by half from their peak pounds 400-pounds 500.
Critical consensus has hoicked the dealers' price of first editions of Irving Walsh's 1994 paperback Trainspotting - only about 1,000 were printed - to pounds 500 from its retail price of pounds 4.99. Six months ago, before its Oscar- winning film debut, Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, could be had for pounds 25. Now it is pounds 300. Original retail price in 1992: pounds 14.99.
Tip from Joanna Herald, a partner in the Ulysses bookshop in Museum Street, central London: Silk by Alessandro Baricco, published by Harvill Press, still in print at pounds 9.99 hardback, pounds 6.99 paperback. Her recommendation is based entirely on literary merit.
When you consider that book collectors of the Twenties and Thirties went barmy over first editions of Galsworthy (there's nothing new in first- edition speculation), you might consider that "take the money and run" is the best strategy in those limited-edition markets in which taste is volatile.
An example is the Swatch market, deliberately exploited by its cunning and humorous creator, Nicolas Hayek. He conducts a world-wide battle of wits in which collectors' and dealers' faxes, telephones and Internet modems throb with the latest rumours about rare, just-issued design variants worth tens of thousands of pounds, and Hayek's capricious allocations of "specials" that rocket or plummet in value in different countries.
Joseph Falcone, who trades in Swatches from his shop in the Meridien Hotel, Piccadilly, London, tells the cautionary tale of a Scot who fought his way through the scrum at Harrods' sell-out launch of the Swatch Christmas special "Roi Soleil" in 1993, having heard that the limited allocation would instantly be worth big money. He bought two for pounds 45 each and was gratified to see them changing hands for pounds 150 minutes before leaving the store. He did not know that, oddly enough, the Swatch shop in Oxford Street still had plenty for sale - at pounds 45.
Six months later, when Mr Falcone offered him pounds 75 each for his two, he reported he had sold them for pounds 60 each, the best price he could get. His trip from Scotland with his girlfriend had cost him pounds 600. Dealers now sell Roi Soleils for pounds 185-pounds 200. The trade price is pounds 100.
On the other hand, a Swatch collector holidaying in Madrid paid a mere pounds 10 for a mint and boxed 1987 "Puff" - one of only 120 made, with blow- away rabbit fur around the dial - having spotted it in a cardboard box in a shop. He sold it that year, 1993, for pounds 18,500. Puffs now sell for pounds 20,000-pounds 25,000. Moral: to play the Swatch market, do lots of homework.
Records and CDs, by comparison, are child's play. John Reed, research editor of Record Collector magazine, which publishes the biennial Rare Record Price Guide (pounds 19.95), recommends buying into indie groups' records. Their small-circulation "lo-fi" records turned out in bedrooms on four- track recorders are not sold by the big retailers and can rapidly acquire rarity value.
Lee Phelps, co-manager of Energy, mail-order record and CD dealers of Looe, Cornwall, is selling for pounds 50 copies of Baby Bird's CD, I Was Born A Man - issued only 18 months ago. Spice Girls? Their limited edition second CD of last August, with fancy fold-out, which retailed at pounds 3.99, is worth pounds 20.
Packs of glossy trading cards showing film stars and sportsmen include sparsely distributed "chase" cards that instantly acquire street value. Like Swatches, they are an example of managed rarity. A 3D double-size Pamela Anderson "case topper" card - one per case of 360 packs - is worth pounds 50-pounds 60 to collectors.
Most poignant case topper, according to the publisher-importer Barry Roness: personally signed Playboy cards of Ernest Hemingway's granddaughter Margaux Hemingway, model and actress. She was found dead in Los Angeles last July after suffering from bulimia and alcoholism. The card has become a cult collectable. Now worth $500, it is expected to be changing hands for $2,000 in a year's time.
You can easily discover which brand-new classic cars can be sold for instant profit by comparing newspaper car ad prices with manufacturers' list prices. The new Mercedes-Benz SLK, for example, which retails for pounds 30,090, immediately commands a secondhand price of pounds 40,000. The snag is that to get one you have to join the two-year waiting list that is responsible for the inflated price. What price an SLK in two years?
Bonhams' next fountain pen sale, 9 May (11am). Montblanc 0181-232 3000: Alfred Dunhill 0171-290 8600: Ulysses 0171-831 1600: Barry Roness 0181- 871 2997: Record Collector 0181-579 1082: Lee Phelps, Energy 01503-265515.
17 April 2015 06:00 PM
23 April 2015 12:00 AM
Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year
22 April 2015 07:29 AM
Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks
21 April 2015 09:54 AM
The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014
21 April 2015 12:00 AM
The average quote for a buildings and contents policy has fallen by 3.6 per cent
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
02 April 2015 01:14 PM
Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension
30 March 2015 04:22 PM
Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson
Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Bargain Hunter: First Utility's Cosy deal lets you heat your home from anywhere
What would happen if you put a statistician in a casino with £1m?
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...
£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...
£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...
Day In a Page
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace