Desirable objects: instant profits

Collect to invest: John Windsor on how to cash in on limited editions

Some of today's limited-edition collectables increase in value almost as soon as they leave the shops. Fountain pens, first-edition novels, records, CDs, telephone and trading cards and classic cars can turn a quick profit for a buyer in the know.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
This year's models: buyers have plenty of options as they try to get the money together to drive away from the dealer in a new car

Car finance options: Best way to buy a 65 plate

Sales could find another gear as the '65' registration hits the forecourts next week. Rob Griffin looks at the finance options
In too deep? Travel cover is among the benefits offered by packaged bank accounts

Claims firms blamed as complaints soar over packaged bank accounts

Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge

Finger on the interest rate trigger: the Bank of England

The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums

Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans

China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'

The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year

Which? warns sports fans about Rugby World Cup ticket scams

GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true

Could it be the time to focus on Japan? Some believe the country has no choice but to boost consumption and the economy will get back on track

Investors told to travel the world in the search for higher returns

Assets have risen in value across the board and volatility isn't going away. Rob Griffin asks where we should put our cash
As rising house prices push up demand for renting, so tenants are having to dig deeper than ever

Starter home initiative is urgently needed as rents go through the roof

Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804

Peer-to-peer lending rates put Nisas to shame

The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever

Questions of Cash: Log-in problems turned eDreams booking into one-way ticket to nowhere

The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund

Hot property: business has been booming in estate agents this month, even though it’s the height of the summer holiday season

Heat rises for mortgage deals as UK homeowners sense a rate hike coming

The housing market should go quiet in August but instead people have been acting like cheap loans won't last. Do we really have to rush, asks Simon Read
Phones have now overtaken personal computers as the most used way of accessing the internet

Who you gonna call? The Complaints Busters

Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.

Undergraduates are being tempted with freebies by banks

Students should give freebies a wide berth and focus instead on cheap borrowing

An interest-free loan far outweighs the value of any of the bank's incentives

The Spanish carrier changed a reader's flight from Madrid – to a time before she was due to land

Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'

Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride

Complacency about rising rates could prove to be costly

Interest rates stay at 0.5% for now - but don't wait to get a better deal on your savings and mortgage

The years of ultra-low rates are coming to an end

The elderly are being targeted by fraudsters with postal scams such as fake prize draws

Fraudsters are bombarding older people with dangerous pension scams: here we reveal the warning signs

Many people are being repeatedly targeted by crooked schemes

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent