An ideal gift: the $20,000 made-to-measure suit of armour

If you're running out of ideas for "useful and acceptable gifts" we have just the thing to pop in your loved one's stocking: a jewel-encrusted Mr and Mrs Potato Head, a snip at $16,000 from those helpful purveyors of practical presents, American store Neiman Marcus.

No? Well then, how about his or her own bespoke suit of armour? Just get them to stand still long enough to be measured, surreptitiously take a cast of their lower leg, send off the details and within weeks that hard-wearing suit will be hand-hammered to a snug fit - and it comes complete with two sword-fighting lessons. Ideal for commuters, and only $20,000 (£10,300).

Yes, in the luxury goods business every season is a silly one and Christmas 2004 is no exception. America's high-end retailers are vying to divest the average gullible billionaire of their not-necessarily hard-earned with a raft of tempting offers. There's a 17th-century English village and estate at $90m, your very own bowling alley for $1.45m (batteries not included), a natural gas-powered amphibious hydrofoil at $4.5m, or, for those trying to save a little cash this December, an armoured Humvee with built-in hot-tub at only $250,000.

And, for that dedicated traveller in your life, how about the Lifetime AAirpass? For just $3m, this entitles the recipient to an available seat on any American Airlines flight to anywhere in the world - for life. This captivating bargain is, we calculate, the equivalent of 28,000 budget airline trips to Madrid.

You might think that being a billionaire would make shopping easy, but it seems not to be so. After all, there's the not-inconsiderable matter of trends to consider, which accounts, apparently, for the lack of his'n'hers jets on offer in catalogues this year. As luxuries expert Tom du Pont said recently: "Planes are passé as gifts. Everybody's got one."

So better stick to the sparkly Mr Potato Head, then. Private jets are so last year.

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