Collecting rare motorcycles, gigantic photographs or even tiny stamps of upside-down biplanes may be more fun than stocks, bonds and mutual funds — but an article by Charles Passy at the Wall Street Journal says they can be a hedge against the stock market.
"Granted, collecting things — be it European paintings from the 19th century or Japanese tin toys from the 1950s — is not new," Passy writes. "Now, though, more people are buying with one eye on possible returns. In a study of collectors after the 2008 crash, 74 percent said investment potential was driving their buying decisions, says ACE Private Risk Services."
Passy looked at the hot collecting/investing categories.
Motorcycles (A 1929 Brough Superior model motorcycle sold for about $458,000 in 2010).
Watches (An 18-carat gold watch by Patek Philippe sold for $11 million in 1999).
Stamps (The Swedish "Treskilling Yellow" stamp sold for $2.3 million in 1996).
Photography (Andreas Gursky's photograph, "Rhein II," sold for $4.3 million last year).
Autographs (A letter about slavery by Abraham Lincoln sold for $3.4 million in 2008).
Naturally, with some collectibles selling so well, there is a risk from people who steal and resell items. Bob Simon at "60 Minutes" reported on a "collector" of presidential items: "Barry Landau carried out the largest theft of these treasures in American history. Prosecutors say he is one of the most accomplished con men they've ever encountered."
"He'd been convicted of the single-largest theft of historic artifacts in the United States," Simon reported. "He stole thousands of items, including hundreds of documents signed by some of the most famous names in history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Scott Key, Marie Antoinette and Voltaire. He'd pilfered them from museums and libraries all over the country."
Landau used cupcakes and treats to win over archivists' trust. But then he was caught with 60 items from an archive — including a "fistful" of tickets to the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the U.S. Senate.
Just a few days ago another thief was caught, according to Blackburn News in Ontario, Canada: "A baseball autographed by the Beatles is among collectibles seized by Canadian customs officials who searched an Indiana man's vehicle at the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel."
A baseball signed by the Beatles? Not quite as fun as, say, a recording of Babe Ruth singing "Love Me Do," but close.