We have said goodbye to lazy afternoons in London parks and drinking 2012 Pimms – a Jubilee and Olympic vintage!
Looking back, I realised something was weaving in all these alternative investment columns, from wine to impact investing or art, a sacrosanct concept repeated like an Andy Warhol diptych – constrained supply and growing demand are the key to profitable alternative investments.
Alternative investment can follow the same quest for discontinuity and arbitrage as mainstream investments, but with an unusual driver – emotion or passion, or … love?
And this passion is what drives some notable investors in memorabilia, such as the David and Nicholas Gainsborough-Roberts, the uncle and nephew of the family based in Jersey.
David is a collector of and expert on Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and patron of the Ferragamo exhibition on the film star held last July in Florence, Italy.
He explained his motivation to collect as a drive to understand the person. “I am particularly fond of the encounter with the entourage of the person. It is an essential part of the research when acquiring a piece of memorabilia. What drives me is the human touch.
“Hearing Clyde Barrow’s sister, or Marilyn’s masseur, bringing to life for you the person beyond the myth is emotionally charged and is what truly fascinates me. I am striving to get a glimpse of the real person with their highs, lows, cracks, pet peeves. With hindsight, this thirst for understanding is what drove me to memorabilia in the first place.”
Monetary value or the concept of future returns is brought up much later in the conversation for this historian and ethnologist.
He said: “Monetary value is becoming a factor. Looking for rare or unique pieces, or specific circumstances surrounding the piece that in turn will increase the potential value, are getting higher and higher on my list of criteria these days. It is more an evolution than a driver. I am still capable of buying a piece only for what it means and represents.”
For Nicholas, the buyer of the famous Kate Middleton see-through dress that allegedly caught Prince William’s eye, his take on memorabilia appears to be more finance orientated.
He said: “I have been exposed to my uncle’s passion for most of my life. I was fortunate to have a privileged access to renowned experts, first-handinformation on trends and coming events. Getting into memorabilia was bound to happen.
“Why this one [buying the dress]? Well I think I did look at it from a pure investment perspective. I thought that by acquiring the uber-sexy, rather risque dress of the future Queen of England one cannot go wrong.
“The long-term value of the asset is immeasurable. It is actually a safer and much more attractive investment than any blue-chip stocks or even private equity deal you can findon the market today. It is real, it is unique and it is eternal.’’
There are many ways to get into this field– dealers, online auction houses and others. You can, of course, start doing it on your own and gradually reach out to experts.
The beauty of it is that you can actually start with very dif-ferent types of budget, however the three following principles should help kick-start the process.
l Condition: Memorabilia is indeed real – one can look, feel, even touch the investment.
Helen Hall, auction house Christie’s culture consultant, said: “While embarking on that journey [becoming a collector], it is important to pay particular attention to the general condition of the item. It has to come in the right state, not necessarily pristine.
“So, say Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones’s guitar that broke on stage, and that was sold at Christie’s, or the Beatles flyers of their first gigs or concerts, will not be in the same condition of course. However they should be in the condition expected from the provenance of the items.”
l Provenance: Only when you can fully trace the provenance can you be certain of its uniqueness – a key element in future valuation.
Hall said: “Doing the proper research is what matters to ensure the item is unique. It has to be done through a thorough cross-checking of supporting documentation as diverse as photos, footage and testimonies.”
Hall added that a certificateof authenticity is not enough.
l Cost and valuation: With more than 20,000 transactions a year in memorabilia, ranging in price from $50 to tens of thousands of dollars, it is worth keeping a very open mind on the pricing, even considering entering at the highest price possible as a way to influencethe market and set the benchmark.
Valuation takes into consideration previous auction results. However, some suggest forgeting about valuation when you start. This should come later, once your portfolio is established and your passion sustain able, and you have experienced positive trend on valuation.
But you can observe major trends and assess who could have an impact or is likely to represent something for future generations.
Start by buying a few selected pieces – the idea is not to have a million small pieces but a reasonable amount of recognisable items. Then move to big-ticket items and price-setting strategies.
Steve Jobs’s pen anyone?