A different kind of investment


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A different kind of investment

Forget the fantastic discoveries you see on “Antiques Roadshow,” “American Pickers,” “Pawn Stars” and  “Storage Wars.” The odds are slim that any of the junk in your attic is actually treasure.

In fact, the average appraisal on “Antiques Roadshow” is about $50. Most never make it to the air because they are. . . well, average, and people want to see the unusual, the different.

That being said, some collectibles do appreciate in value — in some cases by quite a bit. Occasionally, they do better than the annualized return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index ($INX -0.93%), which, between 1926 and 2011, was about 9.77%. People, though, should be cautious.

“You need to buy what you enjoy,” says Ed Jaster, senior vice president of Heritage Auctions. “It takes about 10 seconds to buy and 15 years to sell. . . It’s very hard to speculate in almost all these collectible markets.”

The market for collectibles took off in the 1960s and 1970s when people began to value the toys, sports cards and other memorabilia from their childhoods. Collectible guidebooks were published and collector groups formed.

“Since the 1960s, no one has thrown anything away,” joked Jaster.

As anyone who watches collectible shows knows, condition is everything. Many valuable items were meant to be used and were not built to last. For instance, that’s why toys unused in the box are worth a lot more money than ones that were actually played with.

Before making this type of purchase, do your homework. Collector’s shows don’t always clarify the difference between auction estimates, which are in a range, and insurance costs, the replacement value of an object, and the retail price someone would pay in a store or gallery. Someone trying to sell an object isn’t going to get a retail price or an insurance price because dealers have to make money.

Though collectibles are not as liquid as stocks, people can and do sell them for huge profits. Their values can also decline. According to Jaster, Michael Jordan’s game-worn jerseys fetched $25,000 to $50,000 in the past. These days, they are fetching about $7,000.

At MSN Money’s request, Heritage, one of the largest auction houses, provided examples of collectibles that have outperformed stocks in recent years. They are presented in no particular order.

Read on for eight collectibles that beat the stock market.


Not surprisingly, the run-up in gold has boosted the value of historic gold coins. An 1874 U.S. $1 coin in used condition fetches between $700 and $800, more than double the $300 to $500 it fetched in 2008. Rare coins from around the world also fetch a pretty penny. Canada’s George V 1936 Dot Cent (pictured) — one of three known to exist — sold for $246,750 on April 18, 2013, a 19% gain from a 2004 sale.

Illustration art

For years, illustration art was a forgotten backwater of the art market. That’s no longer the case, as works from artists such as Norman Rockwell can go for millions. Lesser-known artists such as Patrick Nagel are also benefitting from the boom. One of his paintings, titled “Covering Up” (pictured), sold for $56,250 in 2012. Another one of Nagel’s works, “Her Seductive Look,” sold for $158,500 last month.

Comic book art

Values for art used in comic books may not have leapt tall buildings in a single bound, but they have come close. In 1993, artist Dave Gibbons’ original art for the first 12 issues of “Watchmen” sold for about $26,000. The first three covers alone sold for a combined $216,892, a difference of more than 734%. Issue 1 alone fetched $155,350.

Todd McFarlane’s original art for “The Amazing Spider-Man” No. 328 (pictured), which debuted in 1990, sold for $657,250 last July, the highest price ever for the category.

Sports memorabilia

When it comes to sports memorabilia, collectors can’t go wrong with Babe Ruth. More than six decades after his death, material associated with the Sultan of Swat continues to fetch top dollar.

An autographed Babe Ruth baseball, which Heritage said was considered the finest example of its type, sold for $388,375 in 2012, more than double the $150,000 price the same baseball sold for in 2005. Heritage sold the first baseball card featuring Ruth for $101,500, a more than 300% higher than want a comparable example sold for in 2007.


Diamonds, especially beautifully colored ones, are more than a girl’s best friend. One-carat yellow diamonds fetch about $80,000, 60% more than the $50,000 similar gems sold for in 2008. Fancy colored diamonds — especially yellow ones — increase in value every year, and have done so for the last three decades, according to Heritage. Other hot jewelry areas include pocket watches.


Even people who don’t know the difference between rose and cabernet have heard of Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Demand from emerging markets is boosting the value of many vintages of this iconic French maker.

“For years, a 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild was valued at $500 a bottle,” said Frank Martel, director of fine wine for Heritage Auctions. “Suddenly it catapulted to averages of $50,000 for a case for a while and has now settled down to about $42,000 — or more than $3,300 a bottle.” That’s a difference of 600%.

Space travel souvenirs

Neil Armstrong was chosen to be the first man to walk on the Moon partly because he preferred to stay out of the spotlight. But since his death in 2012, the value of items associated with him have “gone to the Moon.”

Items signed by Neil Armstrong are now valued at more than $3,000, up from about $1,800 just a few years ago, a gain of 66%. A signed photo of Armstrong in his white spacesuit recently sold for $3,883, while an activation checklist page with notations by Armstrong recently sold for $55,268.

Celebrity memorabilia

More than five decades after her death, few celebrities continue to capture the public’s imagination as much as Marilyn Monroe. Her memorabilia values prove this point.

The value of her autograph has surged more than 128% between 2000 and 2012. A signed 8-by-10-inch photo sold for $6,006 in 2003. Another fetched $31,250 in 2012. Demand isn’t expected to wane for Monroe-related items, since her estate continues to aggressively market her likeness.



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