According to the Knight Frank’s The Wealth Report 2019, various auction price records for luxury assets were broken last year.
What would you consider buying if money were no object? Would you spend on a classic car, a painting, a rare pink diamond or perhaps a good bottle of whiskey?
Increasingly, these types of luxury assets are being regarded as legitimate, alternative investments, rather than “splurges”. For good reason, too.
The holy grail of collector cars
Source: RM Sotheby’s
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was expected to reach $45 million when it was announced up for auction. It finally sold for a staggering US$48.4 million (R689 million).
Sotheby’s described this classic as “the holy grail of collector cars” and “the most valuable automobile ever offered for public sale”.
Why would anyone, even if you love cars, pay this much for what is, essentially, red metal and rubber? Well, it is a rare car (only 36 were built) and it has an impressive history.
History pushes value
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO has demonstrated its worth in close to 300 races all over the world, nearly winning all.
Considered the final evolution of the famous Ferrari 250 model, the most beautiful Ferrari design and one of the most successful racing cars, it became the ultimate collector’s car.
This particular Ferrari 250 GTO was the third one to be built. The Ferrari factory used it as a test car and Phil Hill drove it for the 1962 Targa Florio road race.
The first owner was one of Ferrari’s favourite customers, Edoardo Lualdi-Gabardi, an Italian gentleman racer who entered it in 10 races during 1962 and won nine of them, driving away with the Italian National GT championship.
Dr. Gregory Whitten, chairperson of Numerix Software, was the previous owner. A Ferrari connoisseur, Whitten bought the prestigious car in 2000 for about $10 million.
No doubt he also enjoyed being part of the group of French GTO owners who have met every five years since 1982 to drive and dine across a country they choose. The new owner prefers to stay anonymous but will probably not be averse to joining the club.
1970 Rolex Daytona “Unicorn”
This one-of-a-kind – or “Unicorn” – white gold chronograph wristwatch, with a black dial and bark finished bracelet, sold last year for US$5.9 million (R83 million).
The auction was for a good cause. Famed collector, John Goldberger, donated the purchase price to a children’s charity.
Goldberger insisted for years that he would not sell the watch, but after realising how many children could benefit, he put it up for sale. The new owner’s name hasn’t been released.
This white gold vintage Daytona was made around 1970. When its existence became known in 2013, the watch collecting world could not believe that such a precious timepiece exists.
They believed that Rolex only made manual winding Cosmographs in stainless steel or yellow gold. It was made for a German retailer with a leather strap, but Goldberger had a luxurious heavy white gold bracelet fitted to make it more attractive. It is the first and probably the only time the white gold reference 6265/9 will appear on a Rolex.
The most expensive Rolex ever sold was also a Daytona, owned by Paul Newman, which was sold for $17.8 million in 2017.
Living artist makes a killing
The most expensive work by a living artist is Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) by David Hockney which sold for $90,312,500 (R1,2 billion). It might take a while to let that price sink in.
Hockney destroyed the first version of this composite painting of a distorted figure swimming underwater and a boy gazing at him, but returned to it for an exhibition at New York’s André Emmerich Gallery. He worked 18 hours a day for two weeks to complete the painting on time.
Los Angeles’ pools were the setting for many of his major works of the 1960s and ’70s, allowing him the freedom to explore the male figure and the two-dimensionality of water. Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) has been described as a culmination of Hockney’s most iconic motifs, becoming one of his most celebrated and recognisable paintings.
Christie’s did not say who the previous owner was, but he is believed to be Joe Lewis, a Bahamas-based British currency trader, who also owns Tottenham Hotspurs football club. The identity of the new owner was also not disclosed.
While this was the highest price ever paid for art from a living artist, it’s still nowhere near the price for art from a late legend. Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi still holds the record for the most expensive artwork yet, selling at $450.3m in 2017.
The Winston Pink Legacy
Wealthy people with a passion for diamonds are increasingly turning to coloured diamonds because they are so rare and extraordinary.
The most expensive pink diamond per carat just set a new auction record. It was valued at an amazing US$50 million (R706 million).
The saturation and intensity of this stone makes this 18.96-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond so special. The new owner, Harry Winston, an American jeweller, renamed it “The Winston Pink Legacy”. It is a type 11a stone that is chemically pure, with exceptional transparency and brilliance.
The Pink Legacy shows no trace of a secondary colour. Its even colour distribution, combined with a balanced saturation, tone and straight pink hue, ensured that it received the coveted ‘Fancy Vivid’ colour grading from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Only one in a million diamonds ever receive this rare grading.
Diamonds of more than six carats are rarely found in the Fancy Vivid Pink range. Before this gem was auctioned, the most expensive pink diamond per carat was “The Pink Promise”, an oval-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink diamond of just under 15 carats that was sold for $32,480,500 in 2017.
The rarest Burgundy
Increasingly, rare liquors are being regarded as investment-worthy, luxury assets.
In 2018, a rare burgundy – a 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from the personal cellar of Robert Drouhin Vintage – broke the record. It sold for the highest recorded price paid for a bottle of wine, at a staggering $558,000 (about R7 million).
All wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are famous, sought-after Burgundies. Those from the tiny 4.5-acre Romanée-Conti vineyard are described as “absolutely iconic, the epitome of the highest-quality Burgundy”.
The 1945 vintage was particularly special. Due to hail and frost, production was small and only 600 bottles of Romanée-Conti were made.
A private Asian collector is the new owner of this 1945 bottle.
Rarity is the one thing that’s common to luxury assets fetching top prices at auction. The Macallan 60-Year-Old 1926 is regarded as the ‘Ultimate Goal’ for collectors of The Macallan whisky.
Serious whisky collectors are prepared to pay high prices for The Macallan cask-matured single malts from Speyside, especially the rare single-cask, limited edition bottlings and Fine & Rare Collection.
Only 40 bottles were bottled from cask 263 after maturing for 60 years in casks previously used for sherry. Also, only one bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon. It depicts the Easter Elchies House of The Macallan and the Scottish Highlands.
Christie’s auctioned this one-of-a-kind Macallan for US$1.5 million (about R21 million).
What Marie Antoinette once wore
History is replete with tales of royalty and the possessions they left behind. Items once worn by the likes of Marie Antoinette have cropped up through the years and fetched the most astounding prices at various auctions. She had a passion for opulent jewellery that can be seen her portraits.
The most expensive piece of pearl jewellery ever sold once belonged to her. This pearl pendant fetched a whopping US$36 million (roughly R508 million).
Marie Antoinette wore her three-strand necklace with an oval diamond supporting a diamond bow motif and a slightly baroque drop-shaped natural pearl.
Historians believe that it was one of the pieces of jewellery packed up during one night in 1791 as the royal couple was planning to escape from the revolutionaries surrounding the Palace of the Tuileries.
Nine other pieces of Marie Antoinette’s jewellery sold on the day of the auction. Altogether they netted $42.7 million (about R605.5 million). The pendant was put up for sale by the royal Bourbon-Parma house of Italy. The new owner wants to remain anonymous.
Coins of gold
Source: Numismatic News
The gold 100 ducat of Zygmunt III Wasa [Sigismund III Vasa], dated 1621, was crafted from 349.49 grams of gold and decorated with intricate detail by engraver Samuel Ammon.
It was struck to commemorate Poland’s victory over the Ottoman Empire at Khotyn (Chocim). It is one of the largest European gold coins ever produced, and the most expensive coin from Poland.
The coin sold for US$2.2 million (about R31 million), making it one of the top ten most expensive coins ever sold.
Topping the list, the most expensive coin ever sold on auction was the 1343 Edward III Florin, of which only three are known to exist. It is valued at $6.8 million (R96 million).
The passion for stamps
Email has not killed the stamp. Philatelists still have a passion for stamps, which is why the most famous stamp in American philately, the 1918 24-cent inverted “Jenny” error (position 13) fetched such an incredible price.
It sold for US$1.6 million (roughly R22 million).
The stamp was considered lost and was only offered at auction for the second time last year since Eugene Klein broke apart the sheet.
The first time it was offered at auction was in 2007 as part of the Rarities of the World sale by the estate of Robert B. Honeyman Jr., a prominent collector of stamps. The new owner was not named.
It still pales in comparison, though, to the most expensive stamp in the world, the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, sold for $9.5 million.
The finest furniture
The 1766 Chippendale commode without its ivory inlays was offered for auction at an estimated price of £5 million (R89 million), a record price for a piece of English furniture.
The ivory inlays were removed due to new legislation and unfortunately the mahogany commode with its fashionable Etruscan key-pattern inlays and carved acanthus leaves did not sell.
The commode exhibits the Neoclassical style for which Chippendale was famous, as well as his accomplished craftsmanship both in design and technique. It belongs to a private collector.
The most expensive piece of furniture is a badminton cabinet decorated with amethyst quartz and other precious stones. It was made in Florence by thirty designers over six years and is kept in the Liechtenstein Museum. It’s valued at $36.7 million.
Getting a loan from Lamna
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