The Knowledge

Bored Of Stocks? Buy These…

Sneakers, Scotch and Star Wars toys: the nest eggs that offer more smiles than playing the market – and are actually a safer bet

Uncertainty on the global stock markets, falling oil prices, anxiety over the Chinese economy – it’s hard to know who or what to trust these days when it comes to investing your hard-earned cash.

So rather than sweating over the City pages or listening to another smooth-talking financial adviser droning on about how best to diversify, we’d like you to consider MR PORTER’s alternative portfolio. From aged Scotch whisky and limited-edition sneakers to vintage cars, watches and Star Wars toys, our asset classes are based squarely on things men love. Read on to find out why, according to the experts, this is where the smart money is.  

VINTAGE WATCHES

In the last two months of 2015, five leading auction houses sold more than 3,250 pre-owned watches for a combined total of just under £300m. Vintage watches are now recognised as a reliable and stylish investment.

“Throughout the history of vintage watch collecting, it’s been consistently about Patek Philippe and Rolex,” explains Mr John Reardon, international head of watches at Christie’s. “However, we have seen a big change in the past year with brands such as Longines, Omega and Heuer really capturing attention for the first time.”

So what are his investment tips? “If I wanted to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 and have a nice watch on my wrist, I’d go for a vintage Patek Philippe Calatrava reference 96, or even a later automatic 3545,” offers Mr Reardon. “We can’t promise 100 per cent that it’s going to go up in value, but it’s all but guaranteed.”

Tips for new investors

Buy for condition over anything else. “Don’t buy a Rolex for the sake of owning your first Rolex,” advises Mr Reardon. “You can buy a mint-condition steel Longines watch from the 1940s for the same price as an 18-carat gold Rolex President that’s been over-polished.”

Find out how many of a particular piece were made, and how limited availability was. In some cases, certain pieces were only made for a few months or a few years.

Buy from a reputable source and keep all the paperwork and packaging. Companies like Patek will supply archives – in effect, copies of an individual timepiece’s birth certificate – which prove that the case and movement are original to each other. 

CLASSIC CARS

Boomer nostalgia is driving growth in the vintage car market, with models from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, such as the VW Golf GTI Mark I and Mark II, becoming highly desirable, along with American muscle cars, such as the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. The real stars from this period have turned out to be the variations of the BMW E30. “Prices for the M3 versions – the pinnacle of the high-performance models of that era – have gone crazy, and some are now worth £75,000,” explains Mr John Mayhead, European editor of Hagerty Classic Cars magazine.

Those buying cars simply for investment potential should always go for the top-of-the-range models – the BMW E30 M3, the Porsche 911 RS – because they were produced in far smaller numbers. If you can’t afford the actual car you want, there is generally a “younger brother” version – the Porsche 911 Carrera, for example – which might not have such a big engine and will cost a fraction of the price.

Tips for new investors

Do your research – there is a forum for pretty much every make and model of classic car, and members are generally very welcoming to newcomers.

Look for anything unusual, advises Mr Mayhead: cars that have had an out-of-the-ordinary or famous owner, anything with racing history, the first one off the production line, a vehicle that was used by the manufacturer as a show car – all these will send the value rocketing.

Also consider the cars in video games such as Grand Theft Auto – it’s what the nostalgic collectors of tomorrow will be longing to get their hands on.

WHISKY

The value of rare bottles of single malt Scotch whisky jumped by 34 per cent in the first half of 2015, confirming a spirited upward trend at the top end of the market. “It’s the value of scarcity,” explains Mr Andy Simpson, founder of brokerage Rare Whisky 101. “It wasn’t that long ago that you could buy 40-year-old Laphroaig for £101. Now, those bottles are fetching £3,000 to £4,000 on the secondary auction market.” As well as auction houses, rare bottles such as these can be acquired through whisky brokerages or occasionally through the distilleries themselves.

Age is crucial when it comes to investment-grade whisky. “A Macallan, a Dalmore or a Glenfiddich from the 1950s would now set you back £20,000,” says Mr Harris. “For £2,000 to £3,000 a bottle, however, you can get a Glenfarclas from the 1950s, which has great potential to rise in value.”

Another hot tip is to purchase whisky from “silent” stills that have ceased production. For new investors, Mr Harris recommends Rosebank, a lowland distillery which closed in 1993. “Bottles are selling at auction for £100 to £140, so you can still pick up 22- or 23-year-old bottles for a relatively low amount of cash.”

Tips for new investors

Top-quality, heavily sherried whisky is very popular, but increasingly scarce. The Glendronach distillery, which has good stocks of sherry butts, is releasing single casks of 1990 vintages for between £80 and £100. These, Mr Harris suggests, are a shrewd investment.

The industry went through a huge slump in the early 1980s, making vintages from this period comparatively rare and therefore a very good bet.  

STAR WARS TOYS

The release of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, has seen prices for vintage toys from the first three films rise by as much as 30 per cent in the past year alone. “It’s a cyclical thing,” reckons Ms Kathy Taylor, a valuer at Vectis Auctions, which specialises in vintage toys. “A lot of the people who are collecting Star Wars figures are 40-plus, so they remember the toys from when they were children.”

For example, a loose, “play-worn” Darth Vader figure, one of the most widely produced figures from the original movies, can still fetch £30 to £40 if it’s in decent condition. At the other end of the scale, in January 2015 Vectis sold an extremely rare, mint-condition Boba Fett figure from The Empire Strikes Back, made by UK firm Palitoy, for £18,000.

So what would our experts be buying now as an investment? “Star Wars Lego,” replies Ms Taylor. “It’s more or less a dead cert. An unopened Lego Millennium Falcon from the first film would probably be worth £2,000 to £3,000 now.”

Tips for new investors

Whatever you buy, make sure it’s box-fresh – and take care not to bang it or damage it on the way home. Scratches, indents, fading and factory flaws all have an impact on the price.

If you do open toys, make sure you keep everything that comes with them – accessories, instructions, paperwork.

LIMITED-EDITION SNEAKERS

Mr Kanye West’s line of Yeezy Boost sneakers for adidas made headlines recently as one of the world’s most sought-after commodities. Retailing at around £260 a pair when they were released at the end of 2015, brand new pairs of the limited-edition Yeezy Boost 750 Triple-Black have been “flipped” on eBay for as much as £3,500.

“Kanye West is such an influencer in the US that all his collaborations – with Nike, Reebok, Louis Vuitton and Bape, as well as adidas – command a premium,” explains Mr Jordan Geller, a man who has owned more than 2,400 pairs of Nike sneakers, is a veteran trader on the resale market and the founder of Shoezeum, a museum that once housed his collection.

Despite Mr West’s adidas Yeezy Boost, Nike still commands by far the biggest slice of the sneaker resale market. “Air Jordan is the leader – no one else comes close,” says Mr Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst and author of the Sneakernomics column for Forbes. Mr Powell credits eBay with the explosion in demand for limited-edition shoes – a market that could now be worth as much as $1bn globally.

Tips for new investors

“I wouldn’t buy the latest, hottest item because they’ll always carry a premium,” advises Mr Geller. “If you’re a little more patient, generally the item will go down in value. You’re not going to turn $1,000 into $10,000 overnight, so it’s better to invest in shoes that you’re getting at deep discount. If a pair of shoes has a retail price of $140 and I can buy them for $40 a pair and sell them on for $80 to $100, everybody wins.’’

Look for technology – what makes the shoe special? Is it made using performance-enhancing materials? What’s the inspiration behind it? Did an athlete win a major championship wearing it? Shoes with intriguing backstories can add value for potential buyers.