In Stanley Gibbons’ world famous London stamp shop, collectors marvel at the rare “plate 77 penny red” stamp while turmoil rages far away in the financial markets.
Since 1856, Stanley Gibbons has been buying and selling rare stamps. Its index of Britain’s 30 rarest stamps has risen by almost 70 percent over the past five years, outpacing equities and gold.
The rare plate penny 77 red, seen as the holy grail of stamps from Great Britain, costs nearly $900,000 – a sizeable investment and one that an increasing number of investors are considering as an alternatives to today’s unstable markets.
“We’ve got more and more prestige collectors. More and more investors coming into the market, not just in the UK, the US and Europe, but the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, and that has therefore created more of a demand for it,” Keith Heddle, Investment Director at Stanley Gibbons told CNBC.
“It has also attracted interest from some “very, very envious individual collectors,” he said.
Paul Fraser of Paul Fraser Collectibles, which invests in memorabilia and investment-grade collectibles, said collections from China in particular had appreciated spectacularly.
“China has changed dramatically,” he said.
“Twenty years ago we had a client who spent about a million pounds on Chinese stamps. And at a time when nobody was collecting it, he sold his collection in the late 90s for over 10 million pounds. And if he had it today, that collection would probably sell for 25 to 30 million (pounds),” Fraser said.
Condition and rarity is paramount when buying investment grade stamps.
But this is not an asset class where investors will get quick returns.
“Stamps tend to move very very slowly, Heddle, said describing it as “determined, slow and steady.”
If superheroes conjure up happier memories than those of your stamp collection, the market for collecting comic books could offer solace.
“Vintage comic books have definitely appreciated over the last 30, 40, 50 years. You never see the best of the best going down in value,” Vincent Zurzolo, COO of vintage comic book auction website ComicConnect.com said.
The popularity of the character, the scarcity and the grade of the comic book all determine what makes a comic book collectible.
An early Superman comic book just sold for $63,000, Zurzolo said. Superman made his first appearance June 1938, with an original price tag of 10 cents. Last year that edition sold for over $2 million, making it the most expensive comic book ever.
“Customers range from the average Joe in the street to politicians, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, billionaires, celebrities,” Zurzolo said.
Investors should think about diversifying their portfolio, he said, and if the comic book is restored, make sure it comes with a guarantee from a reputable dealer.