Editor's Introduction: A Wealth of Options

Can you answer "yes" to one of the following?

  • The first ten years of the new millennium has been a lost decade for stocks.
  • You suffered a 25-percent to 40-percent loss in your portfolio as the result of the financial crisis/recession of 2008-2009.
  • You are hoarding cash, notching meager, almost non-existent, money-market returns, as you watch the stock market from the sidelines, knowing that even after the big rally of 2009 the S&P 500 and Dow Industrials are trading at levels seen both in 1999 and 2004.

If all of the above apply to you and you're still getting over the Flash Crashof May 2010, then you should definitely read on.

Alternative Investing - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage
Alternative Investing - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage

Alternative investing is a big space; an alphabet soup of options and choices; in some case, it is truly is a straightforward alternative to basic stocks and bonds, the bread and butter of investing. Check out our primers on precious metals, commodities,green and social investing, and apoor man's hedge fund.

In other cases, alternative investing borders on collecting (art, stamps, coins, books, musical instruments, antiques). It can also be something of a hobby or an outright business (motorcycles, wines, memorabilia,film,real estate) or dovetail with lifestyle or plain style (antiques, theatre,cars, jewelryandclothing).

In any case, however, it is about putting money to work and taking a risk in the hope of making a profit. And it's not just for the wealthy, although that certainly helps. There's usually an entry point for any savvy, bold and passionate investor.

"We view art as a very interesting long-term asset class,” says the head of an international investment partnership in London. “There are a lot of opportunities to make significant capital growth if you know how to buy and sell.”

Sure, a nice ROI helps, but there's also passion (theatre), adventure (shipwreck antiquities) and competition (horses) involved.

Of course, there's also risk—in some cases, quite a lot of it. Do your homework to avoid overpaying and/or falling prey to fraud.

And finally, for all those who've felt more than a bit helpless as they watched their portfolio sink during one market bloodbath or another in the last decade only to hear your advisor say, "Hang on", "Don't panic", or even "Buy on the dips", there lies in these investments a sense of control.

We like to think there's something for everyone here and hopefully more than that for some of you. You'll find tips on how to get started and tales about those already in the business. There's also a dozen slideshowsin case you are "just looking".

(And check back with us every week, as we'll be adding new material weekly through the end of the year.)

"It's like fine art," as one vintage-motorcycle broker put it. “Buy something you like because you may have to live with it.”