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Punters and Collectors Part 2

Here are some thoughts on a few more collectables that can make and cost fortunes for anyone game enough to take the plunge.

Precious Metals and Gems
All that glitters is not gold; and dazzling could mean diamond or dud. When there's big money to be made, the rogues will be out in force - selling over-priced, low-quality items, or just plain fakes; they also buy cheaply from anyone who believes their appraisal and valuation to be truthful. If you don't know these people and their integrity cannot be verified absolutely by someone you trust, have nothing to do with them!
Gold is a marketable resource, as is silver to a lesser degree. There are many ways to acquire precious metals in a variety of forms, and each has its own advantages and drawbacks. One thing that should be considered is the law of the land - some countries may limit the amount that a private individual may own, so it pays to check before starting to collect. As an investment, bullion purchased from a reliable dealer, or directly from the mint, is probably the safest option if long-term investment is the plan. Ingots and bullion coins are stamped with the type of metal, its grade, and the weight, so you know exactly what you are buying. Once the metal has been crafted into a functional or decorative form, such as jewellery and ornaments, the purchase price will increase, but the selling price of the basic material will not. Picking up old chains and rings that are damaged or unwanted can eventually net a profit for a lower outlay, but the current market and bullion price will always determine their actual worth. Beware of fakes and those jewellers who seem to have massive discount sales nearly every week - chances are, if you took your new 50%-off gold bracelet to the shop down the road, they'd tell you it wasn't as good as the identical one in their window and would almost certainly offer you a lot less than you paid.
The same applies to gems, perhaps more so. Could you tell a genuine ruby from a paste one? Can you be sure that a pink sapphire isn't actually a zircon? And how about the quality - what is a carat, anyway? Anyone who fancies precious gems as an investment needs professional advice from a reputable expert. Without it, you may as well stick your money in a slot machine!
Do your research. There is a wealth of useful information on the Internet giving details of what to look for, plus some of the pitfalls. You will also find the names of a number of publications and associations which you can source for in-depth opinions and advice.

Art Works and Intellectual Property
I have very little to say on this area, despite being an artist myself; in particular because of it. I know how hard it is to break into the limelight and become collectable. Having said that, contemporary art can be a good investment, as long as the artist is going places. Buying a canvas or two when they are just starting up can turn a handsome profit later when they are eventually discovered; but if they are still starving in a garret years down the track, I just hope you didn't pay over the top. There are, of course, examples of former artists, perhaps one of the famous masters, that are to be discovered languishing in the most unlikely of places - in sheds and spare rooms, consigned to boxes along with a deceased aunt's bric-a-brac; from car-boot sales; maybe hanging on your own wall - oils, prints, sketches and suchlike. If you believe you may have unearthed a lost masterpiece, have it authenticated by a recognised and reputable auction house. If it turns out to be a winner for you, good luck; if not, hang it back up as a reminder of what might have been.

Cars and Motor Bikes
Definitely for enthusiasts, owning and restoring vintage or classic vehicles is more than just a hobby. These passionate collectors spend a small fortune on their machines, and are always on the lookout for "new" acquisitions and spare parts. They do, however, know their stuff and can spot non-genuine a mile off. Anyone thinking of trying their hand at buying and selling should remember this. A classic is only that if all parts are original. Anything less is simply old and nice-looking. Admittedly, there would be times when something is beyond repair and the only available replacement is for a later model. Should this be the case, be up front and tell the prospective buyer before they discover it for themselves, as they surely will. If the part cannot be sourced in any shape or form, it will need to be custom-made. Rather than tackling this yourself, it may be better to offer it for sale as is, take a lower price, and let the buyer sort it out. They probably know how to without compromising the value, both monetary and aesthetically.

Just Collectables
Whatever takes a person's fancy can turn into an obsession. Dolls are quite popular, as are teddy bears, ornamental owls, guitars, garden gnomes, et al. Some items are manufactured specifically for collectors - souvenir spoons, sporting cards, anniversary coins and china, plus limited edition memorabilia. Art Deco was popular once and people would scour junk shops and church jumble sales for specific items, or just to gather more and more examples. All of these are considered priceless by the collectors; but sellers beware: fads come and go, display rooms get filled to overflowing, and a market that could never get enough can quickly degrade to one where only the most sought-after items are of value. Better to find out first who wants what and how much they are prepared to pay, or you could end up being a collector yourself - mainly of junk nobody else wants!

Whether you are a punter or a collector, make sure you enjoy your passion and don't get swept away by thoughts of making a small fortune in five minutes. Values fluctuate with the weather, so realising any profit at all may take some time. At the end of the day you could still be out of pocket; and then, the only thing you may be able to take comfort from is to find another preoccupation that doesn't cost as much.

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