Investment gifts to appreciate

Mon, Dec 12, 2011, 00:00

A signed copy of a Colm Tóibín first edition or a piece of Irish art for the wall – some gifts give extra value as canny investments, writes FIONA REDDAN

IF YOU want to give a gift befitting the times we’re in, you might want to consider a gift with a difference this Christmas. So, rather than a voucher that may never get used or a box-set that gets cast aside after the first viewing, what are the options on giving a gift that might actually increase in value?

A BOOK YOU CAN’T READ

If you usually give books for Christmas, this year you could consider giving an extra special one. First editions have long been collectible and, if chosen carefully, can offer a decent return.

If your budget is at the lower end of the scale, a contemporary author might be your best bet. If you buy early, you could get in at a bargain price – but the risk is that the author will not stand up over a longer period of time.

According to David Cunningham, co-owner of Cathach Books on Dublin’s Duke Street, books which have either won or are nominated for literary prizes have a greater value. He says that while contemporary books may be cheaper, they are still nonetheless very collectible. For example, you can buy a signed first edition of Emma Donoghue’s Room, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2010, for €75, while first editions of the work of Anne Enright, who won the award in 2007 for The Gathering, can be bought for about €75-€150.

At Cathach Books, you can get a signed first edition of John Banville’s The Sea for €150, or a special, leather-bound limited edition of The Infinities for €550. Only 10 copies of this edition were produced. Colm Tóibín is another popular contemporary author, and a signed leather-bound version of Brooklyn, one of just 125, is available for €575. At the more expensive end, a 1966 signed first edition of Death of a Naturalist, Seamus Heaney’s first book of poetry, will set you back €1,500.

If a book is signed, it typically adds about 50 per cent to its value, while if you’re lucky enough to be considering a presentation copy of a work signed by James Joyce, it would add “at least four figures to the value,” notes Cunningham. Indeed, Ireland’s literary giants, who have a broad appeal amongst international collectors, are at the upper end of the price scale.

Joyce is typically the most expensive, and a first edition of his work starts at about €700 and goes up to about €7,000. At Cathach Books, an edition of Ulysses inscribed by the author, would set you back €14,000.

If your nearest and dearest appreciates the work of WB Yeats, you could get a collection of his poems published in 1928 for €750.

If you’re looking for a return, be prepared to hold on to your book for some time, and typically, the more you invest the better chance you have of getting a return. Remember, the condition of the book is also important in determining its price, so don’t take that first edition into the bath.

ALL THAT GLISTERS

While the jury is out on where gold is headed, gold or silver coins might make a more attractive gift than a necklace this Christmas. The price of gold has soared on the back of continuing uncertainty in global economies and the European sovereign debt crisis. It is currently priced at about $1,700 an ounce, but some commentators put it at $2,000 – and beyond. On the other hand, others argue that it’s in the middle of the bubble – and like all bubbles it must burst. Nonetheless, there might be an argument for hedging your bets and diversifying.

With Dublin-based financial adviser Goldcore, you can buy an ounce of South African Krugerrand coins for about €1,300, or in bullion form, a 10-ounce bar for about €13,200.

For the less generous, another option is to buy silver coins. Silver is also enjoying a bull run, and a recent Thomson Reuters survey said it has the potential to reach $40 an ounce by year-end. With Goldcore, you can buy an ounce of American Silver Eagles for about €27, or a 10-ounce silver bar will cost about €250.

SOMETHING FOR THE WALL

Given that the Irish art market has fallen by about as much as the property market – at least 50 per cent – experts assert that there is now plenty of opportunity to buy.

According to Rory Guthrie, a director with deVeres Art Auctions, in the weeks before Christmas about 1,500-1,800 paintings will be offered for sale, and it is still a busy market.

“Good pictures will always sell,” he says. “We’re selling the same amount of pictures we always sold. Volumes haven’t fallen and it’s still a vibrant market.”

Of course the big difference now is that prices have been slashed, and Guthrie gives an example of a painting that was sold for €130,000 in 2006, which is now available for €40,000. Contemporary pieces, whose value soared during the Celtic Tiger years, have been hit a bit harder.

What hasn’t changed is that the big names of Paul Henry and Jack Yeats are still seen as “the bankers” according to Guthrie. “You’ll always find a home for those,” he says, although like everything else they have become cheaper, dropping back by about 30-40 per cent. When it comes to choosing a painting, Guthrie advises to go with your own taste.

“Enjoy the work, choose something you can put on the wall,” he says, pointing out that 90 per cent of Irish people stick with Irish painters, and there is value to be had in this category, with works by George Campbell for example, now at about €10,000-€15,000, or William Conor from €8,000-€12,000.

Typically people who are looking for a return on their money will hold a painting for five years, but it can vary. “There is no fast rule as to how long you should hold a painting,” Guthrie notes.

A MAKEOVER

No, we’re not talking about Gok Wan sticking some shoulder pads into your jacket. While it may not be the most popular of gifts, paying for a loved one to have a financial review could pay dividends in the long run. After another austerity budget, a levy on pensions and continuing uncertainty over the future viability of the euro, getting your finances in order is something all of us should be devoting time and attention to.

While it is possible to get a free financial review from your own bank or financial institution, there are risks in doing so. After all, the institution’s financial adviser will only be able to offer you very limited options – which may not be as attractive as other products on the market.

A wiser option might be to gift the cost of a financial review to your nearest and dearest. The cost will differ from provider to provider, but you can typically expect to fork out from about €100 to €1,000, depending on how comprehensive the review.

To find an adviser, the Central Bank provides a register of authorised advisers (see registers.financialregulator.ie). However, it is worthwhile ringing to discuss your needs with a selection of advisers first because if they are paid by commission, advisers can have a vested interest in promoting certain products or financial institutions. You could also look out for an adviser who has completed the graduate diploma in financial planning at the Institute of Bankers.