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Collectibles: Part of the portfolio or mere sentimental value?

Number of wealthy people collecting 'treasured assets' is on the rise

Mar 6, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

By Liz Skinner

The Hess Corp. exiting the retail gasoline business could bring good tidings in our home where, for years, my husband has squirreled away dozens of green-and-white plastic vehicles that prominently display the Hess logo.

With Hess no longer planning to produce its collectible Hess trucks, sold annually at its gas stations between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our supply may actually be worth something. But how do you engage with someone about collectibles' worth, or lack thereof, when the person hasn't been gathering them for the cash value?

In many cases, the value may be more emotional than physical. Unless a client has a collection of gold coins, advisers usually do not include collections of stamps, cars or even fine art as part of an investment portfolio.

And such collections are not free to keep around, advisers point out. Certain items like jewelry, fine art and classic cars should be insured and others, including wine, may require special storage.

Advisers and estate planners typically ask clients to whom their collections should go when they die. Janet Briaud, president of Briaud Financial Advisors, said she takes the discussion a step further. If the client doesn't have someone specific in mind as an inheritor, she asks the client for names of experts in that field who could value the collection in the future, so it can be sold to benefit the heirs.

These conversations are sometimes emotional because the collection represents a hobby the client often has spent many years enjoying.

Advisers may find they are having such conversations more frequently, as the number of wealthy people collecting “treasured assets” is on the rise.

Millionaires around the globe spend an average of 9.6% of their assets on nonfinancial items like collectibles, according to a Barclays Wealth survey last year. That survey also found 49% of those with investible assets of $1.5 million or more owned fine art, up 8 points from 2007.

Advisers expect the value of the Hess trucks that Americans such as my husband have stored away in basements and attics to increase because they will no longer be produced. However, we're not expecting a bonanza.

In fact, their greatest value to us is the family memories they evoke. About six years ago, my husband loaded up on batteries (probably $50 worth) and we and our two daughters played with the trucks, helicopters, emergency vehicles, tractor trailers, fire truck, biplane, racecar and motorcycles with the sirens blaring for about an hour.

For the full effect of this experience, I encourage you to visit http://hesstoytruck.com/, where you can hear the three sounds that just the 2012 helicopter and rescue trucks make — and then multiply the pleasure by about 10.

Afterward, my husband boxed them all up and found them all homes on shelves in the basement, boxes in the attic and even a few empty dresser drawers in the guest room. Invitations to revisit the fun today are spurned by our daughters, who are both practically teenagers now. But one day they might long to recreate that distinctive memory — and the trucks, I'm confident, will still be there for them.

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