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Aesthetic Investments

Are aesthetic investments other than gold (such as art, gems, stamps and wine) viable portfolio options? These blog entries address investing in these alternative asset classes.

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Survey of Research on Silver, Platinum and Palladium as Investments

What research is available bearing on silver, platinum and palladium as investments? In their April 2017 paper entitled “The Financial Economics of White Precious Metals – A Survey”, Samuel Vigne, Brian Lucey, Fergal O’Connor and Larisa Yarovaya summarize the body of academic research on the financial economics of silver, platinum and palladium. The survey covers relevant studies of market efficiency, predictability, behavioral influences, diversification benefits, volatility drivers, macroeconomic influences and relationships with other assets. Based on this research, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Contrarian Sports Betting as a Diversifying Investment

Can systematic, contrarian sports betting usefully diversify conventional investments? In their June 2016 paper entitled “Sports Betting As a New Asset Class: Can a Sports Trader Beat Hedge Fund Managers from 2010-2016?”, Lovjit Thukral and Pedro Vergel investigate whether a specific sports betting strategy outperforms and diversifies the Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index and the S&P 500 Index. The strategy hypothesizes that horse racing favorites are consistently overrated by betting 1% of a hypothetical portfolio against the top four (lowest odds) horses in each regulated race in the UK. Using historical data from Betfair Exchange for 57,000 horse races and contemporaneous annual returns for the Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index and the S&P 500 Total Return Index during January 2010 through early January 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Illiquid Asset Returns over the Long Run

Are illiquid assets competitive as investments with liquid financial assets over the long run? In his March 2016 paper entitled “The Long-Term Returns to Durable Assets”, Christophe Spaenjers summarizes long-term returns for three types of illiquid assets since the start of the 20th century:

  1. Houses and farmland.
  2. Collectibles (art, stamps, wine and violins).
  3. Gold, silver and diamonds.

He focuses on capital gains but comments on ancillary costs and potential associated income where relevant. Using available monthly price indexes for these assets from a variety of sources during 1900 through 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Return for the Keynes Art Collection

Is an art collection a good investment? In the August 2015 version of their paper entitled “Art as an Asset and Keynes the Collector”, David Chambers, Elroy Dimson and Christophe Spaenjers study the performance of an actual buy-and-hold art portfolio, the collection of economist John Maynard Keynes. “Keynes purchased artworks through various channels between 1917 and 1945, and bequeathed his entire art collection to King’s College in Cambridge upon his death the following year. This collection consists of over a hundred pieces by various artists, including Modern Masters such as Braque, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Seurat, but also friends and acquaintances of Keynes such as Spencer Gore, Duncan Grant, and William Roberts. It has remained intact to the present day.” Using purchase prices/dates, insurance valuations, auction estimates and terminal expert appraisals at the end of 2013 (maximum holding period 96 years), they find that: Keep Reading

Unbiased Return on Art

For an illiquid asset class such as art, many individual assets do not trade within commonly used return measurement intervals (such as a year). When a relatively few works of art account for most of the trading, measured returns derive mostly from these few works. If the returns for frequently and seldom traded art differ, there would be a disconnect between measured returns and overall asset class performance. In the October 2013 version of their draft paper entitled “Does it Pay to Invest in Art? A Selection-corrected Returns Perspective”, Arthur Korteweg, Roman Kraussl and Patrick Verwijmeren examine such sample selection bias for art (paintings) as an asset class. Using a sample of 20,538 paintings sold 42,548 times at auction during 1972 through 2010, they find that: Keep Reading

Wine as a Long-term Investment

How does wine perform as a long-term investment? In the September 2013 version of their paper entitled “The Price of Wine”, Elroy Dimson, Peter Rousseau and Christophe Spaenjers examine the performance of wine as a long-term investment, with focus on the impact of aging. They employ long price histories for five long-established Bordeaux wines constructed from auction and dealer prices. They account for vintage effects via annual data on production yields and weather. They also consider the costs of storage and insurance. They calculate real returns based on UK inflation. Using 36,271 prices for 9,492 combinations of sale year, chateau, vintage and transaction type (auction of dealer) during 1900 through 2012, they find that: Keep Reading

Long-term Performance of Aesthetic Investments

Are collectibles good long-term investments? In their September 2013 paper entitled “The Investment Performance of Emotional Assets”, Elroy Dimson and Christophe Spaenjers estimate long-term returns for selected collectibles and review the risks associated with such investments. They focus on art, stamps and violins, and also consider wine and diamonds. Using repeat sales histories and catalog prices for aesthetic investments, along with contemporaneous returns for UK equities, UK government bonds/bills and gold, during 1900-2012, they find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Happy Money

In the prologue of their 2013 book entitled Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, authors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton state: “When it comes to increasing the amount of money they have, most people recognize that relying on their own intuition is insufficient, spawning an entire industry of financial advisors. But when it comes to spending that money, people are often content to rely on their hunches about what will make them happy. And yet, if human happiness is even half as complicated as the stock market, there is little reason to assume that intuition provides a sufficient guide. …trying to uncover the causes of your own happiness through introspection is like trying to perform your own heart transplant. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but a surgical expert would come in handy. Consider us your surgical experts.” Making liberal use of anecdotes to illustrate findings from an array of happiness research projects, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Diamonds an Investor’s Friend?

Are high-grade diamonds competitive with conventional asset classes as investments? In his April 2013 paper entitled “The Returns on Investment Grade Diamonds”, Luc Renneboog examines secondary market returns and risks of investment grade gems (white diamonds, colored diamonds and other gems such as sapphires, rubies, and emeralds). He compares their investment performance metrics to those of stocks, corporate and government bonds, gold and real estate. He ignores trading frictions. Using data for 4,750 transactions at gem auctions during 1999 through 2012, he finds that: Keep Reading

Accounting for Illiquid Assets

How should investors view illiquid assets? In the January 2013 draft of his book chapter titled “Illiquid Asset Investing”, Andrew Ang summarizes the characteristics of investments in illiquid assets. Illiquid investments typically exhibit infrequent trading, small trades (in terms of number of units) and low turnover. Examples are hedge funds (to some degree), real estate and aesthetic investments such as art and jewels. He does not address the largest illiquid component of an individual’s wealth, human capital. Based on available research, he concludes that: Keep Reading

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