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Wealthy Cling To Art And Other Treasures In A Low-Return World

May 10, 2012

Bloomberg - 06/11/12
By Ben Steverman

Stock portfolios in recent years have provided scant comfort. All too often, those share prices on a computer screen -- who even has paper stock certificates anymore? -- are the difference between a good night's sleep or pacing yourself into a flop sweat. Even when the numbers do go up, volatility seems to drag them down. That has wealthy investors longing for tangible assets -- something they can showcase in their living rooms, drive through their towns in, or even wear from time to time.

Just last week someone paid more for a car than has ever been spent before, when a 1962 apple-green Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $35 million in a private sale. Also in May, Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" sold at auction for a record $120 million -- in 12 minutes. And in December of last year, Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry collection set a world record at $157 million.

The world's millionaires are devoting an average of 9.6 percent of their fortunes to nonfinancial assets like collectibles, a new survey by Barclays Wealth shows. Nearly every category of "treasure assets" attracted new buyers in the past five years. The poll of 2,000 people with investable assets of $1.5 million or more, conducted by Ledbury Research, found that 49 percent of respondents own fine art pictures and paintings, up 8 points from 2007. Also drawing a trove of new collectors were precious jewelry, antique furniture, precious metals, wine, rugs, sculptures, classic automobiles and coins.

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