How to get rich with James Bond movie posters

James Bond movie posters are among a slew of alternative investments that are outperforming traditional assets.
James Bond movie posters are among a slew of alternative investments that are outperforming traditional assets. PHOTO: MEDIACORP

Hong Kong - Mr Bruce Marchant says he has found the protection he needs against stock market gyrations: in the arms of an amazon in a white bikini.

She adorns his vintage poster of the 1958 sci-fi flick, Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman, which 10 years ago cost US$5,000. Today it is worth US$16,000 (S$21,800) - a 220 per cent return.

"In the past decade, things have really shot up," said Mr Marchant, who owns London-based Reel Poster Gallery, "If you are a shrewd collector, there is no question they are a good investment."

The movie posters are among a slew of alternative investments that are outperforming traditional assets, from Hermes Birkin handbags to Apple 1 computers to Nobel Prize medals, as collectors bet on rarity and star value.

Prices are rising as an increasing pool of wealthy individuals chases a limited number of items.

In 1994, billionaire Bill Gates paid a record US$30.8 million for Leonardo da Vinci's Codex. The 72-page, handwritten notebook could be worth as much as US$60 million today, according to Ms Cassandra Hatton, a senior specialist of books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York. It had sold for US$5.6 million at auction in 1980.

Mr Gates is one of a new generation of collectors who made their money in tech and display a nerdy bent for scientific scribblings and devices, says Ms Hatton.

A 56-page notebook belonging to Alan Turing, the British mathematician whose cracking of the German Enigma code during the Second World War was the basis for the 2014 film The Imitation Game, sold for more than US$1 million at Bonhams' New York auction in April to an anonymous bidder.

The auction house estimates a letter penned by Charles Darwin may sell in New York for between US$70,000 and US$90,000 on Sept 21 .

Ageing geeks who held on to their original Apple 1 computers are sitting on a windfall. Mr Bob Luther, a self-described serial collector, picked one up for US$7,600 in 2004 and sold it at Christie's in December for a cool US$365,000.

Two months earlier, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, bought one in a better condition for a record US$905,000. Another of the iconic machines, this time in pristine condition, could beat that record in a Bonhams sale in October, Ms Hatton says. The owner bought it new in 1976 for US$666.

Movie posters got a boost in January 2013, when a German poster of the Fritz Lang 1927 dystopian classic Metropolis sold for US$1.2 million. One of only four known copies, its owner bought it for US$690,000 in 2006 and it was put on the block when he declared bankruptcy.

The winning bidder was Mr Ralph DeLuca, a 39-year-old collector and dealer who quit his job in finance 16 years ago when he decided he was better off putting his time and money into posters.

"I shifted to tangible assets and they have been a tremendous investment," said Mr DeLuca, who said he had received an offer of US$2 million for his Metropolis.

You do not have to be a millionaire to participate. Original British posters of the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967), starring Sean Connery, sell for about US$1,500, while a pristine Dr. No (1962), the first film in the franchise, can fetch more than US$15,000.

Movie posters aside, perhaps the most exotic and alternative item attracting a following is agarwood. Prized for thousands of years for its scent, the wood's aroma derives from resin the tree produces to fight off infection.

At an L&H Auction sale in Hong Kong in May, a 58g agarwood bracelet sold for HK$2.99 million.

"It's simple arithmetic, there is a limited supply," said Mr Paul Kan, a collector of 40 years who prefers the scented wood to more traditional collectibles. Kan said prices had risen 10-fold in the past decade as the number of buyers from China skyrocketed.

And if the market slumps?

"You can always smell it," he said. "Chinese porcelain and ceramics don't give you that."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'How to get rich with James Bond movie posters'. Print Edition | Subscribe