Thanks for reading The Attic Update, a weekly look at the exciting world of collecting and investing in alternative assets.
The Attic Update is broken down into three sections – Past, Present, and Future.
- PAST – A historical look at collecting, investing, and markets.
- PRESENT – Ten of the most relevant stories in collecting and alternative asset investing over the past week.
- FUTURE – Where are we headed? We’ll look at what’s next for alternative assets and the people working hard to make visions into reality.
The Ultimate Collectible –
“Guitars are not good because they’re old. They’re good because they were made right on day one.” – George Gruhn
How do you become the King of Vintage Guitars? It’s not something you set out to accomplish at the start. It begins with curiosity and grows little by little each day. After many decades, people point and say, “There he is!”
When George Gruhn was young, he loved snakes. Not just snakes but turtles, frogs, fish, and lizards. At just 12 years old, it was apparent Gruhn could dive deep into a subject and find in-depth knowledge and insight. Then he caught a glimpse of a guitar from the corner of his eye…
He studied Zoology at the University of Chicago. After graduation, he accepted a position in Knoxville as a researcher at the University of Tennessee. He had a passion for animals, but his love of guitars wouldn’t allow him to continue his Zoology studies.
Out of nowhere, he received a phone call that would change the direction of his journey. The phone rang, and when Gruhn answered, on the other end of the line was Hank Williams Jr.
Hank had been referred to Gruhn by Sonny Osborne from the Osborne Brothers’ bluegrass band. Word was traveling that George not only owned a handful of old Martin guitars but had the deep knowledge to go along with it. Hank Williams Jr. was very interested in that knowledge – and also wanted Gruhn’s guitars.
Over the phone, Gruhn confirmed with Hank that he did indeed have a few nice Martins, among many others. And might be willing to part with a few guitars for the right price. But Hank was in Nashville, and Gruhn was in Knoxville. Nearly a four-hour drive through mountain roads. Gruhn might be willing to part with a few guitars, but how would he get them to Nashville? Hank’s response – “I’ll be there in four hours.”
When Hank arrived, he loaded his car with as many guitars as Gruhn would sell. Then he told Gruhn that Nashville doesn’t have anyone like him there. And if he wanted to move to Nashville he’d help him get started. It was a no-brainer for George. Off to Nashville he went.
The rest is history – George Gruhn landed in Nashville and, over the next 50 plus years, became one of the world’s most trusted, expert voices on guitars. Famous musicians, wealthy collectors, and guitar lovers from all corners of the earth have flocked to Nashville to visit Gruhn.
So why would anyone decide to collect vintage guitars and dedicate their entire lives learning about one single instrument? Why not cars, baseball cards, or bottles of wine? Gruhn answered this question perfectly in an interview a few years ago, and it’s hard to argue against his point.
“Guitars, which I feel are the ultimate collectible, can be looked at, touched, listened to, and played. At the same time, they are beautiful pieces of art that can be appreciated on so many levels. A guitar responds to the individual player and sounds completely different when you play it than when you listen to someone else play it…There is, therefore, greater depth of appreciation with musical instruments than with almost any other collectible, perhaps even more than with painting and sculpture.”
Hoverboards, Fake Maps, and Art Blocks –
Here’s the ‘Attic Top 10’ – The most relevant stories in collecting and investing in alternative assets over the past week. Not only to keep you informed but to provoke deeper thought, investigation, curiosity, and fun!
- Fractional Ownership – Otis “drops” the schedule. Will now open offerings within 48 hours from SEC qualification. Like I’ve said many times before – y’all got to be on your toes in this fractional ownership game.
- Memorabilia & Collectibles – Rare items used in blockbuster movies are coming to the Prop Store auction in November, including the Mattel hoverboard from Back to the Future Part II signed by Michael J. Fox. Other items include the miniature light-up X-wing used in the filming of Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, which is expected to sell for over $300,000. The helmet Russel Crowe wore in the 2000 movie, ‘Gladiator’ is estimated to sell for over $50,000.
- Sports Cards – We’ve talked a lot about Fanatics lately, but with good reason. They shook up the industry over the last month or so, and have no plans to back off anytime soon. The company just raised $350 million in a Series A funding round at a valuation of $10.4 billion. Fanatics’ vision is to become a one-stop shop for the sports cards industry – primary sales, the secondary resales marketplace, card grading, and card storage.
- Rare Books – Yale admits its Vinland Map is fake. The case is closed on the supposed Medieval map showing Viking travels to North America. After decades of intense investigation, the conclusion has been reached. “There is no reasonable doubt here.” Raymond Clemens, the curator of books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale said in a statement. The team of scientists reached their conclusion after analyzing the elements of the text and finding high levels of a titanium compound used in inks first produced in the 1920s. It’s got to be a humbling experience for Yale University to admit they have a fake map in their collection. But shows how diligent they worked to get to the truth on the Vinland Map. ‘Tip of the cap’ to Yale.
- Crypto & NFTs – ‘Art Blocks’ shoots to the top of the charts on Non-Fungible’s listing of top NFTs over the past 7 days. With more than 10,000 sales totaling $127 million, Art Blocks topped CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and SuperRare in sales volume over the last 7 days – and by a long shot. What are “ArtBlocks?” Read about them here. The Nonfungible website is a great tool for sorting trends in NFTs to find what’s hot, and what’s cold.
- Watches – The original Apple Watch is now considered ‘Vintage’ according to Apple. The “Series 0” Apple Watch was released in 2015, but Apple considers any product more than five years old with limited support and repair options as vintage. Obsolete Apple products, especially still in sealed boxes, have enormous value. A still-in-the-box original Apple iPod listed on eBay sold for $15,000. Add the Apple Watch to the list of valuable vintage tech products – and you might want to check your desk drawers for any “Series 0s” laying around.
- Wine & Whiskey – Get educated with this massive, free guide to investing in rare bottles of whisky – before you get in over your head. Mark Littler specializes in rare whisky and just released an 80-page report aimed at collectors young and old, new and seasoned. He’s advising for caution as prices for many collector bottles have soared. The guide is a comprehensive introduction to whisky collecting, and stresses investor education and a long-term view, rather than a “get-rich-quick mindset.” It’s always refreshing to see industry experts pitching education, caution, and long-term outlooks as opposed to the constant hype and pumping, IMHO.
- Markets & Investing – Natural Gas is the latest energy commodity to surge in price. Over the last five months, the U.S. Nat Gas ETF (UNG) has nearly doubled in price. Not quite Solana-Esque performance, but pretty impressive nonetheless. Whether it’s lumber, coal, oil, corn, or copper, commodity prices have been rising steadily throughout the year. Where’s a good place to get commodity price data – without all the noisy tired cliches and catchphrases? Here’s a no-frills data-packed site with historical charts. Bookmark it and enjoy!
- Collector Cars – The new James Bond movie is hitting screens Friday, and nobody could be happier than Aston Martin. The car company might not have survived without Bond. The partnership between Aston Martin and Mr. Bond grows with every new movie as the next generation is exposed to the automaker’s amazing history. The greatest Aston of all time? That’s easy, it’s the 1980s V8 Vantage. While I don’t have my own 80s Vantage in the garage, I do know of a way to buy fractional ownership shares in one – but I’d rather not talk about it!
- Art – Denmark artist submits completely blank canvas to “Work It Out” art exhibition. The artist, Jens Haaning, was paid $84,000 to create artwork for the upcoming exhibit, but instead submitted a blank canvas. Haaning, who says it’s a commentary on poor wages, remarked, “The work is that I have taken their money.” And the museum isn’t satisfied with the explanation. The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Denmark decided to proceed with displaying the empty artwork titled, “Take the Money and Run,” for now. Although, Kunsten CEO Lasse Andersson is giving Haaning until January 16th, when the exhibition closes, to return the money.
Featured Pod –
Sports Cards Nonsense is one of the most popular podcasts covering the sports cards world. Hosted by Mike Gioseffi and Jesse Gibson, the duo also interviews industry insiders and attempts to break down the latest news for hard-core card collectors.
The Pod is backed by The Ringer Podcast Network, so there are regularly scheduled episodes every couple of days.
In the most recent episode below, Gioseffi and Gibson touch on the Fanatics expansion into nearly every aspect of card collecting and what that might mean for collectors.
Football season is underway, a perfect time to revisit one of the most important football cards ever made, the 1976 Walter Payton rookie card
The Gamer Economy –
What does gaming have to do with collecting or investing in alternative assets?? A lot. And I’m not talking about vintage Monopoly boards from 1935.
Many see gaming as one of the fastest-growing trends in technology, social networking, and yes, investing. The global gaming market is projected to grow to $250 billion by 2025.
Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, commented on the incredible growth of the gamer economy over the last several years. From what was a “garage business” to a hundred billion-dollar global industry.
“When I started Epic Games in 1991, I had this sinking feeling that I was too late. That the leading developers and publishers had already been established and I wouldn’t really have a chance…”
Tim had it wrong in 1991. He was not too late. A few months ago, his company raised (another) $1 billion in funding with a valuation of nearly $30 billion. His personal stake in the company is valued at almost $8 billion.
Tim goes on to give some advice for the industry, “we really need to start thinking about games not just as entertainment experiences, but as economies where other creators can participate and contribute and have their ideas heard.”
It seems like so many technology trends are colliding at the moment. Crypto, NFTs, gaming, VR, AR, AI, startups, metaverse… producing almost unlimited investment opportunities.
If for some reason, you feel like Tim Sweeney in 1991, I’m here to remind you – you’re not too late.
(obviously, undoubtedly, and clearly, this is not investment advice in any way, shape, or form)
Quote From the Legends –
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso
…No additional comments needed. It’s the perfect quote.
Tweet of the Week –
Thinking About Great Books –
Here’s a random viral tweet that jumped off the “page” at me. The tweet made me think about leverage, and also the attraction of first edition rare books from the greatest minds in history.
Whenever I feel guilty about buying another book, I like to remind myself that I just purchased 1-5 years of that person’s life for 26 dollars.— Julia May Jonas (@Julia_May_Jonas) September 24, 2021
For such a small sum, you can purchase the blood, sweat, and tears of an author who often poured many years into writing one book. Can you imagine the return on investment from some of the great books in history – after its readers went on to apply the knowledge they read? It’s almost impossible to consider what gains the greatest books have delivered to the world.
Now think about the greatest first edition books throughout history. It’s the closest you can get to the author’s original intent. Ideas completely perfected, birthed, and introduced to the world. The first edition book marks the exact moment before a single soul has been touched by what’s contained inside the cover. What comes next can either be a tiny ripple of wisdom or a tsunami of knowledge washing over the entire earth.
There’s no mystery why The Codex Leicester by Da Vinci has a value of possibly $100 million, or The Magna Carta is valued at over $50 million.
For anyone interested in first edition rare books or wondering why they have such significance, this quote might help –
“Writing – the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye – is the great invention of the world.” – Abe Lincoln, read the entire quote here
A Question for You –
What new alternative asset categories would you like to see more discussion about each week? Mineral rights? Bail bonds? How about a restored 1945 North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane?? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading! And if you enjoyed it, share it!