Every week, I like to pass along some of the most interesting and entertaining stories happening in the unconventional investing world.
The sorts of stories that go great with a quiet morning, some form of drink — preferably warm and fragrant — and a little time and space to let thoughts unfold.
Relax, read, enjoy.
This. Is. Sparta!
Only this time, we’re not talking 300, but 300,000. And instead of lost soldiers defending a nation, it’s lost workers defending a trade war.
Yep — according to Moody’s Analytics, the trade war with China has cost the U.S. 300,000 jobs so far this year.
It’s also responsible for dragging down U.S. growth — which is currently around 1.6%, but threatening to hit 1% or worse by the end of the year.
If things don’t change, we’ll be looking at nearly 1 million jobs lost by the end of 2020 — and the very real possibility of tipping into recession.
Why talk about such conventional numbers here at Unconventional Wealth?
Simple — when traditional markets crumble, there’s almost always a significant flight to safety. And we’re in the early stages of that flight right now.
Gold gets all the press — understandable considering gold jumped around 540% last time the markets hit a rough patch — and the yellow metal is a great place to protect your wealth today. It has started its ascent into a new gold bull market.
But you can do at least as well stashing your cash in less-covered tangible assets — the sorts of places the uber-wealthy park their pounds when the going gets rough.
That means unconventional assets like art, wine, stamps and coins — the kinds of things we talk about every day here.
It’s too glib to say that a bad conventional market environment is good for unconventional investments… For one thing, that ignores the strength that unconventional investments show even when the land is filled with milk and honey.
But it is worth pointing out — the riskier traditional investments become, the more our unconventional alternatives shine by comparison.
Seeing, Hearing, Speaking Evil
While we’re on the subject of governments shooting themselves in the foot, we can’t forget Brexit. And all the inadvisable brinksmanship coming out of London these days.
Of course, feckless leadership isn’t something new. It’s been going on a long time now.
Which is why one wise investor is taking advantage of current sentiments and auctioning off a Banksy from 2009 showing the British Parliament as a bunch of chimps.
While Banksy made it long before Brexit was a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye, it feels completely of the moment. Little surprise the work is expected to fetch about $2.5 million at auction.
Banksy isn’t on the level of, say, Warhol just yet. But it sure feels like he’s on the way — and is at a similar point, measured against a comparable moment in both artists’ careers.
When Doing Good Is No Good
If you’re like most people, you try to do good things now and again.
Not every moment of every day — we all live in this crazy complicated world and you’ve got to choose your battles, right?
Like giving to charity. That’s a thing most of us do a few times a year.
Bad news! The past four years, scam charities have exploded onto the scene… and they’re getting a little ridiculous.
How ridiculous? Well, turns out a number of “charities” are actually political action committees (PACs) with charitable-sounding names — like the “Children’s Leukemia Support Network.” PACs have very easy money rules, so once they get yours, they can do pretty much whatever they want with it.
And what they want to do with it is give it all to themselves.
Or in some cases, nonprofits actually are set up as charities… They just spend all their money on raising more money.
Basically, telemarketers are getting paid to raise money to pay themselves. And no one else.
While that’s technically illegal — nonprofits are supposed to report how their money is spent — oversight is lax from a threadbare FTC.
And while this sort of thing has always gone on, it’s now proliferating at an alarming rate.
The result? A survey of just 61 of these faux-charities showed they received $349 million since 2001… and spent $344 million of it paying the salaries and bonuses of the folks raising the money.
The moral? Careful with your donations out there, folks.
Even places that sound like they’re doing good — and even claim they’re doing good — can be up to no good. If you can’t quickly and easily verify the work a charity is doing… and how that charity spends its money… you should assume the worst.
A New Record?
The Inverted Jenny is probably the most famous U.S. stamp in the world. Only a single sheet of the error stamp was ever printed — and they’ve been setting records ever since.
The thing is they very rarely change hands. “Bond King” Bill Gross bought a block of four back in 1991 for over $2 million, and a single stamp fetched just under $1 million in 2007.
Now that original block of four is going under the hammer again Sept. 27. The bidding is set to start at $1 million but it will likely soar much higher.
At the same time, a single Inverted Jenny from the same collection will go up for auction, along with a number of other rare valuable stamps.
Here’s the thing: Most of us will never be able to afford seven-figure stamps.
But when it comes to stamp values, a rising tide lifts all boats. The Inverted Jenny will set records, garner headlines and increase attention.
And prices bump up all the way down the line. Including — at the same auction — for items like the last Hawaiian stamps ever printed before the island nation became part of the U.S.
Those are only going for three figures — in range for any serious investor. While they won’t get the same headlines, the percentage gains will be similar to the bigger names’.
That’s why investors at every level can make money from rare tangible assets like stamps. And it’s why, if you’ve got a collection of your own, you should be cheering for the Jennies to have a great day Friday.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. If you don’t have your own collection of stamps, get moving. What is likely to be the largest stamp show in the world is coming up fast next year, in the most stamp-obsessed nation on Earth: Great Britain.
These sorts of exhibitions almost always lead to a major bump in prices, but it hasn’t started — yet. You can still get in now, before the appreciation begins. Head over to JustCollecting to see how you can get started today.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...