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.
Renting the American Dream
2008 changed a lot of things — especially with real estate.
For instance — once upon a time, single-family homes were almost always owned by their occupants. Or, in just a few cases, owned by individuals or small corporations that would rent them out.
No more. Today, 35% of rentals are single-family homes. And — after all the bankruptcies and foreclosures from last decade — an increasing share of those homes are owned by large corporations.
One study estimates around $220 billion has been transferred from former or would-be homeowners to those corporate behemoths.
And the trend is accelerating.
That all sounds like bad news for everyday Joes. But this uptick in single-family home rentals does provide us an opportunity. One that I’ll explore in greater depth next week — stay tuned.
This might feel like an old story — it does originate in 1977, after all.
That’s when Topps came out with trading cards to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars. You could buy a Luke card, a Leia card, a Solo card… and, of course, a C-3PO card.
Only one problem: The original C-3PO card had a rather large… addition.
No one expected these family-friendly cards to feature a metallic member protruding from droid groins. Parents were outraged, and Topps quickly recalled the card before issuing a corrected version.
Today, the original uncorrected NSFW card is a rare collector’s item.
Also today, you can read the actual story behind the error. (Spoiler: Costumes in bare-budget films aren’t that sturdy.)
The lesson here — if there is a lesson beyond the laugh — is to keep your eye out for things that don’t belong. Odds are the offending item will be recalled or replaced… and the value of the original will skyrocket.
Now, That’s Some Valuable Wood
Nowadays, when a player is good enough that his sport tweaks the rules to take away an advantage, it’s seen as a marker for greatness.
But Babe Ruth didn’t just cause rule tweaks. He completely upended baseball.
You can mark all sorts of changes that started because of what Ruth was doing. Beginning with home runs — which were considered something of a novelty before Ruth proved what a devastating weapon a home run could be.
Oh — and before he became the greatest hitter of all time, Ruth was a pitcher who was quickly building a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He could do it all.
He was so much better than everyone else… he redefined so much of what’s possible in baseball… that it’s hard to overstate his importance to the game.
Which is why Ruth memorabilia tends to set auction records the same way Ruth the player shredded hitting records.
And later this year, one of the more exciting pieces of Ruth memorabilia is going up for auction — the bat he used to hit his 500th home run.
The auction house is conservatively estimating the bat will break $1 million. Considering it received the highest possible grade for condition and provenance — and Ruth’s 500th homer is a more important milestone than those attached to other bats that sold for seven figures — I wouldn’t be surprised if the final price was much, much higher.
It might not break the $5 million-plus that a game-worn Ruth jersey nabbed in June. But expect a big number — and for lesser baseball antiquities to rise on the tide.
True Treasure Hunting
While out on a stroll, an English metal-detecting hobbyist got a nice ping and started digging to see what he would find.
Five inches down, he unearthed an incredible treasure.
A 4,000-year-old torc, or bracelet, from a Bronze Age culture that lived in the area long ago. Oh, and the torc was made of solid gold.
This sort of jewelry was a sign of status back in the day — much like it is now. An appraiser looking at the torc determined the gold alone is worth $13,000. But given its historical significance, this item is likely worth much more than that.
According to English law, a committee will try to figure out the value of the object and then relevant museums are given the right of first refusal, if both sides agree on the price.
But as with all the treasure hunters I know, the monetary value is of secondary concern. Billy Vaughan, the finder, is more enamored with the history of the piece — and now his connection to it.
Another Day, Another Breach
Only this time, the data breach happened to one of our partners, NordVPN, back in early 2018.
Well, to be clear, it actually happened to a third party that hosted some NordVPN servers (the company severed ties after discovering the breach).
And while the breach only hit one NordVPN server, it appears to be connected to breaches that occurred to at least two other VPN service providers around the same time.
On the one hand, this shouldn’t surprise you. If the NSA can be hacked, anyone can.
That said, any breach is always concerning.
We learned about this the same way everyone else did — through media reports that dropped early this week. And while NordVPN told us that no customer data were affected, our knowledge about this incident is still developing.
For the moment, it looks like the breach was a one-off that was caught early and didn’t actually impact anyone’s information or expose browsing behavior. Hopefully, that remains the case.
But we’ll be watching this story develop closely and will report on anything new in depth.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. All this talk of found treasures, million-dollar bats and misprinted cards getting you excited about your own collections? You can share that passion with like-minded folk over at JustCollecting, where the forums are full of discussions, debates and sales. It’s a fabulous way to connect with like-minded folk, without having to attend some large convention in a faraway place. And when you’re ready to start a portfolio — with, say, rare stamps or antique coins — they’ve got experts to help you with that as well.
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...