One area of alternative investing we find of particular interest here at Unconventional Wealth is the world of liquid profits.
There are many ways to invest in your favorite spirit. Whether it’s buying a bottle (or barrel) of your preferred whiskey… hunting down a hand-crafted bottle of mezcal… or chasing down a case or two of a prized wine.
Today, we’re going to talk about yet another way to get a little tipple from the tap — this one aimed at collectors.
For those looking to augment your collection of wine, whiskey or some other spirit, there is a thriving online community of folks who buy and sell distillery collectibles and advertising memorabilia.
I’m talking lithographed signs, tin trays, tap handles, promotional glassware, special-edition packaging and the like.
These aren’t items you’ll make millions on, but you can find items valued up to around $100 on eBay. (And eBay makes it easy for you, breaking down the collectible distillery advertising category by the biggest brands.)
Think about it: Distilleries have long run some of the most memorable ad campaigns in the history of branding…
One of my favorite examples is Guinness. When I studied in Ireland, I toured the remodeled brewery at St. James’s Gate and learned the history of what is arguably the best-known beer worldwide. (Which is ironic because Guinness doesn’t ship well.)
Its game-changing ad campaign debuted in 1929 with the tagline “Guinness is good for you.” And people really thought so… until stricter advertising rules forced a rewrite of the slogan in the ’70s.
Fun fact: Doctors used to pour new mothers a pint after giving birth, as the dark stuff was said to increase milk production. But with its high amounts of antioxidants and B vitamins, lots of folks said Guinness made them feel good.
Soon other slogans — like “Lovely day for a Guinness” and “My goodness — my Guinness” — were introduced. Along with lovely illustrations by John Gilroy, art director for advertising firm S.H. Benson.
These drawings, many of which feature exotic animals, have endured for nearly 90 years.
Simple, yet iconic.
Speaking of well-executed simplicity…
Sales of the Swedish vodka brand Absolut exploded in the 1980s and ‘90s as a result of its clever and surreal advertisements. In the mid-1980s, the company started to collaborate with artists — like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.
Then there’s the popular cities series, which highlights a unique aspect of a particular metropolis.
The company created over 1,500 ads in all. (You can peruse them here.) They run the gamut, but each one uses the same format, font and phrasing, so they are instantly recognizable.
Clocking in at 25 years (1981–2005), Absolut’s bottle campaign is the longest-running continuous ad campaign of all time. That is absolutely bananas.
Another highly original campaign that boosted sales for its distributor is that of the Mexican beer Dos Equis, produced by Heineken-owned Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery.
From 2006–2016, television actor Jonathan Goldsmith played “The Most Interesting Man in the World” in adverts for Dos Equis. His catchphrase — “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” — has been parodied everywhere from college campuses to Saturday Night Live.
You can find plenty of Dos Equis memorabilia — old and new — where you can find pretty much anything your heart desires… online.
Besides advertising swag, vintage, custom and commemorative glassware also make for popular collector’s items.
A lot of what you’ll see is geared toward whiskey and beer — tumblers, decanters, pint glasses and antique beer steins. But of course, you can find plenty of collectible stemware if you’re looking for something to complement your wine cellar.
As I said, these investments aren’t profit centers or income generators.
But if you decide to devote a portion of your portfolio to alternative assets (which you should) and you choose to put your money into the liquid profits space, it might be nice to have a classic poster or two to add a little flair to your bar at home.
Or a vintage decanter to enjoy a taste from your own cask of whiskey… or a pair of handmade wine glasses for when you finally break open that special bottle…
After all, not every bottle, case, cask or barrel is for saving… some are for pure pleasure.
That’s the best part (for my money) about unconventional assets. You can invest in your passions — no matter how niche — and savor them while you make a profit.
Lucille St. John
Managing editor, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. In the bustling forums of JustCollecting, you can find collectors of all kinds buying, selling and swapping information. Of course, some of the most popular — and lucrative — collectibles on their site are rare stamps and ancient coins, but it’s worth exploring their other categories as well. And when you’re ready to add collectibles of any sort to your portfolio, the folks at JustCollecting will help you get started.
Lucille St. John
Lucille St. John is the managing editor of Unconventional Wealth. A gentlewoman and a scholar, Lucille never received much in the way of a financial education. But what she lacks in fiscal knowledge she makes up for in taste.
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