Like many of you, I’ve had my ice scraper out this week.

While I love snow — and winter, I’ll miss both when I move down south — I can’t honestly claim I’ll miss scraping car windows, shoveling front steps or taking 10 minutes to bundle up whenever I go outside.

That’s one of the reasons I’m staying inside today — and I invite you to do the same, perusing this week’s fascinating weekend reads.

Cunning as a Fox, Mad as a Hatter

Paul Searle, an Englishman who loves rare and vintage bottles and glasses, got more than he bargained for recently.

He was helping a woman clean out her barn. With a ton of old glass — plus plenty of other detritus — he offered to take the whole lot for 50 pounds.

She was happy — she didn’t have to call the junkman.

Paul might not have been happy — at first. Turned out all her glass and bottles were worthless.

But buried in among everything else was quite the treasure: A set of four never-before-seen printing plates used to illustrate the first editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Those first editions are among the rarest books in English literature. The lead printing plates that made them? It’s hard to put an accurate price on that.

Just goes to show — it pays to be curious, take a chance or two and do your homework (the former owner didn’t know what they were, and Paul first thought they were scrap metal).

Art Beats Stocks

Here’s a heartwarming tale of a man who got extremely rich in the art world but lost it all gambling on the stock market.

Well, OK. I suppose that’s factually true, but more than a little misleading.

The truth is Michel Cohen did get rich in the art world… but he did it as a thief. Not as a fun, heist-style thief either. Just a regular con man.

Cohen would get impressive works on consignment — from bankable artists. He’d show them off in a gallery, sell them to an unsuspecting buyer and then pocket the cash. Or occasionally pocket the painting. Or both.

That’s how he made $50 million. And got himself in trouble with the law.

Now he’s hanging out in an unnamed country without extradition treaties, giving interviews to documentary filmmakers. Supposedly, his money’s all gone — much of it indeed lost in the stock market.

But that’s not the point of this item… There’s a lesson here: Be careful where you buy.

If there’s no track record, be suspicious. If it’s too good to be true, it is. That applies just as much to a $5 whiskey pitcher as to a $5 million work of art.

You’ll just feel a little sillier losing the $5 million.

Boiling the Frog 5% at a Time

If you haven’t refilled any prescriptions so far this year, you might be in for a rude awakening.

Nearly all the major pharmaceutical companies have announced price hikes for 2020.

Most are under 10%… but not much under. Some companies are raising prices on nearly a third of their medicines.

The U.S. already pays the highest drug prices around. If Big Pharma wants to avoid regulation or other hits like the government getting involved in price negotiations, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

The more ridiculous health care costs get, the closer we get to a burn-it-all-down revolution. This isn’t really a political issue — a vast majority of Americans from both parties want to see major change.

And cash-grab price hikes like this are a sure way to hasten it.

Counterfeiting: It Ain’t Just for Cash

You know something is valuable when folks go to the trouble of counterfeiting it…

In addition to the purses you see hawked at 95% “discounts” on the streets of New York, there’s another must-have item that’s caught the eye of the imitator.

Sneakers.

In one massive bust that ended the decade, U.S. authorities seized counterfeit footwear that, if legitimate, would have been worth $472 million.

Counterfeit sneakers are all the rage these days. And not just because sneakers can be high-ticket items…

Another reason so many counterfeiters are getting into the act is the collectible sneakerhead market. With a thriving secondary market — often with prices that far outstrip retail and person-to-person sales — it’s pretty easy to move fake goods.

Just as it’s easier to use a counterfeit $100 bill in a Craigslist exchange than at the grocery.

We know the market is flooded with fakes. And the numbers that are caught pale in comparison to those that get through. Which is all the more reason to be cautious on those secondary markets.

Know your seller… know the platform… and if you have any doubts about provenance or legitimacy, walk away.

Besides — there’s no shortage of legit footwear from legit sellers. Not to mention the big bucks are made when you buy a limited-edition sneaker on release day from a trusted store…

And turn around and sell it that night for 500% profit — or more.

You know the snakes are out there. The trick is to not spend too much time in the weeds where they make their home.

Unconventionally yours,

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth

P.S. Want an easy way to avoid fraud when creating an art collection?

Take a look at Masterworks — which has only a few highly vetted pieces of coveted art available at any one time.

The kind of art that offers the highest returns. The cream of the crop. The type of art most of us can’t afford.

But — when you buy a fractional share of the artwork, suddenly it doesn’t matter if it’s selling for $10 million. You can still get your share at a reasonable price.

Find out more about our partners at Masterworks here.

Ryan Cole

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...

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