Most traditional advisors suggest stashing your savings in bank accounts, bonds or mutual funds, but that's not to say that plenty of people haven't made it big-time by investing unconventionally or in unusual, wacky things. (Learn more about strange investments and companies in 9 Weird Companies That Hit The Big Time.)
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Consider these real-life examples: In 1999, a Lewisburg, Pa. resident bought a $3 pickle jar at a tag sale and sold it for $44,100 after learning there were only five of its kind in the world. The late 1990s proved profitable for those who scooped up batches of Beanie Babies for a couple of bucks each and then sold for hundreds of dollars. And an antique baseball card of the legendary shortstop Honus Wagner is today worth anywhere from $150,000 to over $1 million.
From hoarding antiques to collecting coins to leasing cows, bizarre investing strategies may not be risk-adverse, but they are a fresh alternative. Here are six weird, far-fetched ways to invest your money that you may have not considered yet.
- Collectible Comic Books
Superman saves you once again. The successful comic book anthology that was worth 10 cents per issue can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 1960 issue where Spiderman was unveiled on the cover of Amazing Fantasy, No. 15 is worth $280,000 while the 1938 series, Action Comics No. 1, where the Superman character rose to popularity, is valued at some $350,000. According to comic book junkies, the more esteemed issues are from the 1930s until the 1960s when a new character is introduced. (Learn more about cashing in on collectibles in 6 Major Collectibles Payoffs.)
- Gobble Up Domain Names
The technology boom may be passé, but there are an infinite number of domain names that you can snatch up for a few dollars. You can either wait for an offer to sell to someone who wants your registered name, buy and trade up domains through online sites, like sedo.com, or generate revenue on your site through advertising sales or AdWords, Google's paid-advertising system.
- Loan Your Money
Believe it or not, being generous can pay off. Through online loan marketplaces, like prosper.com or lendingclub.com, for as little as $25, you can bid on loans and hand out your money directly to people who need it. The sites allow you to peruse credit scores, friends' recommendations and user profiles of people soliciting loans to deem which ones are the best investments. (Learn more about this in Lending Clubs: Better Than Banks?)
- Rent a Cow
To help subsidize the prohibitive cost of farm animals, many dairy farms offer programs where individuals can lease a cow and earn the income off the milk and cheese the cow produces. Though a relatively stable investment, as demand for milk in has continued to grow even during the recession, an investor also needs to account for lost savings interest, depreciation and insurance costs.
- Invest in Wine
According to Food & Wine, it's called investing in "wine funds" and you can begin with buying hundreds of wine cases with an initial investment of $20,000. The appeal of filling a savings portfolio with fine wines is the stable returns that have existed despite economic turmoil.
- Collect Old Childhood Toys
Unlike the Beanie Baby fad, select vintage toys, like Pez dispensers, Star Wars figures and Barbie dolls have grown in value. A former vice president of the KB Toys store chain owned 7,000 antique toy cars, 1,400 of them were auctioned off for $4.2 million. The original Darth Vader action figure that was released in 1978 now commands about $6,000. And if you still have the 1959 Barbie doll in mint condition, which was $3 back then, it may be worth around $8,000 today.
Can You Really Make Money?
The Liv-ex 100, basically the stock market for wine funds, has climbed 12% in the last three years, reports Fast Company. And according to Money Magazine, users can make as much as 13% returns loaning money via prosper.com.
However, many of these nontraditional investments, akin to the stock market, rely on impeccable timing to grow your money. Because it's difficult to predict when to sell, it's risky.
Those who bought a Beanie Baby for $5 dollars in 1993 saw their investment skyrocket to $25 or even hundreds of dollars over the course of a few years. But unless you sold out before the craze for the mini-stuffed animals went bust - aside from a handful of very rare editions - your investment tanked.
So if collecting odd, vintage things is a hobby or you're convinced Bobbleheads are the next fad to boom, be sure to limit your more aggressive investments. "Riskier choices should not exceed 10% of your overall savings portfolio," says Joel Ohman, a financial planner and founder of creditcardchaser.com.
The Bottom Line
Don't assume because some of these investment ideas are peculiar and out of the ordinary that they are nonsensical. A few of them are likely outperforming your returns on the stock market or yields on your bond funds.
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