Editor’s note: This article contains information only. It is not intended as general or personal advice. Your Money recommends seeking advice from a licensed, independent financial adviser.
When it comes to their portfolios, most Australians don’t ever look past stocks or real estate and haven’t even heard of these more unusual investment choices.
But if you can buy in the hopes of making a profit, then there’s certainly plenty more in which you can invest (albeit with varying levels of risk and return).
While the following list proves you can make money from almost anything, there are a couple of rules of thumb that prove true no matter what you buy.
Firstly, that no market is invulnerable to changes and what’s valuable today might not be tomorrow.
Secondly, you should only ever buy what you understand.
Without further ado, here are ten out-of-the-box options some people choose to house in their investment portfolios.
If a particularly lucrative investment is referred to as a licence to print money, what about a licence to dispense some?
When the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) permitted banks to charge ATM withdrawal fees in 2009, the explosion of fee-hiking managed to annoy just about everybody.
Everyone except a few slick investors who saw it as a huge money-making opportunity, that is.
If they began owning ATMs, they’d be able to generate an income by charging those fees to Australians who weren’t bothered to search out a free one.
With Aussies making more than 250 million ATM withdrawals from banks other than their own in 2016, according to RBA data, that’s a lot of moolah.
“It seemed great at the time because every ATM was charging between $2 and $3.50 for a withdrawal so if you had yours in a good position you could make fairly good money,” financial adviser Liam Shorte of Verante says.
There was just one problem.
“A lot of the banks no longer charge withdrawal fees even for other customers, so people have tended to move back to those free ATMs. It was an investment that looked good at the start but that has now backfired on a lot of people.”
As the fees dried up, so did investors’ returns, leaving them holding a piece of machinery that nobody now wants to buy or even use.
It takes an Australian summer of cricket to remind you just how much sporting memorabilia is out there.
Beyond miniature bats, however, there are entire worlds of nostalgic merchandise to get lost in.
While it’s not necessarily surprising that a historic item like a pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves sold for over $800,000 in 2016, it’s more difficult to estimate the potential return on a cigarette claimed to have been rolled by iconic AFL Richmond Tigers player Dusty Martin.
However, if you’re buying one of a 1000 copies of something, do so as a gift, not an investment, Shorte says.
“Unless it’s something really, really, rare, then you’re not going to get the increase of value that you may expect,” he says.
“Often, they drop in value once people have forgotten a certain player or forgotten how a team has done. Then you see that piece of memorabilia is worth next to nothing selling on eBay.”
3. Taxi plates
Taxi number plates, denoting a licensed taxi operator, are required around Australia for drivers to go about their business. Due to the taxi system’s stranglehold on the private transport market in years gone by, these were once valuable things able to be leased out to drivers.
Much like ATMs, however, the investor rush to buy up taxi plates is now over with the advent of ridesharing apps like Uber.
“Taxi plates were worth a fortune up until around 2011 and 2012. In 2015, when Uber came in, the value nearly halved. People who had been holding them have really been hit,” Shorte says.
4. Bible pages
As number two demonstrates, if you can collect it, you can invest in it. That’s no different for rare books more broadly, and pages from The Bible more specifically.
The Christian holy book’s protagonist famously expelled money changers from the temple, but there’s no reason why you can’t make some collecting the pages that tell these Biblical tales.
“Bible pages were a very popular investment for a while but again, things go in and out of fashion,” Shorte says.
While some markets can be disrupted by innovation, others can suffer a crisis of faith, with forgeries appearing widespread.
“Bible pages were very hard to get your hands on but there’s so much fake stuff going around nowadays that again unless you’re an absolute specialist, you just stay away from it.”
5. Fine art
If you thought Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves were expensive, the prices floating around the world of fine art may truly bewilder.
Would you buy Andy Warhol’s $79 million pop-art Coca-Cola, that looks like an advertisement for the soft drink company? How about Jackson Pollock’s drip-painted Number 19 which went for $80 million?
While it’s no walk in the park to discover the next Picasso or Monet, it’s not always about the sales price.
“If they’re true investors, the art is leased out to corporates and museums and it’s displayed in offices and buildings around the country,” Shorte says.
“For someone with experience, like a gallery owner or a collector, they can make a very decent retirement in those areas.”
A long way from high art (or not, depending on your sensibilities), are portable toilets.
Unlike some of the previous items, the demand for toilets is likely not going anywhere fast.
If you’ve ever been to an outdoor event, you already know that the market for these things is always steady.
From providing the masses with somewhere to go to stopping them in their tracks, bollards can be a rock-solid investment.
However, even in the bollard marketplace, you can make yourself stand out, with one savvy investor owning the creatively designed ones that are planted down on the Geelong waterway. Surely bollard owners are confident their investments will be difficult ones to shake.
8. Marina berths
The problem with owning a yacht is that at the end of the day you’ve got to have somewhere to moor it.
If you’ve ever splashed out on a decent boat, then you’ve got no choice but to find somewhere to keep it. Owning a berthing marina means you’ll be the first port of call for these seafarers.
Coins, like artworks, can be hit and miss. However, if you have the necessary expertise, it’s possible to make thousands from a coin that claims it’s worth much less.
While old American and European coins can have histories that go back hundreds of years and are accordingly worth more, there are some varieties of Australian pennies and half-pennies that sell for more than $20,000.
A penny saved is a penny earned after all.
10. Whisky and wine
Only for those with the strongest self-control, fine liquor can be a good investment for the sober investor.
According to one report, wine has been one of the best luxury asset performers, returning an impressive 192 per cent return over the last ten years.
With Christmas just around the corner, however, be careful to put it out of sight and out of mind, lest the silly season drain you of your equity.
Liam Shorte spoke about the investments you can make (but maybe shouldn’t) with Chris Kohler and Sophie Hull on Your Money Live: