Singapore

Lego's yearly appreciation: 12%

What would you choose? A gold coin or a Lego set?

Ask any ordinary person and he will probably pick the gold coin.

No one would have expected the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Collector's Millennium Falcon, sold in department stores at $899.90 in 2007, to cost more than $8,000 this year, say economists.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun, 56, says: "Alternative investments like wine, fine arts or even toys may actually have been a better investment than conventional bonds or stocks.

"But remember, alternative investments carry higher risks but at the same time, bring in higher returns depending on the demand."

Properties, stocks and gold have always been seen as conventional and safe investments in Singapore regardless of year, says Mr Song.

INCREASED

According to British Daily The Telegraph, Lego sets kept in pristine condition have increased in value 12 per cent each year since the turn of the millennium, with second-hand prices rising for specific sets as soon as they go out of production.

Modern sets are performing even more strongly - last year's releases are already selling on eBay for 36 per cent more than their original prices.

Those who invested in gold received a 9.6 per cent annual gain over the past 15 years, while those who went with a savings account generated 2.8 per cent, according to investment company Hargreaves Lansdown.

Some Lego sets that once sold for less than £100 (S$210) now fetch thousands on the secondary market.

Mr Song says: "Non-collectors or non-fans will not see the fuss in collecting a Hello Kitty or Lego set. They will naturally choose a gold coin or a piece of diamond even though the value of these special metals or stones won't go up as much.

"Collectors tend to take higher risks, putting in the effort and money to purchase everything. In these cases, many collectors become wealthier than conservative investors.

"For example, if someone bought a three-room HDB flat in 2007 at $300,000, he would've made more than double if he sells it off at the market price of around $750,000 now.

"But for The Ultimate Collector's Millennium Falcon set which cost $899.90 in 2007, a person would make about 10 times more if he sold it at $8,000 this year."

LOGICAL

"But would a person spend $300,000 on Lego then? It would've been more logical to spend the money on property where the value is bound to rise," adds Mr Song.

He also advises investors to adopt a diversified investment strategy of investing not only in conventional stock or property investments but also in other items like wine, watches, toys and comic books.

It may be a hit-and-miss for these unconventional investors because hindsight is not the only important factor.

Passion plays a huge role, too. It allows the collector to buy the items in the first place, says another economist.

Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho, 44, says: "It would've been better for people to invest in these toys rather than financial assets then because it exceeds the returns significantly."

He adds that people normally invest in toys or comic books because of their passion or love for it, not because of commercial reasons.

"Collectors do it out of passion and these examples show us that passion can sometimes reward people financially," he says.

Yes, it is tough to predict whether an item under $10 now may cost up to $1,000 in the future but that is the beauty of collecting, economists say.

"Who knows, if you buy a recent wine vintage now, it may become a premium upon purchase in the future," says Mr Leong.


COMIC BOOKS

In 2011, actor Nicolas Cage sold the most expensive comic book ever, one of the 50 copies of the 1938 "Action Comics" No. 1, Superman's debut.

The price: $2.16 million, for a copy was once sold for only 10 cents.

In May 2014, the first Wolverine comic art, "The Incredible Hulk" No. 180 sold for $657,250 at an auction.

In 2012, an original Spider-Man piece "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 328 by artist Todd McFarlane sold for $657,250.

WINE

The wines of Ch. Lynch Bages are a very popular choice for both drinkers and investors at Berry Bros. & Rudd and around the world.

It is certainly among the world's most recognisable wine brands, very well established globally with a strong secondary market.

Initially released at £450 per 12 bottle case, trade has been a little volatile at times but overall on a positive trajectory towards its current value of £1700.

The quality of the vintage should ensure continued demand over the coming years.

FINE ART

In March last year, an oil painting by French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin titled When Will You Marry? sold for almost $300m (£197m), the highest price ever paid for a work of art.