Sunday, February 07, 2010

More Treasure in Michael Crichton's Estate?

"Pirate Latitudes," the swashbuckler found on the late Michael Crichton's hard drive, got mixed reviews. No matter, at the moment the posthumous work ranks at 151 among Amazon's best-selling books. Possibly more important for Crichton's estate, Steven Spielberg has picked up the movie rights.

Crichton left treasure of another sort as well. He got to know a number of well-known artists and acquired several of their works. From his friend Jasper Johns he bought "Flag,"1960-1966. In May "Flag" – shown below – and three other paintings owned by Crichton will be sold at Christie's. No estimate yet on how much the four works might bring, but a few years ago another notable painting by Johns changed hands for $80 million.

Collectors have long been advised that fine art should be bought for art's sake, not as an investment. Yet in recent years that advice might have applied to a wide range of human creations. ("Don't buy that Collateralized Debt Obligation as an investment. Buy that CDO only if you really want to live with it.")

Great art doesn't always go up in value. Fashions change. But the good stuff generally retains some value. One believer in art as a store of value is Asher Edelman. See The Art World's Gordon Gekko in The Wall Street Journal. Edelman's new art-financing venture will go beyond lending. For a fee, it will guarantee would-be sellers a certain minimum price when they send art to auction.

When trust officers settle estates, they learn something every wealth manager needs to know. That ancient Caddy in the barn or the antique toys in the attic may be worth more than most of the stocks in the deceased's portfolio. Value is independent of the reason for which an asset was acquired.

Perhaps we should make a rule: Don't call yourself a complete wealth manager unless you've served at least five years in a bank trust department!

1 comment:

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