Is Concorde memorabilia a good investment?
Concorde memorabilia can sell for six figures, but is it a good investment?
How much would you pay for a Concorde nose cone?
£320,000 ($538,600) was what Hungarian Ferenc Gaspar parted with to secure the prize piece of Concorde history.
"I don't think I have paid a lot. I think it's very cheap. I expected to pay as much as £1 million or more," its new owner said.
Two passenger seats sold for £9,000 ($13,590) at the same auction. A turbine blade made £2,000 ($3,020). A wool blanket achieved £1,200 ($1,810).
But this was in December 2003. Just days after the last Concorde flight had touched down at Bristol's Filton Airport.
A time when love for the beautiful yet now unprofitable bird was at its peak.
Enthusiasts - desperate to experience a Concorde flight - had ensured the plane's last months had been some of its busiest. And it was among this spirit of nostalgia that the same devotees pushed up prices at the Bonhams auction.
But where are those enthusiasts now?
An auction of Concorde memorabilia last year from Mike Bannister, BA's chief Concorde pilot, was a disappointment, with bidders put off by overly ambitious reserve prices.
And in 2011, a British buyer purchased another Concorde nose cone for a comparatively modest £100,000 ($151,000) - far down on the 2003 figure. The seller was Andrew Lamberty of Channel 4's Four Rooms programme.
"It's definitely going to retain its value. It's a very, very rare thing. It's a great piece of British history," Lamberty said at the time. Lamberty had bought the nose cone for £55,000 ($83,000).
Retain its value, yes, but increase?
After all, while Concorde artefacts are rare, with 20 built, pieces are far from unique.
Simon Jones, a British enthusiast with one of the world's finest Concorde collections, is fearful interest in the aircraft is waning.
"The story is blowing away at the moment", Simon, who owns Concorde seats from across the aircraft's service history, told us last week.
"The longer that goes on, arguably less and less people will want to own Concorde memorabilia."
Simon is seeking funding for a major supersonic travel and Concorde exhibition in London, New York and Paris in 2016 - the 40th anniversary of the plane's first commercial flight.
He believes the exhibition, along with the arrival of a new Concorde museum at Bristol in 2017, will help rejuvenate the Concorde memorabilia market.
"It will only take a major exhibition to get Concorde re-energised and popular again," says Simon. "It will make the story becomes more mythical, more legendary."
A return to the skies
Yet perhaps only when Concorde flies again will the public's attention be sufficiently piqued to noticeably boost memorabilia prices.
And here we have a problem.
"We firmly believe that the technical and safety challenges of returning a Concorde to the skies are absolutely prohibitive," BA told the BBC recently.
Yet Simon asserts it is "absolutely possible" for the original Concordes to fly again, but only if a new, affordable, green supersonic aircraft, or "Concorde 2.0" as he calls it, emerges.
Simon believes the original Concordes would be used in testing for the new model, and for heritage flights - in the same way original Routemaster buses still run in a small way in London.
Just as new versions of VW Beetles and Fiat 500s have made collectors seek out the original vehicles, so could a new Concorde, he believes.
Simon adds that when you consider the scale of achievement and innovation involved with manufacturing Concorde, a price tag of £100m ($151m) for a nose cone should be possible in the future.
Especially when one considers the prices achieved for what "others have valued as masterpieces", he says.
"The key here is the number of objects in circulation and the rarity - the Ferrari 250 GTO [worth up to $38m] is one of around 39. With Picasso's work, there are thousands. With Concorde, just 20 examples.
"As a collector, this is what I'm looking at since pricing a Concorde nose cone is pricing the un-priceable. It's the level of technical achievement that was attained that reflects the £100m. It is also a historical artefact that reflects the pinnacle of humanities achievements in the entire 20th Century. The fact it hasn't been repeated just goes to show how difficult this was."
Yet neither Airbus nor Boeing has plans to build a supersonic aircraft. Which means Concorde speculators could be waiting a long time to see a return on their investment.
Interested in starting your own Concorde memorabilia collection?
It's possible to start small - although these pieces are less likely than most to gain in value. British Airways Concorde crew bags and stewardess hats both sell for around $75 on eBay. British Airways safety cards are available for $60. In flight pens are worth around $25.
***Can you help? ***
Simon is seeking Concorde stories for his upcoming book, and memorabilia for the planned Supersonics exhibition, incorporating the Concorde Story, which will also feature memorabilia related to the land speed record, the Red Arrows and Felix Baumgartner. Contact Simon at email@example.com
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