Gold Coins & Bars make ideal Christmas presents

Buying Christmas presents is a tedious task and many of those presents will either be returned or get lost in long term storage. If you are a grandparent, it might be tempting to give cash, buy premium bonds or toys, but for a lasting present that doesn’t corrode (literally), nothing quite feels like buying gold bars or coins. 

With gold bars, the premium you pay over the raw material is relatively good compared with jewellery purchases. Unlike jewellery, the gold bars are usually sealed in a blister pack (24K Gold that is), hence it’s not worth bothering with cheaper alternatives like 14K, 18K gold commonly found in jewellery. 

In China, giving gold jewellery to children is quite common, but what I find is that the resale value is usually just the spot price of the raw materials, hence you might as well buy a few 1g gold bars to chuck into a red envelope…

My favourite gold bar brand is the P.A.M.P. bar, which stands for artistic precious metals products, because the design is quite nice, is very well respected and each bar has a serial number which can be verified through their app.

I previously purchased a 50g bar at Harrods, but you can also get the bars delivered to your door through a site like BullionByPost (use my code 
ZAIS TP8Y to receive a free 1oz silver bar above 250 pound spend). The price of gold has been relatively stable/increasing over the last few years, unlike the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other speculative assets. Unless you’re minted, you’re unlikely going to gift bitcoin to your relatives, since it isn’t physical (even the physical bitcoin coins are just a proxy for the underlying private key). 

Once, I remember gifting the equivalent of a pint of beer to a colleague (in Feathercoin), but a year later those coins would have been barely enough to buy a pint of tap water. 

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My Leica – The best value camera I’ve ever had

Leica Typ M240 

As a normal amateur photographer, there are probably a hundred different cameras that would be much easier to operate and do many more fancy things than the Leica and be much cheaper to purchase. 

However, after using the Leica M240 for the last 3 years, I’m convinced that this is my best value camera purchase yet. The camera itself replaced my trusty Leica MP film camera that I got to experience photography in a more raw form. 

Hence, the lenses I retained during the upgrade process were very much welcome, since the Leica-M Summicron 35/2.0 ASPH. and Leica-M Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH. (6-bit) currently retail for £2,700 and £3,400 respectively (Leica Store Mayfair – 2018)

When I bought the lenses, the 35mm one didn’t come 6-bit coded, which only means that you have to manually select the lens type through the camera menu. The great thing is that I got the lens from an eBay seller who needed to liquidate his pristine lens collection and snapped it up for only 1.1k. 

A similar story was the 50-lux when a German Amazon shopped forgot to re-price the lens on the German Amazon to the UK prices, saving me a decent 25% off retail (2.7k in 2009). 

I dare say that if I tried to resell both lenses today, I would probably be able to exceed 100% of the price I paid 9 years ago. Try finding other tools that retain the same amount of value. A normal car loses 50% of its new value after 3 years and 80%+ in 9 years.

While the lenses do not depreciate much, a grudge in the Leica community is that digital Leica cameras depreciate much faster than their film counterparts, noticeably against the likes of a Leica M6, M7, or MP, but so they should, since the electronic circuit boards deteriorate, the battery gets older and things break. 

However, if you take a camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, which was sold at a similar time as the Leica M240, the retail price was close to
£3k, vs. the £4.8k of the M240. On eBay today, the Canon fetch £1k (33% retention) vs. £2.2k on the M240 (45% retention). At the price I bought the camera from Wex Photography, the retention would be closer to 50%. 

 The most obvious reason behind the higher value retention is that Leica is an iconic German brand that has built its brand reputation over the last 60 years and also since the Leica-M cameras are released much less frequently than perhaps comparable Canon cameras. To confuse things even more, it’s actually getting more difficult to see what model of camera people are using, since the newer models like M10, M10-D don’t even have a model designation on the front anymore (saving people the hassle of buying duck tape to mask the model designation). 

Some people say that part of the Leica experience is the less intrusive nature of the set-up. The camera isn’t supposed to feel “in your face” and if I had one regret it would probably be having the entire collection in black, to be even stealthier. Without a trained eye, most people would just pass you by and thing that you’re trying to be retro, but once in a while someone will nod approvingly and complement you on the camera. 

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My Ultimate Christmas Hamper Selection

Have you ever bought or received a Christmas Hamper from a proper posh place like Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason or Harrods and wondered how you’re going to finish half of the things in it? Well, you’re not alone.

Instead of purchasing a pre-selected hamper, wouldn’t it be much nicer to build one yourself with the items you actual want? Hence, I’ve spent some time to put together a premium hampers with less than ten items that I would buy if it was the last hamper I would ever buy.

Oh so lovely Hamper <£250

  1. Domecq Iberico Loin – Pata Negra ham – 80g x2 (£14.99 each)

This Iberico ham is perfect with artisan bread, high quality olive oil and a good cheese selection. My recommendation is that the meat is saved for special occasions and for people that appreciate high quality Jamón Ibérico, since my wife and son couldn’t really taste the difference between this and the normal parma ham we get.

Available from: Selfridges

2. Krug Grande Cuvee NV – 750ml (£135)

This has been on my wish list for two years, since I can’t really justify spending this much money on a casual wine for my own consumption, since my wife doesn’t drink. As with most wines over 100 pounds, most people will not be able to taste the difference (me included), hence it’s just buying into an experience, the brand, and the nicely shaped bottle. This kind of Champagne isn’t really put into hampers, ever, since 50% of the value of the hamper would go into the wine itself, but I’d rather have this than try to eat some stinky stilton or try to appreciate a £25 pound bottle of balsamic vinegar.

Available from: Laithwaites

3.  Fortnum & Mason Organic Smoked Salmon Pack, 300g (£30)

Instead of the aforementioned balsamic vinegar, the smart option would be to include the organic smoked salmon, a favourite for canapes, starters, salads and more. Cheaper alternatives are available, but just don’t carry the same gravitas as the Fortnum & Mason name. 

Available at: Fortnum & Mason

4. Fortnum’s Cranberry Sauce, 230g (£5.50)

I think Cranberry Sauce is slightly more versatile than Piccalilli for savoury biscuits or crispbreads, since it goes quite nicely with some soft cheese. When I crave the taste of pickled vegetables, it’s must easier to just get some pickled gherkins.

Available at: Fortnum & Mason

5. Selfridges Selection – British Rosemary Sea Salt savoury biscuits (£4.49)

These biscuits are more like savoury wafers and the reason they are here is because they taste nice and weren’t totally useless when I went through the Selfridges hamper two years ago. Each biscuit won’t really hold that much cheese, cranberry sauce or salmon, which might be interpreted as embracing the low-carb living (or not).

Available at: Selfridges

6. Fortnum’s Cheddar Box, 800g (£15)

The standard cheddar included in Fortnum’s hampers is a cylinder shaped cheddar packed in wax (Wax Cheddar Truckle 400g), which makes cutting into slightly painful. This cheddar seems to be much easier to chop into thin slices. It should deliver quite a strong taste as well, since it’s aged for 24 months vs. the 12 months on the cheddar truckle.

Available at: Fortnum & Mason

7. Large Hamper Basket (£18.99)

You can get the hamper itself in varying sizes from the likes of eBay. I could probably pick up some hay for free from a local farm, since that ends up in the bin quite quickly and isn’t really the nicest thing to have into the house.

Grand total: £238.96

It isn’t cheap by any means, but that would keep me happy for quite some time, without putting me through the potted Stilton challenge.

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