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Back Page: Thinking Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Surprise is an essential element of Robb Report’s Ultimate Gift Guide. Each year we endeavor to present items that readers were not aware they could acquire or experiences they did not know they could have. Past editions of the Guide have featured a Stradivarius violin (2003), a private road rally with collectible cars included (1998), a personal theme song written by a Pulitzer prize–winning composer (2001), bottles of wine from Thomas Jefferson’s collection (1997), and a personal submarine (2002).

This year’s Guide upholds the tradition by including several items that were not for sale until Robb Report invited their owners to submit gift ideas. Such was the case with the collection of one-off concept cars from Rinspeed ("Eight Wonders," page 186). An inquiry to the company’s founder revealed that for the right price he would be willing to part with his unique machines. The same also is true of the Shakespeare fourth folio ("Play Book," page 180)—Argosy Book Store of Manhattan volunteered it when asked for a spectacular rare volume—and the Saga motorcycle from Dreamcraft Studios ("Nothing to Hide," page 154), which its owners had shown in public earlier this year but did not intend to sell until we extended our invitation.

Although it remains uncertain whether any of those items will find a new owner through this magazine, items in the Guide do sell, as evidenced recently by a pair of Cartier pens from last year, and from the previous year, by the Ferrari F1-2000 that Michael Schumacher drove to victory in the 1999 Constructor’s Championship and the 2000 Driver’s Championship and by the Ducati 998 Factory 01 motorcycle with which Troy Bayliss won the 2001 World Superbike Championship.

These and other sales notwithstanding, the Ultimate Gift Guide is often regarded as fantastical, mainly because of the prices. While we acknowledge that as holiday gifts go, an $80 million submarine could be a bit extravagant, we would also like to note that such items often overshadow the relative bargains that can be found in the Guide. Consider, for example, the 2003 gift offered by the organizers of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. For $4.8 million, it included each of the more than 50 wine-related lots slated for sale at the auction, as well as a number of other VIP perks. The gift went unclaimed, and the February 2004 auction posted $6.67 million in sales. No doubt some oenophiles experienced remorse for failing to buy the collection of rare vintages at a Gift Guide price that represented a savings of nearly
$2 million.

Also in last year’s edition of the Guide, we featured a gift from Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus that included deliveries of personalized chocolates every month for the rest of your life for a flat fee of $1 million. That could have been quite a deal, provided you had a long and healthy life. Alas, this is one item that is not for sale. Although, we have not yet begun soliciting gift ideas for next year’s Guide.

Photo by Darin Schnabel
Copyright 2013 American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Photo by Stephan Cooper
Copyright 2014 Infiniti
Photo by Pietro Carrieri
Photo by Pawel Litwinski