“Mommy, what’s this?” my three year old asked me on a recent trip to my parents’ house. She handed me a large, silver brick. I had an idea what it was, but decided to defer to my father instead. “Better ask Grampa,” I told her.

My parents have a rather unusual take on investing. Sure, they have plenty of stocks and bonds, properly allocated into an array of retirement accounts. They have a diversified investment portfolio, and are well-equipped for their empty nest years. But my dad also has some pretty unique investments, things you won’t find in the average portfolio – quite honestly, because they simply wouldn’t fit into the average portfolio.

Silver Bullion

You may have already guessed that the silver brick my daughter handed me was silver bullion. This small brick – weighing about two pounds – is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my dad’s unique investments. Tucked away in a safe hidden within the walls of my parents’ house is enough silver bullion to sink a colonial-era pirate ship.

My dad’s amassed his small fortune in silver bullion thanks to a decades-ago promotion by the folks at Kodak. Apparently, you had to use a small amount of pure silver to process old-style film. Years ago, Kodak offered retailers a promotion to send in this used silver, which Kodak would turn into coins and blocks. My dad quickly realized that very few film processors were taking advantage of this promotion, so he went from store to store to store, collecting the silver to send to Kodak.

The results paid off. Over a period of several years, my dad managed to collect and redeem more than 300 pounds of pure silver. Today, silver is trading at over $30 per troy ounce, meaning that his efforts are worth more than $9,000. In fact, silver has traded for as high as $46.70/ounce over the past year, so my dad knows his trove of silver bullion in the basement has the potential to substantially increase in value.

Stamp Collection

My dad’s second unusual investment is something he’s worked on since he was a child: his stamp collection. While most boys his age were collecting baseball cards, my dad developed a passion for Civil War era stamps. Over the years, he’s incorporated more than 1,000 different stamps into his collection. His most treasured stamp is a pair of stamps featuring the image of President Abraham Lincoln – the first time Lincoln’s likeness ever appeared on postage. My dad has two of the 15-cent Lincoln stamps, one unused and the other used. The mint stamp is worth, according to the website Hobbizine, $1,150.00 while the used one is valued at $105.00. A few years ago, my dad had the entire collection appraised for more than $25,000.00.

Lladro Collection

The third prong of my dad’s unique investments actual began with my mother. In the 1970s, she began an affinity for Lladros – small porcelain statues crafted in Spain. One of the first pieces she bought was a small clown from the Little Pals collection. When she bought it in 1985 – the year it came out – it cost her $150. Lladro retired the piece in 1992, and today, this particular Lladro has been sold for several thousand dollars on eBay. Over the span of 27 years, my father has bought my mother a Lladro every year on Mother’s Day, almost always from the special collections category. Overall, the value of the entire collection – which is now so valuable my mother doesn’t even display the statues, but keeps them safely tucked away in their boxes – is worth more than $30,000.00.

Reader, do you – or anyone else in your family – have an unusual investment? What valuable things do you spend time collecting?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke