[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Posh Presents: Unwrapping pricey gifts

By Stephen Ullmer on May 1st, 2009 •

Though both buyers and sellers are cutting back, extravagant goods are still, and will likely always be, available and marketed toward the richest of the rich. Those with more money than brains spend millions on silly stuff for themselves, but wait 'til you see what they buy for other people. Consider these the ugly ties and cheesy gift cards of the rich.

Since 1915, Neiman Marcus has showcased odd, fanciful and extravagant gifts, and the tradition still holds today. For example, in 2008 you could purchase a life-size self-replica made out of Legos. This gift item runs $60,000, though a little negotiating with some fourth graders might land you something more affordable. Unfortunately, if the recipient of such a gift is more of an it's-what's-on-the-inside-that-counts kind of person, you might have to dig deeper. No worries--just send in a spit-covered cotton swab to The Museum of Modern Art along with $550, and six weeks later you'll receive a framed print of the DNA in one of nine color palettes. Unfortunately, since this is art and not forensics, it will not help in the event of a kidnapping.

In years past, Neiman Marcus has made a number of extravagant vehicles available for purchase. However, 2004 in particular was an audacious year for vehicles. First, there was the $1.7 million underwater aviator that could dive up to 1,500 feet while rolling and maneuvering with flight-like ease. After affording an opportunity for underwater exploration, one could then offer a bird's-eye view in a $10 million modern Zeppelin (yes, a blimp)--one of only three made.

For those who are neither bird nor fish, Neiman Marcus still has you covered. A number of special edition luxury cars are available each year. While many of the fantasy items probably never sell--hence the word "fantasy"--each year you can find deluxe vehicles, such as The Limited Edition Individual 2007 BMW M6 Convertible, which sell out within hours, despite price tags that routinely crest $100,000.

When searching for the perfect gift, the über-rich have a tendency to fall back on an old standby: diamonds. Luckily they have more options to choose from than ever. Marketers and product  developers who lack imagination--but possess an abundance of adhesive--have apparently decided that everything looks better covered in diamonds, and are rolling out products accordingly. Those with overweight wallets can give a Yalos LCD TV encrusted with 160 diamonds, the world's most expensive TV at $160,000. Such a purchase would certainly go well with a $25,000 diamond-encrusted Game Boy or a $90 million human skull preserved and decorated in (what else?) diamonds. While these items might make poignant centerpieces, it's hard to imagine enjoying hours of portable gaming when diamond-raw thumbs start bleeding.

If diamond-encrusted consumer products don't strike a chord with the trust fund crowd, a number of more creative presents might fit the gift receiver's persona more appropriately. Extravagift.com provides a few more gift options for the super wealthy, including a multi-day golf resort trip provided by ESPN, or a resort mansion in Montego Bay that rents for more than $7,500 per week. For those who would rather fish than golf, consider a $1 million fishing lure made of platinum, silver, gold and (here they are again) diamonds. You know, to attract all those upper-class fish.


The Bottom Line

While the decadence of many of these gifts might seem appealing, it’s probably unwise to squander tens of thousands of dollars on virtually useless products. Instead, save your money, invest it, or donate to a charity.

Sources: about.com; neimanmarcus.com; gazette.com; extravagift.com; luxist.com; cnnmoney.com; trifter.com; conceptcarz.com; The Gazette (Colorado Springs); findarticles.com