NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Back off, Tiny Tim, poppa's gonna spend like the dickens!|
Each year during the holiday season, there are people who rack their brains in search of the perfect gift, who struggle to balance good taste with good value and look to spend their money wisely on useful, practical presents.
And then there are people who don't.
These are the spendozoids, who aren't satisfied buying cuff links, bow ties or golf clubs. They want to roast their chestnuts on an open bonfire and spend like there's no Christmas future.
While the National Retail Federation reckons consumers will spend an average of $840 on shopping this year, the tyrannosaurus shoppers will probably spend more on wrapping paper.
From heavyweight jewelry that surpasses the $1 million mark to items that redefine the word "bizarre," there's a veritable mother lode of gifts out there just waiting to separate you from your money.
Run silent, run deep
If you're bored with the yacht—and who could blame you?—perhaps you should try sailing beneath the ocean blue, rather than on top of it. Neiman Marcus (NMG: Research, Estimates), the people who brought you his-and-her airplanes, are in over their heads with the 188-foot-long luxury submarine, probably the first time the words "luxury" and "submarine" ever appeared together in the same sentence.
"This is not like the submarines you see in the movies," said the Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based company spokeswoman Ginger Reeder. "It's really a luxury yacht that dives to 1,000 feet."
The 21-foot beam sub, the most expensive item in the Neiman Marcus 2000 Christmas Book, has private staterooms with in-suite baths, crew quarters and a galley, along with living and dining rooms. The yacht-sub can dive for several days at a time and can make transatlantic crossings. Of course, the sub's $20 million price tag can make Moby Dick turn pale and give Captain Nemo the bends, but there's more to life than money—isn't there?
"It's all part of Neiman Marcus," Reeder said. "Last year we had a Boeing business jet for $35 million. We didn't sell any, but we made people smile."
You'll be smiling until your teeth chatter if you go for the Neiman Marcus ice house, a 25 foot by 30 foot ice creation that is supposed to last over 24 hours in any climate. Serve chilled drinks (what else?) from the ice bar, show off the ice fountain that melts and freezes its flow, and immortalize the objects of your desire with three ice sculptures. Prices start at a bone-chilling $225,000.
And finally, there are the his-and-her rokkakus—Japanese kites measuring 6 feet by 4 feet. Created by award-winning kitemaker Kevin Shannon, the rokkakus are made from more than 100 pieces of fabric. The kites go for $2,000 per pair, including a one-hour flying lesson with five-time U.S. rokkaku flying champion David Gomberg.
The ocean appears to be a theme this holiday season as Hammacher Schlemmer offers the Aqua Pod Suite, an exclusive item in their catalog.
Sporting a UFO attitude, the Aqua Pod is a kind of seaworthy apartment with a serious ocean view.
The unit floats on the water and boasts a 150-square foot interior, complete with central air, mini-bar, audio-video system, king-sized bed, toilet and shower. With panoramic views above and below the surface of the water, you can have loads of fun waving to the sock-eyed salmon.
"It's like having a house floating on the water," said Sabrina Balthazar, publicist for the Chicago-based retailer. "We've had a record number of calls and we're hoping it will develop into a lot of sales."
How much, you ask? Probably the wrong question, but, if you must know, the Aqua Pod Suite costs a mere $91,100. Pocket change, really, depending upon the size of your pockets.
Interested customers will be relieved to know the Aqua Pad's price includes delivery to the location of your choice anywhere in the United States, "white glove" assembly, water launch and training by a four-person crew.
Bear in mind that Hammacher Schlemmer is the same retailer that once sold a mini-submarine, a single pilot helium balloon and an authentic London taxicab.
If those modes of transportation don't grab you, the store also offers a two-person hovercraft for $21,000 or pennyfarthing bicycles—the kind with the tremendous front wheel—for about $5,000.
"I think people really enjoy seeing these items," Balthazar said, "along with many other innovative products that are quite affordable."
A gem of a deal
How about some jewelry? New York-based Tiffany & Co. (TIF: Research, Estimates) has a little item that would look great when you're lounging around the Aqua Pod.
Billed as a one-of-a-kind item, the Imperial necklace is composed of three oval Burma rubies surrounded by custom-cut diamond baguettes set in an open pattern of bezel-set diamonds in flower and leaf motifs.
And for just $850,000, it's all yours.
For a few dollars more, Neiman Marcus will sell you a diamond and ruby necklace for $1.4 million. The extra-large ruby in the detachable pendant surpasses 20 carats and 15 matched rubies add 83.57 carats. There are also 285 round and fancy-shaped diamonds totaling 113 carats.
Cheryl Holland, vice president of merchandising for Ashford.com (ASFD: Research, Estimates), said the Houston-based online luxury retailer has made some hefty sales for the holidays. This includes a yellow diamond ring for $50,000, a strand of South Sea pearls for $18,000 and Cartier Tank Francaise watch sold for $19,550.
"This is in the first week," Holland said. "We're very optimistic. The high ticket items are coming in every day."
Holland also said loose diamonds are selling within the $10,000-$30,000 range and cashmere scarves, priced between $200 and $500, "have been flying out the door."
With all this buying, you're going to be signing a lot of credit card receipts. And what better way to buy expensive gifts than with the world's most expensive pen. For you, Monroe's Penshop Inc., located outside Philadelphia, offers the Serpent.
Made in Paris by Gerard Le Febvre, the pen contains 130 grams of 18 karat gold, 17 diamonds, 4 emeralds, 400 rubies and 3.5 karats of cabouchon sapphires. There is a collection of five of these charming little reptiles selling for $150,000 each.
"The market is very limited," said company president Mark Monroe. "Maybe the Sultan of Brunei may want them."
If the Serpent's price makes you turn green, Monroe also has the "Charles Lindbergh" Limited Edition Fountain Pen, made by Krone, which celebrates the famed aviator's solo flight across the Atlantic. Made of briarwood and sterling silver, the Lindbergh pen flies in at around $2,600.
Who is doing all this extreme buying and why? Audrey Guskey, an associate professor in marketing at Duquesne University, suspects a lot of the big gift customers are fairly new to money, like your Internet types, and are looking to express themselves through shopping.
"If you're giving these gifts," she said, "you're making a statement. You're saying you're daring enough, creative enough to find these unique gifts. In the Eighties people went for the Rolex's and the BMW's. In the 90's that got to be old hat and people were having kids. Now it seems people are flashing cash again."
And may God bless us, every one...