Celebrity memorabilia is one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

These items are a sound alternative investment for people tired of stock market swings, says Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.

He’s seen this firsthand. He sold two pairs of Marilyn Monroe’s shoes in 2009 for $28,000; they had previously sold for $3,000 in 1999. Another client paid $2,500 for one of Michael Jackson’s jackets in 1989. Julien sold it for $271,000 after the King of Pop died in 2009.

The important thing is to restrict purchases to items owned by blue-chip celebrities. That excludes manufactured, fly-by-night popstars.

“Madonna’s collectability probably is going to go up,” says Julien. “You can’t really say that [about] Britney Spears. She would be more of a risky investment.” The need to ensure the celebrities have global followings assumes more significance when you consider the market’s new frontiers.

Being able to trace back the history of an item helps the piece hold its value, says Brett Sherlock, managing director of Christie’s Canada, who helped organize the US$183.5-million sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection of jewelry, art, fashion and film memorabilia.

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Hassle factor

“There has to be some sort of documentation, whether it is recognized by the estate, or the celebrity’s child or their executor who runs the estate,” he says.

A fake piece is worthless. So ensure clients follow a rational, impulse-free buying process. “Set yourself a limit prior to the auction,” says Julien. “You [must] investigate the piece or the items that you’re bidding on in advance.”

And the sky’s the limit for art pieces in a deceased celebrity’s collection. An Elizabeth Taylor portrait fetched $108,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2011—a world record for the artist, Hiro Yamagata.

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