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The über-wealthy and their toys

Posted: March 27, 2014 2:31 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

We read about people who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but for most of us, it’s difficult to even imagine such wealth.

Hedge fund managers, rappers, movie stars, Wall Street tycoons of all stripes -- many make more than they could ever think of spending, although some of them are pretty innovative at burning cash at a dizzying rate.

Making so much money that you have to figure new and imaginative ways to spend it is foreign to most of us. But if you look around, you can get a little taste of just how much some people are willing to fork out for expenditures that seem … well, a bit bizarre.

We’ve all read about the $50 million mansions, the private jets and yachts, the $10,000-a-night hotel suites. OK.

But recently, I’ve been noticing other extravagances that leave me baffled at how companies can charge so much for things -- and get it.

Cases in point:

• Newspapers -- The Wall Street Journal, in particular -- note that in New York and Los Angeles, top stylists are now charging $1,000 or more for a haircut.

A haircut. We’re not even going any further than that.

Look around a little bit and you can find other examples of extreme  extravagance.        

Watches can set you back a pretty penny, and of course, the price has nothing to do with telling time. A 10-buck quartz Casio running watch with a plastic band does a perfect job of that.

But if you want to make a statement, you can’t do the Casio thing. And forget a lowly Rolex, which will set you back only a few thousand bucks.

If you’re really in the market for a nifty timepiece, you can get one of 18 limited-edition marvels being made this year by Montblanc.

For $322,500, you can get the Villaret Exo Tourbillon, with the upper third of its face -- I’m getting all this from an ad -- “showcases the interplay between the rarely used four-minute tourbillon, the escapement and an unusually large balance wheel.”

Got that?

And some watch companies won’t even quote a price. To find out about an Audemars Piguet, you have to call and beg them to tell you how much you’ll have to pay for one.

Even sweatshirts can get pricy if you demand something that will turn heads.

Designer Mary Katrantzou has a new sweatshirt out, with mink highlights and gold braid, for $74,400. That’s a far cry from those $10 Wal-Mart sweats you can use to paint the porch.

A $3.2 million piano made by Heintzman makes Steinways look absolutely cheap, and a $26,000 tablet computer might not work any better than an iPad, but it sure looks a lot spiffier.

Art collectors are known for shelling out big bucks. I thought $104 million was a pretty steep price for a 1905 Picasso until I discovered that the royal family of Qatar paid $259 million for Cezanne’s “The Card Players.”

And car collector Craig McCaw dropped $35 million for the most expensive car in the world -- a 1962 Ferrari GTO.

That $322,500 watch I mentioned earlier? It’s positively cheap compared to a diamond-encrusted one made by Chopard in 2000. It fetched $25 million.

If you’re interested in such a purchase, I’m announcing today that I’m putting on the market a valuable collector’s item -- my 1993 Ford Ranger.

You’ll see the ad soon on upscale websites that cater to the über-wealthy: “Ready for restoration or for displaying as is, this exclusive vehicle has been lovingly maintained. Examine its uniquely peeling burgundy paint, its fashionably dented tailgate, its rear-view mirror that now lies jauntingly in the floorboard, having fallen off the windshield.

“Slight discolorations and rips in the gray cloth upholstery lend character, and the missing window crank speaks of past adventures. This vintage machine can be yours for only $2.5 million, cash on the barrelhead.”

If you’re interested, give me a call.


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