Unusual ways to invest your money

You could add steam engines, numismatic coins and woodlands to your portfolio...

Updated: 
Bardiya National Park, Nepal, Asia

With interest rates at the banks remaining low and more freedom in how we can spend our pension pots in future, here are four alternative and interesting ways to invest your money.

Investing in woodland

Brothers Simon and Nicholas Page are considering purchasing an area of woodland in Sussex as a medium- to long-term alternative investment.

In the short-term it will be somewhere for the two families' children to play and build forest camps. But it will be managed efficiently to ensure there is a commercial return while they own it.

"I work in a bank in London and can see the business side of investing in woodland. My brother is from Brighton and has a more environmental reason for wanting to spend our money in this area," says Simon.

He says one of the main investment benefits of buying woodland is the tax relief available if the land is run as a managed business. Woodland that is run commercially qualifies for 100 per cent Business Property Relief once it has been held for two years.

If it is held at death there is no inheritance tax payable on the total land value of the land and trees. Any Capital Gains Tax liability on the asset is removed.
The brothers are being quoted between £8,000 and £10,000 per acre of woodland and they will buy about five acres. In the short-term the cost of managing and harvesting the timber could be higher than sales of the wood from activities such as coppicing.

Another option for investors is to put money into a woodland fund. You won't be able to build camps with the kids but the value of the land will go up. Specialist woodland funds generated a strong return during the recession.



This 1936 steamroller, Hermes, cost £6,000 30 years ago and is now probably worth £60,000

Steam vehicles

Jonathan Vartan bought a 1936 steamroller 30 years ago with the compensation he received following a bad motorcycle accident. His initial investment of £6,000 is now worth about £60,000 after a lifetime of caring for the vehicle, which he named Hermes after the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes that served in the Falklands War.

"I wanted a new hobby and it has become a labour of love requiring ongoing maintenance. I show Hermes at many steam events around the country," says Jonathan.

He adds: "If you do decide to sell, there are dealers out there and a market for these vehicles. Some, such as a Showman's steam-powered road locomotive, which provided transport for a travelling fair or circus, can be worth up to £750,000."

So would he ever sell Hermes? "I am 58 now and as I get older and it becomes harder to keep the vehicle operating then maybe. It is my pension but I still enjoy it."

One of the rarest coins is the 1933 Pattern Penny. It never went into production and only four exist

Coin collecting

Coin collecting may not set the heart racing but discover some rare currency tucked down the back of your sofa and you could be quids in.

Numismatic coins – those worth more than the face value – are in demand because of their historical worth. Buying and selling rare coins that date back to Roman times can generate a financial return of up to eight per cent a year.

Clem Chambers, CEO of global stocks and shares information website ADVFN, has been a numismatic coin collector for 15 years. He is also an advisor to the London-based, listed coin investment fund Avarae.

"This is a niche market but there can be some very attractive returns," he says. "You can invest independently using catalogues that outline prices or, if you feel you lack knowledge, a fund like Avarae is ideal."

He says the key to successful coin collecting is to buy a series of coins and regularly attend auctions. One of the rarest coins is the 1933 British Penny, which is worth about £40,000. Only seven were minted because there was a surplus of pennies in circulation at the time.

Four prototypes were also made and Clem has one of these. "Collectors tend to hold on to coins for about seven years before selling them," he says. "A rare coin will never lose its value, but don't buy any coin that is not in perfect condition."

Crowd-funding small businesses

One of the fastest-growing areas of business funding is crowd-funding, where companies raise finance by asking a large number of people to each invest a small amount of money.
For entrepreneurs or small business that cannot get a bank loan, this option is attractive. It also gives investors an opportunity to support companies in sectors they have a particular interest in, such as food or alternative energy.

There are many specialist companies helping investors, including Crowdcube, Crowd for Angels and Funding Tree. The latter is the UK's first fully-regulated loan and equity crowd-funding platform.

Siobhan Stewart from East London, who is in her 60s, is an investor and has put "a few thousand pounds" into two businesses. She provided a loan to Select Uniforms, which needed money to manufacture its own shirt ranges, and she bought shares in Oak & Iron Furniture, which makes contemporary rustic furniture.

"I have only recently got involved after reading a lot about crowd-funding in the press," she says. "I had some money to invest, and the investments provide a return of around 14 per cent annually with payments made every month. At the end of five years I should get my initial investment back."

Of course, investing in start-ups and early-stage businesses does involve risks, including illiquidity, lack of dividends, loss of investment and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio.

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