“Recommendations” for the 1% (Dear Captain, CBG #1685, January 2012)

(Editor’s note: The following is reprinted from CBG #1685. A special thanks to Stern Pinball and Heritage Comic Auctions for providing images for this column.)

By Andrew A. Smith
Contributing Editor

It’s holiday time, and, as always, CBG is on the forefront of helping you make consumer purchases — with much of this issue devoted to gift guides. To make sure we’re comprehensive, I have made it my duty to add a gift guide for the one demographic that is constantly marginalized this time of year, that suffers the most prejudice, that endures the most disdain, that never appears in Christmas commercials looking like a Norman Rockwell painting: the ultra-rich.

I’m talking about the one-percenters who own a quarter of the nation’s wealth, those plucky lads and lasses in the corner offices on Wall Street — but not those grubby peasants milling below, who are already awash in gift guides designed for their paltry and declining fortunes. No, this guide is for our best and brightest — or at least the best-groomed — who have wisely gambled other people’s money by bundling worthless derivatives and attained their just reward in the form of government bailouts and enormous bonuses.

You’d think that would be the end of their problems, but look whom they have on their gift lists: Millionaire industrialists with personal suits of high-tech armor. Billionaire playboys with expensive nocturnal hobbies. Eccentric European royalty with a hankering to conquer the world. Business moguls and part-time mad scientists constantly concocting Kill-Kryptonians-Quick schemes. Ducks with money bins they treat as swimming pools. Children whose very names are synonymous with money, who seem to have no end of disposable income. Egad! How do you keep up appearances in such a crowd?

But don’t despair, rich people! I’ve assembled a few odds and ends to impress your heroic peers at those parties in the Hamptons or for “Secret Santa” at super-villain mixers in undisclosed locations.

1. The Stern Iron Man Classic pinball machine
What super-villain lair’s rec room or super-hero HQ’s gym would be complete without its own pinball machine, dedicated to one of its own?

The Stern Iron Man pinball machine features voices, sound effects, music, and visuals from the two Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man movies “Guest stars” Whiplash whips balls around the field, War Machine fires them at the flippers, and Iron Monger — I dunno, monges something. Who cares? It’s the Armored Avenger — with flippers!

To get your official Iron Man machine, contact your nearest Stern Pinball distributor or retailer. The official suggested retail price is $4,599, but, if you order directly from its website, there’s an $800 discount.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t breathe the word “discount” to anyone at Martha’s Vineyard. Discounts are sooo nouveau riche.

2. The first, hand-crafted, 1963 G.I. Joe prototype
The downside to what is thought to be the world’s most expensive action figure is that it’s a toy inspired by the military, and as we Masters of the Universe know (and laugh about over cigars and brandy, while tossing lawn darts at the help), only poor people’s children join the military. But the upside is that there is no price — you can’t actually buy it at all! You’d have to assemble a team of former black ops agents to steal it! It really doesn’t come any more exclusive than that.

The reason for its inaccessibility is that very few know who has it, and nobody’s talking. The figure was purchased by Diamond’s Steve Geppi at a Heritage auction in 2003 for $200,000, and went on display at the Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Md., for a while. But according to the museum, Geppi no longer owns the figure, and they didn’t reveal who does.

According to Heritage, the almost foot-tall figure was previously owned by one of the toy’s designers, Don Levine of Providence, R.I., who built the Joe on his ping-pong table while working as vice president of research and development at Hassenfeld Brothers, Inc. (now Hasbro Toys).

To indicate the value of this figure, Heritage helpfully offered a list of comparable sales, including a 1904 Steiff Teddy Girl bear ($158,000), a late 1940s Howdy Doody marionette ($113, 431), and a 1916 French doll by Albert Marque ($215,000).
But they are obviously inferior, because you can buy them. How utterly déclassé.

3. The most expensive Barbie in the world
The luxury-products blog Luxuo.com lists no fewer than three different Barbies as the most expensive in the world, with frequent links or references to De Beers (the diamond sellers), which seems to have a hand in most of them.

And, you know, it really doesn’t matter which is the most expensive. After all, you only need to buy all three, then destroy two, and the matter is settled.

Here are the contenders:
The $85,000 Diamond Barbie by De Beers: Described by Luxuo as “the most expensive Barbie in the World,” this one was produced to mark Barbie’s 40th anniversary in 1999.

She looks remarkably Middle Eastern and is dressed in what looks like a Barbara Eden cast-off from I Dream of Jeannie, decorated with 160 diamonds, with complementary white gold miniature jewelry and accessories.

Barbie by Stefano Caturi: Also described by Luxuo as “the most expensive Barbie in the world,” this version was designed by Australia’s Caturi and sold at Christie’s in New York for $302,500 in 2010. Caturi designed the doll’s strapless black party dress and peep-toe, stiletto heels — “inspired by cubism” it says on the site, mysteriously — and the necklace and ring are made from three carats of white diamond and a one-carat, square, emerald-cut pink diamond.

That’s a bit ostentatious, if you ask me. But sometimes you do have to over-awe the servants, to remind them of their place.

Barbie and the Diamond Castle Barbie: Released in Mexico in 2008 with the Barbie and the Diamond Castle DVD, Luxuo describes this $95,000 beauty as — wait for it — “the most expensive Barbie in the world.” It includes 318 diamonds in its design; her tiara, slippers, earrings, necklace, bracelet, and ring are made of white gold and diamonds. Forty-four round-cut stones, totaling 20.66 carats, accentuate the dress.

There is one aspect that bothers me, though, and let me quote Luxuo directly to insure accuracy: “According to Giancarlo Melloni, Barbie brand manager in Mexico, the film, ‘whose main theme is diamonds,’ touches on topics important to girls such as ‘friendship, music, and shiny jewels’.”

Cushlamochree! What an affront to the gender! Suggesting that girls only think about social status, dancing, and shiny objects is insulting!

I’m sure that Luxo, on further consideration today, would add shopping.

4. 1960s Batmobile replica
Yes, you, too, can leap into your own, personal, Adam West-era Batmobile, bring engines to speed, and charge batteries to power. (And, if you have a Robin, be sure to remind him or her to buckle up.)

According to a 2010 report on Nerdapproved.com, DC Entertainment has given the official OK to mass-produce replicas of the jet-powered, bubble-topped Batmobile from the 1966-69 TV show. The replicas are described as “fully loaded, fully functional, and completely street legal.”

That last is hard to believe, given that the there’s a flamethrower in back to make the rocket exhaust look real, and a working red police light on top. I would highly recommend not using those anywhere but the garage, because they’re a wee bit illegal and some policemen and judges can’t be bribed. Sad, but true.

These Batmobiles also have a lot of Bat-gimmicks that I wouldn’t describe as “fully functional.” But they are impressive, such as the bat-motif spinners for hubcaps, a “Bat-beam” antenna that rises between the windshields, a “Detect-A-Scope” screen that glows green, and, of course, the distinctive Fiberglas chassis.

These Batmobiles go for only about $150,000, so there may be more than one of them in your gated community. That won’t do, so I’m sure you’ll quickly discover a secondary use for that flamethrower. It turns out that that Fiberglas is impressively flammable.

Editor’s note: Peter David also recommended this item in his column in CBG #1673 (Jan 11) as one of his suggested gifts for last year’s holiday season. Clearly, this is a must-buy basic.

5. Action Comics #1
No, no, not the new one! We’re talking Action Comics #1 from 1938, of course — the Holy Grail of comics collecting, the issue that launched a thousand super-heroes.

Seriously, how can you hold your head up among your fellow zillionaire geeks (I’m looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg) without owning a copy of the most expensive of rare comic books? There are only 50 to 100 thought to exist and only a handful in decent condition. Two of the best sold in 2010: one in February for $1 million, and a second in March for $1.5 million.

Naturally, with so few copies extant, it will be tough to get one legitimately, regardless of price. So let me turn your attention to the Johnny Depp movie The Ninth Gate, where you can pick up tips on the underground world of illegal book dealing, which appears to operate as a sort of bazaar for the very wealthy, who consign works to be stolen and then keep their “purchases” in private, underground museums with air, light, temperature, and humidity controls, where they are displayed only to those whom the owner wishes to make really, really jealous.

Not that I’m suggesting you do any of those things, because that would be illegal. I am just noting for the record that you’ll be scorned at the next secret 33rd level Riches for the Rich Ritual, if you don’t have a copy of Action Comics #1. You’ll probably have to turn in your goat mask and drop to 32nd level, where the hoi polloi are pitifully proud of their copies of Whiz Comics #2 and Detective Comics #27.

Got a suggestion for a prohibitively expensive comics-related holiday gift? Send your suggestion or the gift or just plain money to capncomics@aol.com.

Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith has been writing professionally about comics since 1992, and for Comics Buyer’s Guide since 2000. He can be reached at capncomics@aol.com or on his website, http://captaincomics.ning.com.

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3 Responses to “Recommendations” for the 1% (Dear Captain, CBG #1685, January 2012)

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