Let's face it: The cheese straightener you bought your brother-in-law last December 24th was probably packed back in its box and shunted to the basement. So it is with many Christmas gifts. After the first blush of enthusiasm, it is the fast track to oblivion.
To avoid this kind of thing happening again, look past the present into the future, and choose gifts whose value is likely to rise over time. That way, you are giving items that won't be forgotten, even if they are not at the top of your recipients' wish lists. And if the new owners quietly choose to sell the gifts later on, at least you know they will be getting your money's worth.
Among the possibilities:
Fine wines. Depending on the vintage, a top-quality French wine can be expected to rise about 10% to 15% a year in price. Consult a wine-store expert for the best buys or, if you are nervous, stick to the five famous names of France's Bordeaux region, the so-called Premiers Grands Crus: Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, and HautBrion. Just don't bestow a bottle of 1970 Mouton-Rothschild, for example, on someone who is likely to drink it with Velveeta cheese and graham crackers. That is $120 or so down the wrong drain.
Porcelain figures. "A porcelain doll would delight a child and remain a treasured possession," suggests Duncan Gormley, manager of Regina Gifts and Jewelry in Norwood, Mass. "And it has the additional advantage of appreciating about 5% to 10% a year." Royal Doulton figurines, for example, portray women in various kinds of dress. Imported from Royal Doulton, Stoke-on-Trent, England, the figurines cost $170 on average. Hummel figurines, imported from Goebel, Rodental, West Germany, range in type and cost from a two-inch-high angel-with-trumpet ($23) to a three-foot-high apple-tree girl ($13,000). A $25 figurine could be worth about $45 in five years, a $1,000 item about $1,250.
China. A five-piece setting of china manufactured by Royal Crown Derby, a Royal Doulton subsidiary, ranges in price from $140 to $1,150, and annually increases in value an average of $25 per setting. China made by Belleek Ireland Inc., Belleek, Ireland, is also highly regarded. A cup and saucer costing about $45 goes up in value about $5 a year.
Leather goods. Those made by Louis Vuitton S.A. have a quality and design that inspires loyalty among owners. "Instead of getting a replacement when they wear out, customers will repair them," says Judith Fenno, spokesperson for Saks Fifth Avenue in Boston. "People hang on to them forever." Made in the United States and France, the line's smaller items, such as wallets and guest accessories, begin at about $100.
American arts and crafts. Currently enjoying a renaissance, they are being scooped up at local fairs and expositions and are expected to appreciate well. Textiles, hand-carved chairs, hand-blown glassware, woven baskets, watercolor paintings, and other works crafted by indigenous artisans are all good bets, provided you take time to separate the sterling from the schlock.
Finally, if your income allows for prodigious largesse at Yuletime -- or if you have decided that you would like to give yourself a good-size Christmas present this year -- the Chevrolet Corvette has superb resale value.
A 1959 model, for example, which carried an original sticker price of $3,875, currently sells for about $22,000. "You'll be hard pressed to find many cars that appreciate," says Steve Adams, manager of Auto Show Place Inc., in Allston, Mass. "But I'd say that the car with the consistently highest appreciation rate is the 'Vette."
To be sure, a 1984 Corvette listing for around $28,000 probably would not fit under the tree. Then again, it is not likely to end up in the basement, either.