There's justice, and then there's poetic justice. Whether or not you blame Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for the current woes of our financial system, it's good to know that he's not immune from the plummeting housing market. Not at all. The Fed chief has a four-bedroom townhouse in Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Hill area that he bought in May 2004 -- near the peak of the real estate market. He paid $839,000.
After enjoying a brief run-up in market value to over $1 million, the recession happened (and a little something with interest rates, remember that, Ben?) and now, according to estimates, the house is worth only... $840,000. Homes in Bernanke's neighborhood seem to have peaked in value in 2005, and have since fallen -- though only a few percentage points this year, down to a median of $545,000 from $550,000 in third quarter 2007.
One of the rarest comic books still in existence in near-perfect condition is an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man #1," rare not only because of its singularity but also because of its quality. The comic book sold for only 12 cents per copy when it was published in March 1963, and is now worth over $40,000 -- not an exceedingly high price for comic books (the most valuable, first appearance of Superman in "Action Comics 1," is said to be worth $350,000) -- but extremely rare in such pristine condition.
In 2002, a comic book shop in Manhattan was broken into, and a particularly rare copy of "Amazing Spider-Man #1" was stolen, by a "gentlemanly" robber holding a duffel bag containing a rifle and handcuffs. He tied up the store owner while he picked the desired issues -- certainly a scene right out of the pages of his contraband. If only Spider-Man was real ...
In the world of sea salt, the earliest known sea salt produced by the Japanese may be the rarest of all. Called Amabito No Moshio ("Ancient Sea Salt"), unpolluted sea water is collected from the Seto-uchi inland sea, infused with seaweed to develop the "unami", and then processed by cooking in an iron kettle, put into a centrifuge, and finally, cooked over an open fire while stirring constantly. The salt is worth over $40 per pound.
The island where most of this salt is produced is called Kami-Kamagari, and has a population of less than 3,000. Archaeological digging has uncovered salt-making pots dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD -- a find which, in 1998, encouraged the locals to take up the production of this ancient sea salt, again. Salt expert Mark Bittman says the flavor is "savory" and "unctuous" and suggests it on meats, rice, roasted potatoes, even a chocolate souffle!
Isn't it a universal truth that the craftsmanship of the 1700s was vastly superior to today? If that's so, then spending nearly $3,000 for what is essentially a tent is a bargain. If not, your neighbors will just be astonished to discover that you just bought a $2,892 tipi. (It's not "teepee" anymore, by the way.)
This lovely outdoor abode is 24' in diameter and, according to lovelifegoods, it will withstand tough weather conditions. The product info is sparse, so I can't say weather or not the cool bed and rocking chair are included. It does come with a rain liner though. Maybe it's just a really cheap house, in which case this post doesn't belong on Luxist at all ...
Kelsey Grammer, however, is an exception to the rule that celebrities can't manage money. Over the years, he's been quite the speculator. Here's a look inside one property Sotheby's is selling for the Frasier star:
As Big Time Listings notes, this is the latest in a string of lucrative transactions carried out by Grammer, many through his Fossil II Trust. A few recent successes:
- Kelsey's home ("primary residence") in Malibu was purchased for $4.5 million in 1998 and is now worth over $7 million according to Zillow.
- The Bridgehampton home at 7 Morgan Way shown above was purchased for $8.5 million in early 2006, and is being listed at $16 million -- wow.
- In 2004, he paid $17.5 million for an enormous mansion in Beverly Hills, at 80 Beverly Park Lane, selling it in 2006 for $22 million. According to Zillow's photos (which may or may not be current), the property is now being renovated -- and is only worth $18 million. Nice timing, Kelsey!
While the proceeds are headed to charity (surely a laudable goal), something in this news makes me queasy. When J.K. Rowling burst to the scene with her first Harry Potter books, much was made of her struggling, lower-class background: the welfare mom made good. And many pundits have lauded her tales for making reading exciting again for children everywhere. She made literature relevant to even those who were, like she was once, just squeaking by.
So the concept of exclusive literature leaves me cold. If you're interested in the etymology, however, it's more than appropriate: a bard was a poet employed by the wealthy to tell tales of their great deeds. I always thought of J.K. Rowling as something far more free-spirited; but it this bard's tales will only be told to a few.
Update: A commenter pointed out that I was incorrect that these would be printed -- the books are handwritten. However, the commenter says these copies will be available to the public; that is not true according to this source.