What’s The Most Unusual Financial Investment You’ve Ever Made?

What’s The Most Unusual Financial Investment You’ve Ever Made?
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Peter Ray is a private collector of war memorabilia based in Bilpin, NSW. The jewel of his collection is a Matilda II Mk IV infantry tank used by Australian army regiments during World War II. Purchased in 1980 for a mere $700, it currently commands a price tag of more than $400,000. Sometimes, weird investments have a way of paying off.

To mark the release of WW2 drama Fury on home entertainment, Universal Sony invited Lifehacker to ride inside an authentic Matilda Mk IV tank: a 25-tonne death machine noted for its formidably armored hull. While riding in the gun turret was exhilarating, one of the most fascinating aspects of the experience was the story behind the tank itself.

Rolling off the production line in 1945, it managed to survive the war in one piece and was later sold off at auction. Like countless other decommissioned tanks of the era, it ended up being used as a makeshift tractor in rural NSW.

This was a task that the Matilda was poorly suited to: while proficient at meting out destruction, its unreliable engine and limited load capacity were less than ideal for farm work. Eventually, the tank was abandoned to collect rust in a field.

In 1980, WW2 aficionado Peter Ray spotted the tank while on a business trip and offered to take it off the owner’s hands. After some back-and-forth negotiations, it was sold for the princely sum of $700. Astonishingly, this price included a second tank which also now resides on Ray’s property.

Today, the lovingly restored Matilda Mk IV has appreciated nicely.

“The last time someone made an offer on the tank, it was for several hundred thousand dollars” Ray explained to us. “I told them I’d consider selling it once the price reached one million.”

With only around 70 Matilda IIs still in existence, it’s not inconceivable that Ray’s reserve price will soon be reached. We imagine Ray’s neighbours probably thought he was a bit strange when this tank rolled onto his property all those years ago. Instead, they should have been buying tanks of their own.

We’re curious to hear about our readers’ weird financial investments. Have you ever taken a gamble on something that seemed worthless or eccentric at the time? How did it pay off? Share your stories in the comments section below!

Fury will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital formats on January 22, 2015.


  • I’ll get the ball rolling with an investment blunder: When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents both bought me the same Star Wars “Mos Eisley Cantina” play set by accident. Naturally, instead of keeping one in storage, I opened ’em both.

    I’ve since discovered that this very same play set is one of the most valuable on the collectors’ market — but only if boxed. Noooooo!

  • Everyone in the Lifehacker/Gizmodo/Kotaku office knows my story of buying 200-odd Bitcoin, back when they were $0.12 or so. Then I put the wallet file on a portable hard drive, and lost it. I was pretty annoyed when I saw the prices hit over $1000.

    I also have a few shares in Tesla Motors, but that’s hardly an investment (even though the price has risen quite nicely since I purchased) — I just needed to be a shareholder to listen in on the company meetings.

  • I do have a full collection of original Jurassic Park cards around somewhere, wonder if they’d be worth anything when the next movie hits. Seem like one of those things that is only desirable at the right time.

  • I’d hardly call a Matilda tank an ‘investment’.
    Sure ‘he paid $700 1980 dollars for it, but what has he spent to:
    Have it towed around the country to transport it?
    Get it back up and running?
    House it?
    Keep it running? (I know what a tanks mileage is like, then add oils, and track wear into the mix.)

    It’s an expensive hobby, which might net him a reasonable sum if he can keep the tank in good shape. Not a way to make money (tho I’d consider asking him what he charged the ‘Fury’ promo team for his time…).

    • Apparently the army assisted in the transportation. While I’m sure he’s sunk some substantial money into it, I doubt it was anywhere near $400k. Plus, there’s all the loaning fees from movie studios and the like. If you have the land to store it, I’d call it a wise investment.

  • My life. I’m in a decent position where I can go on holiday multiple times a year and buy pretty much whatever the hell I want. While I have a surplus of things demanding my attention, it’s also pretty good (in terms of the holidays) to get a further world view. So I’m investing in myself, I guess.

    A more rational investment – my family purchased a bunch of saplings for pretty cheap. There’s now a mini-forest growing pretty well. Can be sold in 10-20 years for timber.

  • I bought a 1978 Kawasaki Z1000A in the 1990s for $3000. One owner. No one was really interested in old Japanese bikes back then. I sold it later for $8500 and paid off some student fees. It would be worth around $15000 now if I’d kept it.

  • 18 years ago I bought a box of second hand comics from a sale. Included among them were Spawn numbers 1 through to 20 which I kept to this day mistakenly thinking that Spawn may become popular.

    Also in there was the complete Infinity Gauntlet crossover series. Ummm, I read them and eventually gave them away… Every time I see Thanos in a Marvel movie, I just want to punch myself in the nose.

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