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The $500,000 Bottle of Beer: Would You Buy It?

The sealed bottle of Samuel Allsopp's Arctic Ale is an incredibly valuable collectors' item — an Internet search indicates it's the rarest beer in the world — and the reason it likely sold for so little the first time is because the original seller misspelled the name "Allsop's."

For many Americans, a home is the most expensive purchase they'll make in their lives, usually costing a few hundred-thousand dollars. Sure, other things in life may add up to more in a lifetime, but there are few things with six-figure price tags. Beer is generally not among them.

That is, unless it's a collectible. Five years ago, a collector bought a roughly 160-year-old bottle of beer for $304 and sold it for $503,300 (free shipping!) on eBay. The sealed bottle of Samuel Allsopp's Arctic Ale is an incredibly valuable collectors' item — an Internet search indicates it's the rarest beer in the world — and the reason it likely sold for so little the first time is because the original seller misspelled the name "Allsop's," according to a post from TypoHound.com, a site that helps eBay shoppers search for merchandise posted with misspellings.

I'd say a $500,000 bottle of beer should be pretty amazing, except it seems unlikely a beer brewed in 1852 would taste very good these days. As far as understanding the cost of this item, it's best to view it as a collectible, rather than a beverage.

Still, when this bottle sold in 2009, new homes in the U.S. sold for an average of $270,900 (median was $216,700, according to U.S. Census Bureau data), and most people finance property. Can you get a loan to buy an auction item?

On eBay, it depends on the seller: Some set their own payment conditions, while others choose one of the default options, like PayPal or credit cards. A $500,000 bottle of beer isn't the sort of thing you can put on a credit card (not that you'd want to — the interest would be insane, and even if you had a credit limit that high, charging it would slam your credit score) but most people don't have a half-million dollars in cash lying around. Then again, buying rare bottles of beer isn't an activity for the everyman. I suppose it's like most things in personal finance in that there are many fruitful ways to manage your money: Some people invest in property, others invest in really old bottles of beer. To each his own.


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