While we have not exactly restrained ourselves in recent years, the awareness that the stock market and salaries were still underwhelming many Americans prevented us from being too presumptuous when compiling our annual holiday gifts lists.
This year, however, we will display no such compunction. For the time being, at least, the economy seems to be ticking along quite nicely. Bonuses are expected to be back up again on Wall Street, and elsewhere, home values remain strong, and interest rates, despite fears to the contrary, have remained manageable.
So this holiday season we really went the whole hog. We picked items that showed a certain devil may care attitude; that said "this has been a very good year." From a $125,000 Maserati Quattroporte available in a limited edition from Neiman Marcus and a bottle of D-Day anniversary armagnac for $600 to a pair of $4,200 diamond daisy earrings from London jeweler Asprey. Of course, there are some more affordable luxuries as well, including barware from legendary French glassmaker Baccarat, to Sony's PlayStation 2 videogame Gran Turismo 4 for $49.99.
Gifts for car nuts
Looking to spend some money this holiday season on somebody who loves cars? To get some of the best gifts on the market, you might have to hurry.
Many items -- including some in the accompanying slide show on the best automotive gifts -- are limited-edition pieces, such as Neiman Marcus' $125,000 treatment of Fiat's Maserati Quattroporte sedan, and may be selling out or sold out as this story goes to press.
So we won't get in your way. Read on to see our gift suggestions for your favorite automotive aficionados this season.
Intoxicating luxury gifts
If you're expecting to give someone a necktie this Christmas, may we make an alternate suggestion? It's that not we have anything against neckties, it's just that some people don't really like wearing them and other people are women.
One thing that pretty much everyone likes during the holidays is a little artificial fortification to help maintain the appropriate level of Yuletide cheer. And no, we're not talking about popping a few Zoloft--not that there's anything wrong with that--but rather good old-fashioned alcohol and maybe a few celebratory cigars to keep the winter chill away.
To that end we have compiled a list of things that will be sure to please your favorite oenophile -- or whiskyphile or cigarophile for that matter. From rare armagnac to an Ostrich-foot hide covered lighter, here are ten gifts that will be sure to please, if not intoxicate, your loved ones this holiday season.
Stylish luxury gifts
It's amazing how easy it is to compile a list of highly desirable objects and apparel for a holiday gift guide. There are so many beautiful, elegant and luxurious products out there it's enough to make a hedonist giddy. The hard part is knowing when to stop. Like diners at an all-you-can-eat banquet prepared by the best chefs in the world, it's always tempting to add just a little bit more.
The trick is finding a balance. There are easily a dozen shoemakers we could have used, but we decided to go with the eclectic New York-based Belgian Shoes, whose slipper-like shoes are famous for their comfort and charm. It was also no small thing to pick just one jeweler or one hand bag, but we did--and immediately began having second-thoughts. And then third-thoughts. In any event, we can assure you that everything we picked is near perfect.
Luxury travel gifts
These days travel is rarely easy. Flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, lines get longer. Fortunately, finding travel-related holiday gifts is a snap.
What the frequent travelers in your life want are comfort, luxury and convenience when they are on the road--preferably all rolled into one easily portable package. The Tissot High-T watch, for example, is like wearing a mini-computer on your wrist. By simply touching the watch dial, users can receive news, weather, stock quotes and more.
Sometimes busy travelers just need to reorient themselves. Is this Brussels or Barcelona? San Francisco or San Juan? The new Garmin iQue 3200 integrates Palm-powered PDA functionality with global positioning technology that not only helps remind people when their next meeting is but also helps them find their way there.
While practical gifts are always welcome, the holidays are the perfect time for indulgence. A custom-made, handmade photo album from Maryland-based Distinctive Bookbinding is a wonderful gift that is sure to be welcomed by any traveler -- especially those who come back from a long trip and have boxes of photos jammed in the back of the closet. Instead of sticking 30 rolls of film from India or an African safari in a box under the bed, display them beautifully in a handmade album. Other welcome extravagances are a handmade leather vanity case from Goyard as well as a traveling shirt case for men by Bottega Veneta.
Luxury gifts for the home
Be it a pad or a palace, everyone always appreciates presents that beautify or improve their home. But how to find gifts that stand the test of time and taste, and don't sit in the closet behind the old straight skis?
As always, we decided to go beyond the basics, and found ten objects that transform simple pleasures into sophisticated indulgences. Why stop at a bouquet of blooms when you can give a year's worth of orchids? For the gambler, consider a leather-lined card set that's better suited to a villa in Monaco than a stint on the Bravo Network's Celebrity Poker Showdown.
We think you'll find them tempting, so just remember that it's better to give than to receive--yes, even when it comes to gourmet chocolates and satin-cuffed sheets.
Collectibles for Christmas
Mention the word "collectibles" around Christmas to most people, and they usually wince at the thought of tacky Santa Claus figurines or another unwearable necktie.
It doesn't have to be like that. For the connoisseur, the holidays can also be a time of astonishing bounty, assuming that your loved ones know what you like and, more important, where to find it.
Better still, these items don't need to cost a fortune, and they range from a Diane Arbus photograph to a rare Spider-Man comic.
The editors of the Forbes Collector investment newsletter have compiled the following list of ten exquisite, and undervalued, collectibles that will not only give pleasure but also, in time, are likely to appreciate in value.