Entrepreneurs

Gen-Z Is Investing In Buried Treasure—Literally: A Case Study With JR Bissell

Generation-Z, with its unique spending habits and cultural values, holds a significant share of the U.S. consumer market—already at 40%. Though the generation hasn’t been fully defined, it is made up of those born roughly between 1995 and 2010. A study done by McKinsey & Company found that their values are vastly different from their predecessors. They are digital natives and have never lived in a world where technology wasn’t playing a significant role in their day-to-day lives.

McKinsey studied the generation and opted to give them the descriptive name “True Gen” because of their search for truth. They value individual expression and are driven by causes. McKinsey highlighted the significance of this shift for brands, noting that companies will need to appeal to Gen-Z in a way that meets their desire for expression, for exclusivity (or uniqueness), and for ethical standards to be met.

But if we play it forward, money and investments could look very different for Gen-Z in contrast to the generations before (Millennials, Gen-X, and Baby Boomers). This young generation’s search for truth may lead to a focus on authentic and rare assets and experiences, creating value around things deemed “unique.”

This will certainly change the world of investments, but perhaps for the better. One collector and entrepreneur, JR Bissell (IG @itsbissell), has seen this shift first hand. The young entrepreneur finds, sells, and collects treasures, rare assets pulled from shipwrecks, and other historical finds. Through his company, Currency Grading & Certification Inc. (the parent company of Pirate Gold Coins), he invests and manages rare artifacts. 

He said that most investors don’t realize true, verified, the tangible treasure is attainable as an asset. However, his thriving business is proving that there is a shift in investment focus. The rare products, often one-of-a-kind and historically significant, could be the next big investment for the younger generation. While most people might expect that these digital natives only want to spend their money on digital assets like bitcoin and NFTs (which Bissell also offers in conjunction with the tangible treasure he sells), physical treasure adds another layer of interest for investors.

Gen-Z Wants to Invest In Something Unique and Meaningful

There are two major factors Bissell credits to the success of his business: the financial value of the treasure he sells, and the stories behind each piece. Investments with meaning or significance, beyond financial payoff, will be a key identifying factor of Generation-Z. The storied pasts of each piece of shipwreck treasure provides a second layer of value for the investor, giving them stories to tell and a place in history. 

Still vital, however, is the profitability of the asset. Bissell cited noted collector Eric P. Newman’s Collection, sold through Heritage Auctions, included a 1776 Continental Dollar that held its value over nearly 40 years. Newman purchased the coin in 1981 for $2,000 and it was sold for $1.4 million in 2014. The rare asset certainly held its value, and Bissell said the returns are far less volatile than the stock market.

Gen-Z Values Community & Authenticity 

When Bissell started working with rare coins and treasures, he worked for his father’s company in an industry that was largely composed of older generations. He said his biggest challenge, but also the biggest goal, is to make the younger people more aware of the possibilities that come with investing in treasure. He wants to make it mainstream, and show it as an alternative to buying a house or purchasing stocks.

Bissell believes the generation is taking their seat at the table and has cultivated a community around like-minded investors who share that interest in rare assets like coins and treasures. This, ultimately, will be the driving factor that motivates young buyers to invest: community, authenticity, and cause-driven assets. 

As Generation-Z takes up more of the market share among consumers, we will see a stark shift from the values of previous generations to one that is driven by their desire to identify themselves by their investments. They are, after all, tomorrow’s leaders. Treasure hunting, or collecting, is a unique and surprising way that the generation may take its place among investors.

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