Was Blue Poles a good investment?

73-12-17_blue-poles_heraldBlue Poles was bought for $1.3 million in 1973 and according to yesterday’s paper is worth around $40 million today. Now I may not know much about art, but I do know how to find a useful app on the Internet.

Perhaps I should back up a step. The NSW Minister for the Arts is keen to make a major acquisition. That’s actually probably a laudable idea, but one of the justifications for it is that Blue Poles, which was bought amid great public outcry by the Whitlam government for $1.3 million, is now looking like a good investment at its current $40 million valuation. Put like that it all sounds pretty impressive. All good so far?

vanguardchartI decided to take a look around and try to work out what $1.3 million invested in 1973 would be worth today – and then I found someone had done all the work for me.  Vanguard has an interactive index chart that shows you the value over time of $10,000 invested in the early 1970s. It’s quite fascinating to play with: You can manipulate dates, see specific decades, look for the impact of different Prime Ministers.

And what does it tell us about the value of that $1.3 million invested in 1973? Well that $1.3 million would be worth over $100 million today if invested in shares; and would be worth just under $40 million if invested in Government bonds. Put like that, Blue Poles doesn’t seem like such a great financial deal.

Now, I know, Blue Poles is about art, not money: But then that’s what should be used to judge the acquisition.

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