For the two years it takes to mature, this €287 cheese can be used as collateral for an Italian bank loan.


A cheesemaker in Emilia Romagna, Italy, will invest 500 liters of milk in every wheel of Parmesan he makes. It takes two years for that investment to mature into a cheese worth €400 (US$520), so to pay for more milk to make more cheese, he hands his immature wheel to Credem, the local bank, which give him a cash loan of 80 percent of the Parmesan’s future price.

The cheese is then carried to one of the bank’s two temperature-controlled vaults, where it will be monitored by experts who know when to turn it and exactly how to tap it with a small metal hammer to check that it hasn’t gone soft.

Two years later, the cheesemaker repays the loan (with a little interest) and reclaims his cheese. If he can’t pay, the bank keeps the cheese and sells it for its full value. Today there are 300,000 Parmesan wheels in Credem’s vault: €120 million (US$156 million) worth of cheese. There may even be additional benefits to the scheme. In May 2012, an earthquake in Emilia Romagna threw thousands of wheels of Parmesan from the racks where they were maturing, causing damage estimated at more than €100 million (US$130 million). All the cheese in Credem’s vaults survived.

Alternative investments: Where to put your money

13 cheese-003Tea

Chinese Da Hong Pao tea can sell for US$30,000 dollars per kilogram and it increased in value tenfold during 2010. Tea investors hope it won’t meet the same fate as Pu’er, a tea that boomed in the 2000s, then crashed in 2008.

13 cheese-004Memorabilia

Basketballs signed by Michael Jordan sell on the Internet from US$600. But memorabilia changes its price according to a celebrity’s destiny: a few days after Michael Jackson died, the value of his memorabilia was reported to have risen 40 percent.

13 cheese-005Stamps

US$8 billion worth of collectible stamps are traded every year in the world. From 2000 to 2010, investing in the SG 100 Index, an investment portfolio of rare British stamps, has proven a more lucrative choice than buying a house in the UK.

13 cheese-006Wine

Investing in wine requires expertise: according to The Economist, 1 in 20 fine wines sold at auction may be fake. Simply replacing the label on a bottle of 1975 Château Lafite with that of the 1982 vintage can raise the French wine’s price five-fold.


From the pages of COLORS #85 - Going to Market.