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Ultimate toys for super-rich boys

By Emma Lind,
September 26, 2007 13:19 IST
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It's said that money can't buy happiness.

But some of the billionaires on our list of America's richest 400 might argue it can get you pretty much anything else.

Take S Truett Cathy. The Chick-fil-A founder's collection of cars and motorcycles includes the Batmobile used in the 1992 movie Batman Returns. Price tag? $250,000.

Cathy is just one of a handful of America's most wealthy with itches only the most unusual toy can scratch. For these guys, money actually isn't everything: It's about saying you have something that no one else does.

Art Attack

Unique collectors' items are the bread and butter of billionaires' valuable stashes. While amateur collectors might be satisfied with an occasional big-name piece, seasoned billionaires are satisfied only with the art world's ultimate "gets."

Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad and his wife are devoted fans of contemporary artist Jeff Koons, whose pieces have fetched as much as $5 million at auction. Broad travels worldwide to add to his extensive contemporary art collection, which includes Koons' 10-feet-high blue "Balloon Dog."

No less exceptional, but perhaps slightly more nauseating, is hedge fund superpower Steven Cohen's art collection. Cohen, who has spent over $300 million on art since 2000, paid $8 million for Damien Hirst's "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." The work--featuring a dead shark suspended in formaldehyde--was recently refurbished, due to the carcass' decay.

Looks like even "immortality" isn't out of reach for the richest of the rich.

Hobbies Gone Wild

Some billionaires, bit by the collectors bug when they were tots, continue to grow their collections into adulthood. James Goodnight, CEO of software giant SAS, has a collection of rocks and minerals he has cultivated since boyhood.

David Rockefeller Sr., the grandson of oil baron John D. Rockefeller, still keeps up the beetle collection he started during a family vacation to Maine when he was 10. The collection is now over 80 years old, and comprises 157,000 specimens of about 900 species.

Along with owning several "types," or prime examples of species, Rockefeller has helped discover several new species, and has "two or three named after him," according to his spokesman Peter Johnson. "He doesn't travel looking for them, but if you're on a walk and he sees one, he'll go grab it before you even notice it's there."

Good Manners

Most every child has learned this lesson: It's important to share your toys.

No billionaire knows this better than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is now worth close to $17 billion. Allen started collecting World War II airplanes in 1998 and has since restored about 20, down to the fabric covering the wings and the paint schemes. They are part of his Flying Heritage Collection in Arlington, Wash., which is open to the public. The exhibit also includes oral histories of the people behind the WW II-era flights.

"It honors the men and women who served this country," says Michael Nank, a spokesman for Allen. "The planes are an integral part of history, and the storytelling is important to get across."

Looks like you can fly high without a private jet after all. Though, don't try telling that to Warren Buffett. Although he still lives in the same modest house he bought over 50 years ago, the "Oracle of Omaha" has a Gulfstream IV jet, and its price tag can run into the double-digit millions depending on model and amenities.

Now that's a shiny toy.

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Emma Lind,

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