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Chart: Investing in the Finer Things in Life

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Chart: The Finer Investments in Life

The Finer Investments in Life

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Outside of the mainstream world of stocks and bonds, there exists an interesting cross-section of alternative assets that only really gain appreciation from a relatively small group of elite investors.

These luxury collectibles – things like fine wine, classic cars, rare stamps, colored diamonds, Chinese ceramics, and fine art – are unquestionably fun to hold as investments and even to talk about. But do these alternative assets also perform as investments over time?

Eye of the Beholder

The obvious challenge with valuing an item like a prized Picasso painting is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Investors can rely on expert opinions, their own experience, historical evidence, and longstanding markets for these asset classes. However, at the end of the day, the price an investor is willing to pay is ultimately subjective, which can get compounded by the fact that these markets also tend to be illiquid.

If you’re buying or selling one of these assets, this can either work in your favor – or you can be stuck with a classic car in your garage that never really panned out in terms of price.

Here is a graph showing the sale dates of some of the most expensive paintings:

Top painting sales and Salvator Mundi

Recently, you may remember the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s re-discovered masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, as an event that topped headlines in late-2017. The painting was bought for $450 million by Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, and it’s to be displayed in the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

Investments that Age Well

Despite the challenges involved in valuing these assets, as well as other costs such as setting up the storage and security systems needed to protect them, time has been kind to many of these luxury assets.

Here are the returns of luxury items over the last decade, based on the 2018 Wealth Report by Knight Frank:

Ten Year ReturnsCAGR
Autos334%15.8%
Fine Wine192%11.3%
Rare Coins182%10.9%
Jewelry138%9.1%
Rare Stamps103%7.4%
Fine Art78%5.9%
Colored Diamonds70%5.5%
Watches69%5.4%
Chinese Ceramics-3%-0.3%
Furniture-32%-3.8%

Keep in mind these investment categories are pretty narrow – for example, a Toyota Corolla doesn’t count towards the auto category. Instead, we’re talking about cars like the Lancia Aurelia B24 “Spider”, of which only 761 models were made in the 1950s.

In any case, as you can see from the above table, most of these assets have not only continued to hold their value, but they’ve also appreciated in price significantly. Autos topped the list, but fine wine and rare coins (two more accessible options for investors) also did quite well with 11.3% and 10.9% annual gains, respectively.

Correction: A previous version of the graphic showed an incorrect Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

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Markets

Ranked: The Largest U.S. Corporations by Number of Employees

We visualized the top U.S. companies by employees, revealing the massive scale of retailers like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot.

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The Largest U.S. Corporations by Number of Employees

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Revenue and profit are common measures for measuring the size of a business, but what about employee headcount?

To see how big companies have become from a human perspective, we’ve visualized the top U.S. companies by employees. These figures come from companiesmarketcap.com, and were accessed in March 2024. Note that this ranking includes publicly-traded companies only.

Data and Highlights

The data we used to create this list of largest U.S. corporations by number of employees can be found in the table below.

CompanySectorNumber of Employees
WalmartConsumer Staples2,100,000
AmazonConsumer Discretionary1,500,000
UPSIndustrials500,000
Home DepotConsumer Discretionary470,000
ConcentrixInformation Technology440,000
TargetConsumer Staples440,000
KrogerConsumer Staples430,000
UnitedHealthHealth Care400,000
Berkshire HathawayFinancials383,000
StarbucksConsumer Discretionary381,000
Marriott InternationalConsumer Discretionary377,000
CognizantInformation Technology346,600

Retail and Logistics Top the List

Companies like Walmart, Target, and Kroger have a massive headcount due to having many locations spread across the country, which require everything from cashiers to IT professionals.

Moving goods around the world is also highly labor intensive, explaining why UPS has half a million employees globally.

Below the Radar?

Two companies that rank among the largest U.S. corporations by employees which may be less familiar to the public include Concentrix and Cognizant. Both of these companies are B2B brands, meaning they primarily work with other companies rather than consumers. This contrasts with brands like Amazon or Home Depot, which are much more visible among average consumers.

A Note on Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s company doesn’t directly employ 383,000 people. This headcount actually includes the employees of the firm’s many subsidiaries, such as GEICO (insurance), Dairy Queen (retail), and Duracell (batteries).

If you’re curious to see how Buffett’s empire has grown over the years, check out this animated graphic that visualizes the growth of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio from 1994 to 2022.

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