The luxury landmark of the holiday season used to be the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book catalog. Now in its 87th year, its outlandish selection of indulgent gifts—a lifetime pass on American Airlines ($3 million), a private concert hosted by Regis Philbin ($1.6 million), a cupcake-shaped electric car ($25,000)—was known to make headlines.
These days, in an era of extreme gifting, such elite treats have proliferated beyond the boundaries of the iconic catalog, fueling an annual quest to find the most rarefied presents possible.
It’s a phenomenon that Lindsi Shine, who runs the luxury concierge service Insider NYC (insidernyc.com), has witnessed firsthand. “After the recession ended, everyone started having to top each other a little bit more,” she explains. “There was a pent-up need to splurge.”
Shine likens over-the-top, elusive gifts to a Willy Wonka–like “golden ticket,” something a brand offers in restricted quantities to an inner circle of customers as a reaction to the pressures of mass marketing. “It’s tougher than ever to find something truly unique,” she says. “We’re so saturated that to be special, something needs to be more and more grand or intense.”
From a gold-enrobed jeroboam of vintage Champagne to the world’s sexiest sports car, here are the items on our list.