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Which Watch Brands Are Most Likely to Increase in Value?


It’s a question watch collectors — especially new ones — always want answered, and one we at Fratellowatches have heard often: What brands offer watches that tend to increase in value over time? I’ll attempt to provide guidance on this, not so much from facts and figures but based on experience, and on opinions that I have heard through the years.

There are two answers here, of course, the short version and the long version. The short version is simple: Rolex and Patek Philippe.

The longer version is a bit more complicated, as there are a number of aspects that play an important role. I am not talking about the annual price increases that many brands are carrying through with, using all sorts of lame excuses. Aspects such as brand recognition, heritage, exclusivity, availability, and – perhaps the most influential of all – demand are important when it comes to the development of a watch’s value over time.

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus

Rolex is, of course, one of those brands that is highly in demand (by both watch enthusiasts and non-watch enthusiasts); has a wonderful heritage, including an impressive list of celebrities and VIPs that wear and have worn Rolex watches; has a high level of recognition; and is widely available. It seems that the right mixture of these ingredients make most Rolex watches increase in value over time. The same is more or less true of Patek Philippe, although the accessibility of new Patek Philippe watches is more restrained due to their higher price tags compared to Rolexes. Exclusivity is the ingredient that weighs more with Patek collectors than some of the other aspects.

Steve McQueen with Rolex
Steve McQueen wearing Rolex

Aside from Rolex and Patek Philippe, luxury watch brands with a high demand (in the United States) include Breitling, Omega, Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Panerai, Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC (in no particular order). This doesn’t mean that every watch these brands produce will automatically increase in value. We would have to look more closely into which specific models from such brands are most in demand. This is not rocket science, fortunately. Such watch models include popular classics like (for example) the Rolex Submariner, Rolex Daytona, Patek Philippe Calatrava, Omega Speedmaster, Breitling Navitimer, Panerai Luminor Marina, TAG Heuer Carrera, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and so on — what a watch enthusiasts would call the usual suspects.

However, not even all examples of these watch models will keep, or increase, their value over time.  What I’ve experienced is that those that are closest to the initial model at the time it was introduced, and those pieces that are as ‘clean’ as possible, are most likely to keep their value or even increase in value.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

If we take a look at the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet, for example, the models that gained most in value are the original ones — the so-called “Jumbo” watches, later dubbed “Extra-Thin.” The original models, with the reference number 5402, have become insanely expensive. Does this mean that if you buy the existing model of that watch (reference 15202), it will increase in value as well? No, it is not that simple. Especially if you paid list price, you are going to take a severe hit if you want to sell it soon after you bought it. However, if you would have bought a pre-owned model (also reference 15202) five years ago, when it was already a few years old (let’s say 2002-2006), you probably paid a bit less then $10,000. The cheapest pre-owned Royal Oak 15202 with charcoal dial that I could find with a simple search was a 2004 model for $16,000. That is more “interest” than you would have gotten on your savings account in the past five years.

Omega Speedmaster - limited edition
Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition

So, it is also a matter of buying watches at the right moment for the right price. Paying full list price for a new watch and still expecting to make a buck is difficult these days, even with a stainless-steel sports Rolex.

If you take that into account, there are a number of watch brands that will give you a decent chance on increasing your watch’s value over time. Now let’s do a rundown on a few brands that you need to keep an eye on for the long term.

The basic question is: “What brands offer watches that tend to increase in value over time?” As I wrote before, there are two answers here, a short version and a long version. The short answer is simple: Rolex and Patek Philippe. The long answer is what I try to cover in the following part of this article.

There are a number of watches and watch brands that are likely to increase in value, or at least keep value, over time. To start with the last one, it seems that the all-time classics (or “iconic” watches, if you wish) are the ones that keep their value to a certain extent. Even though some of them can be bought at a bit of a discount, or do not have waiting lists as long as some others do, they have proven to be a stable “investment,” so to speak.  I did some coverage on these all-time classics in part one.

The real question is, which watches that you can buy now (that is, new watches) will become the classics or highly sought-after timepieces of tomorrow.  In order to do that with a high level of certainty, you will probably — as one of our readers commented — need another 10 years to follow these watches on the market.

I always thought that the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 would become a classic, especially since it was followed-up by the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller, a watch that had little to do with its predecessor. Now that Rolex introduced the new Sea-Dweller 116600, the true successor of their Reference 16600 Sea-Dweller watches, I am now fairly convinced that it will negatively influence the growth in value of previous Sea-Dwellers. But let’s keep Rolex (and Patek) out of this discussion, as these brands seem to be quite unique in terms of keeping value.

Rolex Sea-Dweller
Rolex Sea-Dweller

Another watch to keep an eye on is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo,” Reference 15202, and its predecessor, Ref. 14802. In 2012, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” (or “Extra-Thin”) received an update in which the dial was changed to be closer to the original one from 1972. However, Audemars Piguet also changed the bracelet, making it a bit thicker and giving it a different clasp. While the demand for the very old Reference 5402 Royal Oak “Jumbo” remains quite high, I now notice that the pre-2012 Ref. 15202 has gotten a lot of interest since the upgrade. It can be bought for approximately 55-60% of its list price if you look carefully. Within the last five years, the market price of this particular model has increased quite a bit and my feeling is that it still has not reached its peak.

With a bit of guesswork, and some knowledge about previous events that caused watches to go up in value, I’d suggest keeping an eye on brands that suddenly change or have recently grown in popularity. And this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a fat wallet. Look at Sinn, for example. When the Lemania 5100 movement went out of production, we could all see that the Sinn 142 model was bound to be discontinued (as it was, more than 10 years ago). When these watches went out production, they had a price of about $1,600. Now, if you can find a nice one, you’ll have to pay just under $3,000 to get it on the the pre-owned market. The same was happening for one of its other interesting models, the Sinn EZM 1.

Linde Werdelin 3-Timer
Linde Werdelin 3-Timer

If a brand changes its strategy a bit — like, for example, the relatively new brand Linde Werdelin did over the last few years — you might be betting on some of the models that the brand started out with. Models such as the One, Two-Timer and 3-Timer watches can be very interesting to acquire, as they are now still relatively easy to find. Linde Werdelin is still growing quite a bit, doing an amazing job in a higher segment than the one in which it started. It might be the case that some people will go after those early models when the brand starts really taking off. This also goes for other brands that are in a similar flow, of course, i.e., brands that are still in their early days.

High-end watches from independent watchmakers like the very first stainless steel One Hertz from Dutch brand Grönefeld (patriotism alert here) might have also been a good investment, but the truth is that there are only a few people on Earth that play in this niche of expensive, high-end haute horlogerie brands. In case you did obtain one for its original price, be aware that your market will be quite small when you want to re-sell it.

It’s worth keeping an eye on some brands that go through interesting phases, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be one of these smaller, independent brands I just mentioned. What to think of Zenith, for example? Will the brand grow further and reach new heights? if so, it might be very interesting to take a look at some of the models in its current lineup that are collectible yet might not fit into the direction the company might be heading.

I didn’t say it would be easy.

Zenith Chronomaster
Zenith Chronomaster

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59 Responses to “Which Watch Brands Are Most Likely to Increase in Value?”

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  1. David Crawford

    Vintage basic models at the time of production .Like the Rolex precision over size 6424 look good even to day due to the case size 35 mm and can still be bought reasonably 1500/2000 U S dollars. They were only 5% of production so look hard for a good one .Best wishes David

    Reply
  2. Slcharles

    Interesting article. Why have you not written about softness in the pre-owned watch market for the last several years?

    Reply
  3. Tony R

    Oh how I’d like to own a special mechanical watch. Yes I’d want it to hold its value but I’m not watch collector doing it for the money.The watch I’m after is one that still looks the parts when I’m an old man in a nursing home. Can’t see myself with a large 45 plus sports watch yet classic dress watches won’t look the part either.

    Reply
  4. Mitch Farr

    I have purchased many watches over a 30 year period and have seen certain brands will hold and as well invrease in value but again it depends on demand. You wont know if a newer model will hold value until at least ten years have passed. Like coins a watch must stay mint if you really want it to be worth its highest. Most all of my PP have gone up in value but i dont wear them. The freak collectors out there never wear their watches just like they dont drive their prize Ferraris. If you want to make money on cars buy a Ferrari or a Porsche but dont drive them, if you want to make money on watches buy PP and Remember lex but dont wear them.

    Reply
  5. Patrick Downs

    I bought a Rolex GMT-Master in Germany in 1984 for $600 and sold it in 2000 for $1100 (why, oh why did I sell it?) Now I can’t afford to replace it! I might have made more money putting that $600 in the stock market (especially MSFT or AAPL) than a watch, but oh well. I loved my Rolex, and now wear a Timex. I’m an ‘ex.

    Reply
  6. Bobbi

    I have a Gucci watch purchased in 1991….pristine condition….wondering if they increase in value.

    Reply
  7. Sgt_Bilko

    I have been collecting vintage watches for a few years now and acquired around 40 pieces including IWC, Rolex, Omega, Universal Geneve, Bulova, Heuer, Longines, Garrard, Zenith and Eterna.

    Over this period the clear winner in terms of price increases has been Omega. I would argue they were generally undervalued and some have trebled in value over the last 5 years. I don’t own a modern watch.

    Reply
  8. James Malenfant

    What an interesting article, however, a watches value over time depends on a lot of factors, not just a brand name, and that is what Patek Phillipe, and Rolex, are, brand names. It also depends on what you are going to use that watch for. If you are buying watches to make money, then don’t bother. There are a lot of other investments that will pay more over time. Are you really going to take that $5,000 watch to skin dive? No, you are not. The value is in wearing the watch, and I think you should have at least a half of a dozen to choose from in your watch wardrobe, if not more. I wear my watches, and they are not for sale. I worked in a pawn shop in college, and learned not to buy used watches. I want new, and even my least expensive watch has all the boxes and tags, and manuals. So important, especially if you are reselling the watch.

    I like Bulova watches for many reasons. They are inexpensive when compared to Rolex. Bulova has a watch history unmatched in the horology world, and for style and function, I have found few that match Bulova. (I am currently eyeballing a Precisionist, that I am buying. It is $800 retail, and I will find it on Ebay for about $450) I like the price points because I am able to have a complete collection of Bulova watches. They are as American as apple pie and baseball. I don’t want to look like a European. I want to look like I am an American. LOL.

    As far as value increasing over time, My Spaceview was made in 1961, it is one of the originals, and is 14K. I have the box, and papers, and the tags. It was $135 in 1961, and was on sale for $99.99! I paid $1,300 on Ebay, and have been told that a retail price is over $3,000. Since it is not for sale, yay! But you might find one cheaper. That is quite a return over 50 years. LOL.

    I like quartz watches. I see no need for the pretense of winding and taking care of a mechanical watch. My beef with Rolex, and Omega, is that they all seem to look the same, and they are like cars, they lose value the minute you drive them off the lot. I wouldn’t turn my nose up on an Omega Presidential however, but I digress. Why bother with all of that when a tiny battery runs the entire watch? Quartz watches are just better, and it begs the question of how interesting Rolex would be today had they continued their research with Quartz watches?

    I love reading about the ultra expensive watches, but do these people really wear them? Unless you are a Russian oligarch, or a prince of Monaco, I would say no.

    Thank you for all your stories, I might order your magazine.

    Have a great day!

    Reply
    • That’s great you enjoy collecting Bulova. However, I think you have made the mistake of believing what holds value for you is somehow superior to other choices. Patek Philippe & Rolex are far more than just brand names. They, and other prestigious watch companies, have long histories and important legacies. And I’m no expert, but I don’t think Bulova “has a watch history unmatched in the horology world.” Fortunately, we don’t wear watches merely for their accuracy. Your contention that “quartz watches are just better,” to me means, quartz watches are better for you. Others, like me, appreciate mechanical watches – the history, the engineering, the design, the quality and the craftsmanship. I wasn’t aware that Rolex and Omega all “look the same.” Look again. And there is no “pretense” in winding and taking care of a mechanical watch. Collectors enjoy handling their watches, marveling at their beauty & setting the time. A fine mechanical watch can be handed down to future generations. Let’s see how long the finest quartz watch lasts? It’s a throw away proposition. When the quartz movement goes bad, they usually throw it out and put a new one in, as long as they have something that will still work. I do have a few quartz watches & I like them, but I think you are confusing “best” with “price point.” The article was about what watch brands will increase in value. The answer is overwhelmingly and almost exclusively, mechanical watches.

      Reply
  9. Sylvio F. Bertoli

    The Zeniths have an impeccable reputation for their movements and any watch aficionado know they supplied for years the movements for the iconic Rolex Daytonas. Let us hope that Jean-Claude Biver , recently appointed CEO , may put the brand back in the right track by hiring the right designers to revive the brand’s glory. Let us hope that when and if it happens the watch will not fall in the same trap as Hublot, which has totally lost its charm after Biver left and these days is mostly producing monstrosities. Betting on the future of Zenith under Biver’s guidanve I bought a Zenith El Primero Heritage Automatic Cronometro Tipo CP 2 ,which I hope will increase in value at the same time that it will give me a lot of joy wearing it.

    Reply
  10. The iconic Royal Oak can and does hold its own against ANY of these other pieces. In fact, I’d say the PP Aquanaut wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the Royal Oak. I’ve also seen the Jules Audemars models going for more pre owned than what I paid new just a couple of years ago.

    Reply
  11. Interesting article although a little confusing. At the end of the day if you are going to buy a watch, particularly a Swiss Made watch, unless you have money to spare, it better be one that you like and are buying it at a good price while new. There are several brands that have come out recently which are both very good looking and at a very fair price. Not only are they Swiss Made but their specs and workmanship are second to none and yet they can be acquired at a very reasonable price. I have recently purchased two Carl JHones watches, one the Respire Blue and a very dressy Torque Rose Gold. Are they going to double in price in the next 10 years, I doubt it, yet I will be enjoying wearing them on a frequent basis knowing that I got a great deal from the get go.

    Reply
  12. I am a watchlover

    Funny, a handmade Patek? I wonder where they are made and if those who claim they are handmade have ever been to the factory? I have been there. I have been to dozens of watchmanufacturers. I have seen watches that are handmade, but not at any of the big brands.

    Talking value and increase of value of certain brands is useless. In the best case, there will be a certain model that may increase in value, but never all watches from a brand. Even most Rolexes do not increase much in value after you bought them. Let alone any of the other brands. There are a lot of strange misconceptions by “speculators” that watches are not luxury items any more but a piece of investment or even more so a piece of speculation. While it works on some vintage timepieces and sometimes even on one modern piece like a Daytona, at least for a short time, watches really are not a good investment. They are an adornment for the man, a beautiful piece of machinery to wear and to behold. Enjoy wearing a beautiful mechanical timepiece. It should not be something to brag about or to invest in. Unless you possess serious knowledge. The watchmarket is not the stockmarket which is a professional market. The watchmarket is a completely unprofessional market, run by corrupt and greedy people, influenced by a lot of criminals selling fake watches for real prices. It is the worst jungle, a sea of sharks is actually friendlier.

    Reply
    • James Malenfant

      I have purchased over 50 watches on Ebay, and have never had a problem. Know your seller. Have a great day!

      Reply
  13. Tor Henneberg

    Putting money into watches as an investment – crazy! If you have any watches now, sell, sell, sell!

    Reply
    • James Malenfant

      You don’t sell your watches. You wear them, and are buried in them. Why sell?

      Reply
      • olddavidp

        I agree. My Father bought a Patek with his first bonus check from GM in 1938. His wealthy co-worker, Pete Estes, was given one by his father and that impressed my young Dad. I still have that watch. I also have Tudor, Rolex, Tissot, Cartier and a very old Mathey-Tissot. Well cared for and prized as family heirlooms, these will be on my great-grandchildren’s wrists. Buy stock if you’re trying to gain, not with watch speculation.

        Reply
  14. I speak 7 languages. So what? Does this mean anything on the marketplace of wrist watches?

    Reply
  15. Jim Crue

    IWC is way way overpriced. Easy to get a big discount and while I don’t know much that is for sure I’m sure IWC will not appreciate. They are much more prestigious in Europe than the USA. My Swiss trained and incredibly talent watch maker friend tells me Pateks movements are not special at all but give credit to the Stern family for continuing to fool everyone

    Reply
  16. George Joannou

    High end brands like Rolex and Patek have great movements and everything about them is first rate. Buy these watches and enjoy wearing them , after all they are meant to be worn not bubble wrapped and stored away. The bonus of course is that they will hold their value well and in some cases even appreciate in value.

    Reply
  17. Patrice Maniquet

    I intend to buy a watch next year, for my 60th birthday. For the moment, I’m attracted by German watches : Lange 1815 up/down, Glashütte original Panomatic lunar or the much less known Moritz Grossmann Atum or Tefnut. On the Swiss side : Vacheron traditional small second, Breguet tradition 7057 (or 7097 that I can get with a nice 15% rebate) or Chopard LUC (Quattro or XPS). What would be your pick ? Security with Lange ? Risk with Grosmann ?

    Reply
  18. Richard Cohen

    I have 2 Pateks and 1 rolex daytona. The Pateks are beautiful and the inner detail to the mechanism make it gorgeous to look at inside. However i do not wear the Pateks that much as they are a little delicate for everyday wear, meaning they cost more and lose value dramatically with scratches etc, so i look after them.The Rolex daytona on the other hand is something which can be worn daily and is robust and hard wearing in the stainless steel variant and recognised by everyone from kids to seniors, watch specialists, prawn brokers, basically everyone, only the true watch enthusiast would know about Patek and the other super higher level brands, so come a rainy day, your broke, the stainless daytona will be lent against or sold with ease with very little loss of value, they hold very well. My freind brought a daytona SS brand new from bond street, london at full price at £7950 and wore it everyday since july 2015 and sold it on ebay last month at £7450, you show me a watch brand that holds it value like that. Had you had a Patek on the other hand, you would of lost allot more. Pateks are to me beautiful understated beautiful timepieces but rolex daytona ss is the one you want to buy if you get bored easily and may want to sell after a few years, but it must be a ss. I love both brands, the daytona ss is always a good starter watch for the watch collector as the price is always stable and depreciation proof , my experience only.

    Reply
  19. Robert C.

    I do find that the article by Robert-Jan Broer is very interesting and does remind me that luxury watches should be viewed as a result of long and short term business decisions rather than just expensive time keeping mechanisms.

    Reply
  20. Robert C.

    I know the price for luxury watches ( or anything else ) will increase over time provided sufficient disposable income is available.
    .
    I purchased a Speedmaster in 1985 for the 2015 price of an iPhone 6 Plus; current price online for a refurbished Speedmaster similar to my watch is roughly $3k to $4k USD.
    .
    OTOH, if I were to replace the watch by purchasing a new Speedmaster- retail minimum seems to start at $ 6,200.00.
    .
    I do not expect the re-sale price of a luxury watch to increase unless the economy is stable and able to sustain a sufficient number of high paying jobs into the next generation and beyond.

    Reply
  21. Eddie Zilli

    I own Pateks and I own Rolexes. How do you compeer a Rolex to a Patek??? You lost my respect.
    As I said I own them both.
    Eddie

    Reply
    • Eddie, what a terrible comment. Did you just say “compeer”? You just lost my respect.

      Reply
    • alexandru ioancio

      i do not have neither Rolex or Patek but i speak 4 languages. My first target is a rolex. Please sharpen” your grammar and spelling!

      Reply
      • “I have neither” or “I do not have either” Please sharpen your grammar and spelling. You just lost my respect!!

        Reply
    • Eddie is right. You can not compared handcrafted Patek to a mass production of Rolex. Comparison can be made for overpriced Rolex to Balls in mass production. For handcrafted comparison, chose Patek vs A Lange vs Breguet vs Vacheron Constantine. Articles talked about increased in watches resell value. But not all Rolex are increased in value. Only Rolex specific sport models like Daytona, Submariner, and GMT-2 were increased in value. The rest of Rolex lines are losing money if selling in 3 years or less. Yes, I collected all kinds.

      Reply
    • James Malenfant

      I will compare my Bulova Accutron to your Rolex any day. Have a great day!

      Reply
      • American as apple pie? Did the Americans sell the apple pie recipe to the Japanese? Bulova is owned by Citizen.

        Reply
  22. What do you guys think about this Christiaan Van Der klaau watch ??? Listed for a ton (28-30 grand ) and I found it for 11 In a local store. Take a look at a pic of this model

    Reply
  23. Rich Tyson

    Great article. I was discussing last night with my wife the wonder if the Tudor Pelagos with the ETA movement will be worth something in the next 15-20 years as they have moved over to the inhouse movement. Will I be kicking myself for not purchasing a few and tossing them into the safe?

    Reply
    • Baggio's Chip

      Surely the in-house ones will be worth more as they will be unique to Tudor versus those with movements that can be found in many brand’s watches?

      Reply
  24. Oscar Vallarta

    We have seen it happen before. A historic yet quiet brand with selection of exciting vintage watches suddenly releases expensive updates of its former versions. This new activity stimulates interest in the brand’s early examples and the prices for these jump significantly. This happened with JLC, Omega, and others. Now keep an eye on GALLET as they are back in production of their famous Flight Officer time zone chronograph.

    Reply
  25. Steve Lee

    Corum is one of my favorite brands. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see price increases for the Golden Bridge and Bubble-top watches that I’ve invested in over the past 10 years.

    Reply
  26. i think the original Omega Planet Ocean with the 2500 movement has the potential to increase in value over the next 10 years.

    Reply
    • MrTissot

      I agree. It is already a classic! Already going for more than what I paid brand new!!

      Reply
  27. Jonathon Berke

    20 years from now people will be kicking themselves that they didn’t purchase Montblanc’s first in-house movement i.e. the MBR 100 & 200 – Rieussec.

    Reply
      • AC,

        I couldn’t agree with you more! Buy what you want because YOU want it!

        If it increases in value over the years, GREAT!

        If it doesn’t, so what? You’ve derived pleasure from owning/wearing it over the years!

        I wear a Patek 5054 day-in, day-out and have never had any issues with it. It certainly isn’t a “delicate” watch. But then, I don’t run around and smack it into brick walls either!

        Cheers,
        H.

        Reply
  28. Rudolf de Bruin

    Robert,
    Thanks for an excellent article. Like you said: there is in most cases no short and clear answer to this subject! As a small collector,i often find myself in a position that a model that you buy with your heart and will often wear regularly is not necessary a “good investment”,but brings a lot of joy!
    I do take notice of the market trend but it is not easy to “marry” your heart and good common sense when buying a watch. That’s why we call it our passion!
    Regards,
    Rudolf de Bruin

    Reply
  29. I think ALS holds their value pretty well and should be included on the list. Been considering a Lange 1 or Saxonia and even pre-owned it’s hard to find one under $18k.

    Reply
  30. Sang Fung

    What about a list of the top 10 brands that might keep their value? And ranking? Can you rank the top 10 brands in the world right now? Sang Fung

    Reply
    • Thanks for the update on watch values. Do you think that since Rolex spends a significant amount on marketing and advertising, this tends to drive up value in and of itself (artficially) ! Also how about other high quality brands like Vacheron, Breguet and Lange ! These may not have the visibility of some of the others , but are certainly of high quality !

      Reply
      • You can include Ulysse Nardin to this line up !!
        Have a careful look at the brand and you’ll see what I mean.

        Reply
      • Rolex is a mass production watch company, just like Timex, Tag or Balls. As, more and more people are serious in collecting handcrafted timepieces, they will have interested in company like Patek, Vacheron, Breguet, A Lange, Arnold’s and Son, Greubel Forsey, FP Journey, Louis Moinet, Audemars Piguet, or even Glashutte Original. To me Rolex is a simple over price mass production watch. accuracy is not there by comparison to ETA movements.

        Reply
  31. Dean L Bump

    Time, of course, will tell, but I think JLC is a brand to keep an eye on. In my experience, you need to wait about 10 years to see a return on the brands you listed after PP & Rolex.
    -Dean

    Reply
    • MrTissot

      Very true. If you are in for the short term you are going to get burnt almost every time but this can also depend on when you sell and how much you paid in the first place.

      Reply
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