When gift-giving means so very much


Hard up for holiday gift ideas?

How about his and hers vintage (circa 1939-42) Harley-Davidson motorcycles, complete with sidecars? Or, if cocooning is more your style, how about a Sioux-style tepee that sleeps six adults?

Both items -- a three-wheeler will set you back a minimum of $28,000, the tepee is $2,200 -- are in the 1992 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, which starting this week will be dropping into more than 2.5 million mailboxes across the country.

Much of the cachet of this catalog, which has been issued annually since 1939, is owed to its "his and hers" gifts, a tradition that started in 1960 with his and hers airplanes. Since then, the his-hers items have included windmills, mummy cases, camels, submarines and last year's LTV Hummers, civilian versions of the Operation Desert Storm vehicles.

This year's catalog of catalogs upholds Neiman Marcus' reputation for catering to conspicuous consumption. The two most expensive items -- at $100,000 each -- are a one-of-a-kind Russian sable coat and a miniature electric train featuring a 2 3/8 -inch engine encrusted with 190 diamonds pulling four 1 1/4 -inch 18-karat gold wagons. The wagons carry rubies, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires. There's also 41 feet of track.

While there is plenty of excess in its 138 pages, not everything requires a second mortgage. Among the more economical items are a clear glass platter depicting St. Nicholas, $10; a box of eight un-lacquered No. 2 pencils bearing the Neiman Marcus logo, $8.50; a box of chocolates wrapped to look like chili peppers, $10; and a black and white pony-print oven mitt -- at $5.50, the lowest-priced item in the book.

Other goodies to wish for include:

* Cowboy boots for everyone in the family. For infants, there's red boot appliqued with Santa and his reindeer and "1992" for $195. Mom's version are pale blue with red and black trim and colorful green, red and yellow cactus appliques for $560. Dad can wear his boots on his back; the catalog offers a denim jacket appliqued with a real boot, split in half, for $415.

* A glass goblet gilded in 22-karat gold with the original patterused by the Medici family, $40 each.

* Silver and 24-karat gold-plate salt and pepper shakers in thshape of Russia's onion domes, $85.

* A backyard, crank-driven railroad for children; $900 for the traicar and $28 for each 9-foot section of track.

* A hand-crafted Adirondack-style gazebo made of red cedatree trunks and branches with seating for eight, $5,000.

* A leather-laced gold chain collar for Fido, $65. Add-on charmare $20 each.

If that's not enough to get you in the holiday shopping mood, remember: Counting today, there are just 100 shopping days left until Christmas. Orders for the Harleys take a minimum of 90 days while the tepee takes eight weeks.

Other packages will arrive sooner than ever, because the catalog's release coincides with Neiman Marcus' move to use Federal Express delivery service without additional charge to customers.

The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book costs $6.50 and can be ordered by calling (800) 825-8000. The catalog is sent automatically to customers who have made minimum credit card purchases in the last three years.

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