US retailer Neiman Marcus is famous for its annual list of extravagant Christmas gift suggestions - and this year is no exception.

First published in 1926 as a 16-page Christmas card to the retailer's best customers, the company's Christmas Book this year runs to 160 pages and features hundreds of holiday gift ideas - from Prada handbags to novelty salt and pepper shakers.

However it's the catalogue's selection of fantasy gifts - a handful of extravagant and expensive present ideas - for which the Christmas Book has become especially famous.

From preserved and mounted African Flower Beetles to customised cupcake cars that look like they've driven straight out of the pages of Alice in Wonderland, this year's fantasy gift ideas are an inspiration - as long as money's no object.

For US$250,000 (NZ$341,000), you could purchase a sports aircraft plus flight training for two, while a 1.5m-long sustainably-designed chandelier made from recycled plastic drink bottles will set you back US$12,000.

"Our annual tradition of fantasy gifts allows our devoted customers to give a gift or gift experience that will create wonderful memories to last both the giver and recipients a lifetime," said Gerald Barnes, President and CEO of Neiman Marcus Direct.

"This year's array of gifts has raised the bar to new heights, featuring items at the highest levels of quality and technology."

Neiman Marcus' Fantasy Gifts for 2009:
Creepy crawly yuletide: If you have a budding entomologist in the family, why not treat them to one of Maine artist Mike Libby's carefully preserved, non-endangered insect specimens from around the world. After preparing and posing the insect, Libby adorns it with a unique mix of mechanical bits and pieces. This year's limited-edition artworks feature the African Flower Beetle - Cetonidae: Goliathus Goliathus, mounted on a walnut display case under a glass dome. A bargain at US$8,500 each, but there are only nine available, so you'd better get in quick.

A dram for the Master Distiller: For the true whisky aficionado, what could be better than spending a day as a VIP at the Maker's Mark distillery in Kentucky? The gift package includes participation for two people in the whisky-making process, hosted by Master Distiller Kevin Smith. Two golden bottles will be etched with the recipient's likeness and dipped in gold wax with 24 carat gold flecks and they also get to hand-dip six of their own 375ml Maker's Mark bottles in signature red wax and take them home. Luxury accommodation and a gourmet dinner hosted by Bill Samuels, Jr - the top dog at Maker's Mark - is also included. The entire package can be yours for US$7,500.

Supercharged giving: There are only 50 of the special edition Neiman Marcus 2010 Jaguar XJLs in existence, so buying one for the car fanatic in your circle of friends will ensure plenty of brownie points. Cast from aluminium and magnesium and featuring a five-litre V8 engine, it's strong but also light and fuel efficient. Other features include a panoramic safety-glass roof and an Eaton supercharger that delivers 470 horsepower. It also comes with a five-piece set of matching Jaguar luggage in navy blue leather. Total cost: US$105,000.

Come fly with me: This year's exclusive His & Hers gift package is an Icon A5 sports aircraft plus flight training for two. These planes can run on automotive gasoline or aviation fuel and are fully FAA approved. They have amphibious hulls to accommodate water landings as well as the added bonus of removable side windows - in case the urge to dangle your arms out of the plane grips you while in mid-flight. Included in the package is a high-tech trailer for your plane and sport pilot licence training for two. If you and your beloved want to take off this Christmas it'll cost though - US$250,000.

On yer bike: The Mission One, the world's fastest electric sport bike, debuted this year to rave reviews. Neiman Marcus has 10 of the Yves Behar-designed bikes available, each with numbered NM plaques, exclusive wheels, and a special paint job. For US$73,000, recipients will also travel to San Francisco to pick up their new toy, where they'll receive one-on-one training with a pro on a test track, learning the nuances of handling for optimal performance.

Food, art and wine: For US$20,000 you and a guest can learn organic, artisan winemaking firsthand at Kathryn and Craig Hall's vineyard in Rutherford, California. HALL Winemaker Steve Leveque will guide you in creating your own personal vintage, which will be bottled and delivered to you after being aged in French oak barrels. Kathryn will lead a personal tour of the Halls' world-class contemporary art collection as well as a private gourmet dinner and wine event. Luxury accommodation and customised activities are also included.

If you can't stretch to $20,000 you might choose instead an exclusive selection of handcrafted cabernet sauvignons from the Halls' personal collection. These wines - not available to the general public - can be yours for just US$3,500.

A meeting of minds: Sick of your dinner table conversations? Splash out on Neiman Marcus' Round Table experience and you will find yourself dining with the brightest minds of modern literature, journalism, and the arts at New York's legendary Algonquin Hotel. The dinner, to be scheduled at your convenience on a Monday between February and June 2010, will be attended a selection of the following people: Christopher Buckley, Roz Chast, Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Malcolm Gladwell, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Adam Gopnik, John Lithgow, Anna Deavere Smith, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth. The dinner guests will even donate their time so the US$200,000 price tag can go straight to First Book, Neiman Marcus' 2009 Christmas Book Charity. You can bring a friend along as well, just in case the conversation get a bit too high-brow.

Recycled bling: British artist Michelle Brand's Cascade Lancashire Chandelier is a 1.5m-long waterfall of light that would complement anyone's mansion ... even though it's made entirely of recycled plastic drink bottles. Each bottle was carefully washed, dried, hand trimmed, and hand sanded, creating the impression of hundreds of tiny white flowers. This piece of sustainable design will set you back US$12,000.

Motoring madness: When a normal vehicle just won't cut it, why not invest in a customised cupcake car by US artist Lisa Pongrace. Launched at the Burning Man festival, this cute-as-a-button ride has a top speed of - wait for it - 11.3kmh. With its 24-volt electric motor, heavy-duty battery, sheet metal, wire and fabric exterior it's probably not road worthy... but the kids'll enjoy racing it around the lawn on Christmas morning. Hours of fun for the whole family for just US$25,000.

See this year's fantasy gifts in action