What stuff is really worth

This is a test of age as much as anything, but I’m curious as to what y’all think stuff is actually worth.

I got to thinking about this looking at the receipt pictured back on this post, which showed that a diet Pepsi I bought for my daughter cost me $1.39. But that wasn’t the outrageous part. The outrageous part was that a bottle of water — and we’re talking tap water here, folks, not mineral water or holy water or something that the bottler claims was gleaned from an Icelandic glacier — cost the same amount.

Set aside the fact that we’re poisoning ourselves drinking from plastic. My beef is with the price. And my sense of injustice flows from an internal meter I have that says things are worth a certain amount, and no more. I arrived at most of these prices as a kid, when buying a PopSicle and a Mad magazine required a couple of hot summer hours spent combing the weeds along the side of the road looking for pop bottles, which back then were worth money when you returned them to the store (AND better for the planet).

However long I live, in my mind, every penny I spend on such items above these prices is a penny I’ve been cheated out of. For that and other reasons, I seldom buy these items any more. Here is a partial list, just to get the discussion started:

  • Soft drink — 10 cents. That’s 10 wheat pennies, or a dime if you get it from a machine. This is in 12 oz., returnable bottles, so you get two or three cents of that back. Preferably a real Co-Cola of the kind they don’t make in this country any more (did they really think they’d fool us with that "New Coke" scam, followed by the "return" of "Coca-Cola Classic" in which corn syrup substituted for cane sugar? we know only the Cokes from Mexico taste right any more) or a Nehi grape. Or maybe a Teem, or an Upper 10.
  • Comic book — 12 cents. Mind you, that’s the inflated price, from a dime. I am not opposed to theSgtrock_2
    folks at DC Comics making a couple of pennies, and even though I thought the two-cent increase a great injustice at the time, I made the adjustment at a young age, and now accept the higher price. Of course, the "specials" — the ones with "imaginary" stories in which Perry White gets super powers, or an all-red kryptonite edition or some such, which had the content of about three regular comics — were well worth a quarter. Mad magazine was also worth a quarter. Anyway, this price consciousness has prevented me over the years from buying my son who still collects comics as many as a good Dad probably should on special occasions.
  • A computer — gazillions of dollars, especially if it had the computing power of the one the Man of Steel kept at the Fortress of Solitude, which had a voice recognition program and could tell you anything about anything. As for real-life computers, only a big gummint agency like NASA could afford one, and then only if it was a supreme national priority to go to the moon or something. So this is one area where we’ve come out ahead, even if we don’t get to go to the moon any more.
  • Water — free. Oh, sure, Mamanem might have paid a monthly bill or something, but what concern was that of mine? Even when I lived in South America, and we never drank straight from a tap, and every drop we drank had to be boiled and put into a gin bottle first (the bottles were hand-me-downs from the guy my Dad replaced; I don’t know what they cost originally), I don’t remember having shelled out any of my money for it. I did spend money there on Cokes, which in Ecuador at the time cost 40 centavos, which was the equivalent of two cents back in the day when a sucre was worth a nickel. (Which is way back before the sucre went all Zimbabwe and the country switched to the U.S. dollar.)

You get the idea. And as for you wise guys who are going to tell me that a newspaper’s never been worth more than a nickel, I beg to differ. My sense of what a newspaper is worth formed as an adult, and as an adult I’ve always been aware that the person who buys the paper is paying a small percentage of what it cost to produce it. I will say, though, that 5 bucks for a Sunday New York Times is too much, even if they put gold, or even Mexican Coca-Cola, in the ink.

11 thoughts on “What stuff is really worth

  1. Lee Muller

    Value is subjective, so goods and services have different values to different people. No one has the ability to tell someone else what the value of something should be to them. That is why government is unable to set proper prices and allocate resources, so collectivism fails.
    The other cause of failure is when government makes the cost appear to be cheaper by subsidizing the purchases for selected people, encouraging wasteful consumption. Examples abound: ethanol, Medicaid, public housing, Food Stamps, Amtrak…
    The best a third party can do is explain the monetary costs and benefits of a particular purchase. Whether those benefits are worth the costs to any individual buyer is something only the buy can determine.

  2. Susanna K.

    As far as I’m concerned, a can of soda from a vending machine should cost 50 cents. Nowadays, you have to carry more than a dollar if you want to get soda from the machines around the USC campus.

  3. slugger

    I heard on the radio yesterday the same subject you have brought up. That is “what is my stuff worth”. It seems that there was a man in Australia that was getting a divorce and he decided to sell all his stuff and get out of there. He put it up for what he thought he could get which was $l million. He wound up selling it all for $300,000. Does that answer your question? Your junk my be somebody’s treasure or just your junk.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Just before posting this, I asked Superman’s computer at the Fortress of Solitude what sort of response I would get from readers, and it told me, “Lee Muller will as usual be the first to comment, and he will give some sort of humorless answer that sounds like it was copied from a libertarian tract, or a 9th-grade civics textbook, thereby doing his very best to kill all the fun of asking a question like this one.”
    But I didn’t tell you I had that information, because then you would ask, “How does this mere, mild-mannered scribe from our local metropolitan daily newspaper have access to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude? And even if he knew where it was, nobody but Superman or another Kryptonian is strong enough to lift the key…” and that would lead to all sorts of speculation by Lois and Jimmy, and I just don’t need that.

  5. Lee Muller

    IOW, Brad still doesn’t understand that value is subjective, and why his statist notions of government control will always fail to solve the alleged problems.

  6. Lee Muller

    Another Brad Warthen hypocrisy – he loves Starbucks at $2.00 a cup, but thinks bottled water is stupid at any price.

  7. bud

    I read a report somewhere that a penny now costs $0.02 to mint. So a penny is really more valuable if it goes unmade. So why do we continue to make them? It seems like we could save the treasury a bundle of money by simply stopping the minting of the penny and require merchants to round up or down to the nearest nickel. Many merchants do this anyway. In a few years we could make it the nearest dime and eliminate the minting of nickels. Hey, a penny here a penny there and before you know it we have some real money saved.

  8. Lee Muller

    Or we could downsize government, stop borrowing to finance deficit spending on pork, the dollar would gain value, instead of being constantly devalued.

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