This is our first post in hopefully a weekly series on topics that relate to what we do and the things we sell. I’m passionate about what I do, so these posts might get a little deeper than the average person might like, but please know that I just see myself as a guy that takes what one person thinks is junk and tries to get it to someone whom it brings joy. However, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau (which I’ll do often), I quit my engineering job I was dispassionate about and opened this store because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that that I had not lived. With that said, our first topic is about value.
What is an item worth? When someone asks that, there’s an implied “market” value being sought. What can they get for it or what level of care or security is appropriate for the item? The most common answer is, “Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.” I’ve heard it and seen it commented on message boards a thousand times, but it’s just indubitably wrong. The market value of that 2 cents is zero cents. Does that advice really help anyone? One foolish person does not create a market value.
Our target market will never be ignorant people who impulsively overpay for things. Our customers are smart and informed. Most purchases over $20 at our store are predicated by the customer pulling up the item on their phone and ensuring what we’re asking is at or below the market price. However, the value of antique or collectible items can change very rapidly (high price elasticity). Numerous times this last year several people have came in asking for the same unusual item in a week, such as a wagon wheel, and I would discover upon inquiry that the item was on a weekend episode of American Pickers or one of the many Fixer Upper type shows. 1980’s G.I. Joe market values for example recently doubled after the airing of the Netflix documentary The Toys that Made Us. Additionally, sales data can get very complicated on rare items whose values are extremely condition dependent. Past sales data is not always a foolproof way of determining value.
Have we come full circle to whatever someone will pay for it? If you pay me $27,500 for a mechanical monkey, and there’s 29 available on eBay for $20, was it ever worth $27,500? No. It certainly isn’t after you buy it. Therefore, we propose this, an item is worth whatever TWO people are willing to pay for it. We again refer to Thoreau, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” So, even though it’s just stuff and it’s just money, it matters what you pay for it, it matters what you get for it. We try really hard to make sure that when we sell you something, you could, with the same energy it took for us to sell it, get back what you gave for it somewhere else. Isn’t that the way it should always be?