The Value Memory

Think of a yard sale. People on the spot early enough to wake the birds, human hands worming their way through the excess “junk” to find those priceless vintage pieces they know they can, possibly, sell on ebay for a hefty sum. Yard sales can tell you a lot about the collective human psyche. It can be in the varying demographics of the shoppers or the price-haggling and clingy value assurance of the sellers, who, sometimes reluctantly,  cast off things that once meant something to them which, when unearthed from the cobwebs and laid out on tables for the review of shoppers, still elicits sentimental desire in their owners.

Living in the rurals of central Virginia, I, along with about a dozen other families, participated as a seller at a community yard sale. It’s a great way to put out something that people will actually come to, as most country folk live too far out with too few neighbors to make any kind of dent in their collection of once treasured items. The day was hot and humid and people were sweating as bad as their cold glasses of soda. But sitting and people watching from 6am to 2pm gave me more than just a killer sexy tan. It allowed me the time and opportunity to really observe humans in action, in a venue which is, in our modern culture of “buy-and-trash”, quickly fading to a back-shelved mode of public trade. It’s a fast paced philosophy here in America, so I won’t bog down this 5-minute-flash-read blog post with extraneous, albeit relevant “thought and theories”. The topic I want to discuss, breifly, here, nipped my heel  while I was pricing our items and bartering with shoppers.

Product Value Retention

Man, this could go in so many directions. I can think of a couple Masters theses right now. Okay, we see values go up and down across the board; you buy a computer, a car, an article of clothing and the price depricates simply because it’s now been purchased. And that leads us to another one:

Ownership Value

Once purchased an item develops value for the buyer for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there is a lot of stress, searching, and saving up time involved in a purchase, or the item developed a sentimental value for the owner (think baby items, clothes, cars, houses, pictues etc.). Whatever it is, product values often deprecate upon purchase from a buyer’s perspective,  while owner value of a product goes up.  See the fun little dichotomy?

So that is the beauty of this whole little “heel bite” I had. You see yardsales amplify this dichotomy to pulsating reality. I could visually see my mother tremble as she tried to maintain a relative value for her wares. My own value ratios even fluctuated depending on the buyer. If a child wanted to purchase some of my glass figurines (all collected while I was a child myself and often at Flea Markets and other second hand events) the value of the figurines would diminish while value in the shopper’s satisfaction went up. Reversely, if the buyer was an adult, product value sentimentality flipped.

Another, more concrete, form of value deterioration vs. retention was on actual product genres. For example why do electronics depricate at a slower rate then clothing or books? I could whip out a couple answers right now, but that’s a book in itself. All I know is that I sold a 10 year old $130 stereo for $20 and my $150 Jeffrey Campbell boots  from 3 years ago didn’t even get a look at $5.  And that makes me want to write a whole lecture on trend-buying, the fast and frugal illusion, and quality extinction in fashion. Ignorant consumers. It’s weirdly connected: it’s a yard sale mentality in a mass marketplace. Ignorance of value on so many levels. Of course, until it goes vintage…;)


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