Collecting: An extreme example from "philately"



#8

One of the paradoxes of collecting is that certain items are very valuable owing to rarity deriving from a scarce original supply. This scarcity is sometimes due to the item's being undesirable in its day, or just plain defective.

The highest price I paid for any single calculator in my collection is the US$225 for an HP-10C in great condition with manual. I have criticized the poorly-conceived functionality of this model several times in this Forum. The market of the 1980's apparently felt the same way: The HP-10C was made for only two years (1982-84), while all four other Voyager-series models were made at least until 1989, when the series was replaced by the Pioneer-series models.

Examples of HP calculators that are valuable due to flaws are the original HP-35 with math bug, and the earliest HP-41C's.

But these are hardly extreme examples. In 1918, four sheets of a two-color 24-cent US Airmail stamp featuring a Curtiss Jenny biplane were fed through the press backwards for application of the second color. The error was caught; three sheets were destroyed, while one sheet found its way to the public. This misprinted "Inverted Jenny" stamp is perhaps the most valuable US stamp, and philatelists (stamp collectors) have been trying for years to gather up as many as possible. An uncancelled one may fetch US$200,000 at auction.

One of these stamps may have been used as postage for a mail-in Florida ballot in the recent elections. By law, however, the ballot will remain locked in a box for a while.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/11/rare.stamp.ap/index.html

Consider it: A fifth of a million dollars for a bit of paper whose defining characterisitc was a simple printing error! (The mistake was one like anyone would make when preparing a two-sided printout on a printer that did not feature automatic duplexing.) It sure makes one wonder -- Who's got all this discretionary cash? Why is this item so coveted? And just what is the visceral appeal of owning something that few if any other people have?

-- KS


Edited: 12 Nov 2006, 3:13 a.m.


#9

What is the appeal of owning antique furniture, hand-made cars, over-priced 'executive' homes, old master's paintings, yachts, the 'trophy' wife, and of course, obsolete calculators? Taste and use are in the eye of the beholder / buyer. Probably the only common denominator is the owner has the money to own something unusual, and possessing it makes them feel special. Few of us, apparently, are exempt from this. Despite insane odds, just look at lottery sales, going through the roof. With each ticket sold goes a pipe dream of acquisition.


#10

Quote:
Despite insane odds, just look at lottery sales, going through the roof. With each ticket sold goes a pipe dream of acquisition.

Not all lottery tickets are bought in hopes of buying stuff; many are a "desperation tax", bought by people who see no realistic way of changing their miserable lives other than by a colossal financial windfall.

#11

Quote:
What is the appeal of owning antique furniture, hand-made cars, over-priced 'executive' homes, old master's paintings, yachts, the 'trophy' wife, and of course, obsolete calculators?

Well, each of these are substantial, with the "things" incorporating materials of value as well as skilled craftsmanship. All but the painting can be considered -- shall we say -- useful as well.

The flawed stamp, however, is fundamentally a small piece of paper whose claim to fame is only a production defect. Its lucrative value is based strictly on its desirability to a particular (and well-heeled) market, because of its rarity.

("Obsolete" calculators? Perish the thought! Well, okay, some of them are ...)


Quote:
Taste and use are in the eye of the beholder / buyer. Probably the only common denominator is the owner has the money to own something unusual, and possessing it makes them feel special. Few of us, apparently, are exempt from this.

No argument there, but I would hope that the owners obtain the items because they actually like them, not just because they are unique or very rare.

-- KS


#12

Quote:

"The flawed stamp, however, is fundamentally a small piece of paper whose claim to fame is only a production defect. Its lucrative value is based strictly on its desirability to a particular (and well-heeled) market, because of its rarity."

As a former stamp collector I remember that there were other stamps which were considered even more desireable than the inverted Air Mail stamp because they were even rarer. I think that rarity is a factor in most collecting, at least for some of the collectors; for example, in the calculator area some collectors place a high value on machines which had flaws which were later corrected -- that's sort of like collecting misprinted stamps.

Quote:

"Obsolete" calculators? Perish the thought! Well, okay, some of them are ..."

Actually, most of the older machines that we all cherish so much really are obsolete; for example, all machines which use LED are obsolete. Also, all machines which use NiCad battery packs with external chargers are obsolete. I collect them anyway but I don't use them for other than sentimental exercises. For one thing, they are all so damn slow!

#13

Quote:
Why is this item so coveted? And just what is the visceral appeal of owning something that few if any other people have?

-- KS



I think you hit the nail on head right there. Manifesting or possesing something unique appeals to human nature. Value is synonomous with rarity often for this reason. Of course, it's a kind of illusion: in reality, every object is unique in itself; but since that trait is shared with every other object, uniqueness becomes synonomous with sameness. When something can re-assert its uniqueness, it gains value.


#14

Hello,

It is also in human nature to own a piece of history that reminds us how things were, and in the process makes us a little different from the rest.

Our beloved calculators are a piece of history, after all.


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