By Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Does the average person own anything worth its weight in gold?

Short answer: If you have any gold jewelry, a $50 bill, or any working kidneys, then you own something worth its weight in gold.

Long answer: The cost of gold today (9/19/2015) is $1,138.93 per ounce, or $36.62 per gram [1]. So, does the average person own anything worth this much? The obvious, but unsatisfying answer, is gold. A normal person probably owns a ring or some other jewelry that’s made of gold, and hence worth its weight. Similarly, a dollar bill is almost exactly 1 gram, so a $50 bill is actually worth more than its weight in gold.

When I think about what valuable or expensive things the average person might own I realize that almost all of them are also quite big. The first example I checked was a Macbook Pro – $1699.00 for a 2 lb laptop [2]. It works out to only $53 per oz, or $1.87 per gram. That’s 30x less than the value of gold, or a little less than its weight in $2 bills. I could list a bunch of fancy cars and gadgets, but I think I’ve made my point – the only way a car or computer would be worth its weight in gold is if it was literally made of gold. Maybe a Rolex is in striking distance, but we’re interested in things the average person owns, so it needs to be both valuable and small.

What small expensive things come to mind? Well, it’s commonly repeated that printer toner costs more than blood, but even on the higher end it doesn’t break $100 per ounce [3].

 

By Vegasjon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I wonder if any college students have read this statistic and then sold blood to buy ink to print their essays.

 

So aside from gold jewelry and $50 bills I can’t think of anything you might own that would be worth its weight in gold, aside from vital organs. Donors are often paid a few thousand dollars for an illegally sold kidney [4] and, with a weight of a few ounces, a healthy kidney from an entrepreneurial salesman could easily be worth its weight in gold to a desperate buyer.

But what is value? The role of supply and demand makes me think value isn’t a fixed number, but that it varies, just like the market price of gold. For example, if I make a Craigslist post selling a worn out sock for $50,000 does that really mean my sock is worth that much? I don’t think most people would think so – you’d probably tell me that it’s only worth as much as someone is will pay for it. But if that’s the case then the thing being sold doesn’t matter, only the negotiations. So, if you’re persuasive enough, literally anything you own can be worth its weight in gold.

 

 

 


 

image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 


 

 

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