What Is It Worth?

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

How good are we at determining the value of things? Some people are experts in their field such as a car salesman who has to know the value of a trade-in vehicle, or a person examining a piece of jewelry, or an appraiser giving a value to an antique. These things are important, but in everyday life we all have to make value judgments.

Kevin Nguyen is 16-years old and TJ Khayatan is 17. They were visiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and were somewhat amused that some of the museum’s exhibits were considered art.

The boys decided to conduct an experiment to see how smart the people were in determining the value of museum artwork. Kevin and TJ decided to create their own artistic piece. They took Kevin’s glasses and placed them on the floor. Sure enough, visitors started crowding around and mistakenly took them for an avant-garde exhibit. People were taking photos. It was just a pair of glasses on the floor! The teenagers got a big laugh out of the event. I doubt if the Museum of Modern Art staff thought it was very funny!

Stephen Fletcher is an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. Once he was given a “grotesque face jug,” and he dated it to the late 19th century and valued it at $50,000.

A viewer was watching the show and called to say she recognized the piece, and that it had been made by her friend Betsy from an Oregon high school ceramics class in the 1970s. Betsy Soule, now a horse trainer, confirmed the story and produced a photo of herself as a teen surrounded by several similar looking sculptures. Stephen, the appraiser, admitted he had been very wrong and downgraded his estimate of value to $5,000.

What is the value of a one dollar bill? The value of the dollar might be dropping, but some one dollar bills may be worth more than the face value. Brian Hershberg in the The Wall Street Journal says that if it has the right serial number, a one dollar bill can bring a lot of money as a “fancy bill.”

A low serial number – 00000046 – recently carried a bid for $114 on eBay. If serial numbers ascend or descend (like 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) called “ladders,” they are quite valuable as are those bills with “radars” where the numbers read the same back and forth (1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1) and “repeaters” (like 2 0 1 5 2 0 1 5). Don’t spend too much time checking the serial numbers on your one dollar bills! Some are very valuable, but there are very few of them.

You can find something valuable in the least likely places, if you are alert and looking for it. Lindsay Hasz was eating a plate of mussel and clam linguini at a favorite Italian restaurant in Washington State. She bit down on something hard and spat out the offending item. It turned out to be a spherical, purple stone, identified as a rare gem stone produced by saltwater clams and valued at over $1,600. Even a good mouthful of food might have unexpected extra value!

Don’t let potential success blur how you see your values. Last winter, Leslie Binns was just 500 meters from the summit of Mount Everest when he abandoned his attempt to reach the peak in order to save another climber. The British army veteran was preparing his final ascent when he saw Sunita Hazra, an Indian climber, sliding down the mountain. He saved Sunita’s life and helped her down the perilous descent back to camp, sometimes falling into waist-deep crevasses. He didn’t reach the top, but he made a far more valuable decision!

Let God help you determine the value you place on the price tags of life!

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