The eye of the beholder

What makes something valuable? What makes it priceless? That’s kind of a toughie. It’s a combination of emotional connection and the rarity of the object, I think. Think of your most prized possessions: the picture of you and your best friends from high school, the personally autographed concert ticket from your favorite band, your child’s first baby shoes, now long outgrown. There’s only one set of first shoes, personal autographs, or moments in time captured in a picture. So not only beauty, but value, is in the eye of the beholder.

That holds true for everyone. Older generations will covet their class lapel pins or rings from their old high school days. They may have some general value to someone else if the piece has gold or stones in it, but to the person it belongs to, the value is immeasurable. Interestingly enough, sometimes these pieces that belong to one individual become sought after by others who place the same value on the object as the original owner. Consider the former belongings of celebrities. A handwritten lyric sheet written by John Lennon. Jewelry of Marilyn Monroe’s. The association, and the rarity of the piece, makes them extremely valuable.

I see that all the time at conventions or concerts and other events where fans of certain genres gather. A set of lapel pins from 1964 with the faces of the Beatles on them can go for thousands of dollars now because they’re rare, not because they’re actually worth that much money. The emotional attachment and the rarity of the piece makes them far more expensive than the sum of their materials. Auctions of celebrity memorabilia brings in millions of dollars, mostly for fairly mundane things.

It just goes to show that it’s not what the object itself is: a jacket, a piece of furniture, jewelry or lapel pins; it’s the associations we put on them that creates their worth. So I guess we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover: that hideous candelabra you wouldn’t dare buy at a yard sale may have once belonged to Liberace.

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