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The Trough of No Value

The Trough of No Value is the period in the lifetime of most objects between when they are new (and therefore valuable) and when they are old, rare, and collectible (and therefore valuable).

Ever thrown away a perfectly good computer simply because it was old and worth nothing? Early computers are beginning to be collectible even now, but what do you think a pristine, mint-condition, working Apple 128k Macintosh, vintage 1984, will be worth in, say, 2109, or 2209? It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to think of such a thing being worth the equivalent of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. But I threw one away once.

The problem is that many kinds of objects go through a period in their potential lifespans when they don’t “pencil out” — they’re not worth keeping or preserving because they’re not worth any money. Here’s an approximate graph of the typical value of many types of objects. The x-axis is time and the y-axis is value; the horizontal line is $0.

I remember when I was a kid we set aside an unopened can of Billy Beer figuring that it might be a collectible someday. Looking on eBay you can buy an unopened six-pack of Billy Beer for $30. Not a great return for keeping something for over 30 years. (Via kottke.org)

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