Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the true cost of things

Mr. Fixit is working on a vintage stereo amplifier that was in nice shape on the outside, but needed a complicated electronic repair to make it work properly. He discovered an original advertisement for the amp on someone's website, and it appears that it sold for $389 in 1961.

 And that's why some vintage items are scarce. It's not only their age, it's that relatively few were made, because hardly anybody could afford to pay almost $400 for a stereo component...not even a whole stereo system, just the 1961. You could buy a used car for that much, back then, or a whole lot of groceries.

One of our two current T.V.'s is from the 1990's. Mr. Fixit says that it would have cost about $300 new, but so would a television set twenty years before that. $300 for a television in the 1970's was a lot of money, but on the other hand, you expected it to last longer. Most people in 2016 are not watching shows on a 1990's T.V., if they're watching them on a T.V. at all. We're just weird that way.

In the 1960's and '70's, stereo components were luxury items. So, to some extent, were $300 televisions. So were a lot of other fancy things. We admired our friend's backyard swimming pool, but understood that not everybody could have one. My Barbie Country Camper cost a whole $10.99 in 1973, and that was a big Christmas present. I had the camper, and somebody else had a Barbie house. I took my camper and my dolls to her house, and we played together. Not everybody had everything.When our family's T.V. stopped working, we didn't buy a new one right away; we borrowed a portable set from a relative and perched it on top of the big one until we could get the old television fixed or replaced. (This happened more than once, and I have the photos of our stacked T.V. sets to prove it.)

There is an understanding that we've lost, over many years of almost everything being so available, so cheap, and that is that it's okay not to have a house or closet full of everything, all the time. That if you're fortunate enough to acquire something special--a painting, let's say, or a very good cooking tool (like a great knife), or a beautiful rose bush, or a $60 bag of organic coffee, you take care of it, give it some pride of place, make it into a ritual or a specialty (hopefully not an idol), share the enjoyment of it with others. And if you don't have any of those things, maybe you have something else; maybe you're the one with the good stereo or the fish tank or the big yard.

I think that's why ideas like minimalist wardrobes are catching on.  If you have a favourite coat, you wear it a lot, maybe every day, and the question of someone else's newer or nicer coat doesn't enter into it. Eventually, you notice that it's time for a new one, and you decide to go coat-shopping, but probably not before that. I think it's the equivalent of trimming our Christmas lists down to "Two storied pencil box. Flexible flier sled. Box of paints. Princess and Curdie."

What don't we need to make us happy?

As a postscript, I knew there were definitely too many things in the world when I found out that a particular large giftware corporation sells model buildings based on Jan Karon's Mitford novels.


countrynana said...

The Country Camper brought back so many memories, it was also my big Christmas present that year! My dad built my barbie doll house and it was so much better than the bought ones!

Heather said...

It's always interesting and helpful to think about these things. I have more posts of yours to catch up on.
I agree about Mitford. :)

Mama Squirrel said...

Hi Heather! Thanks for your comments.