Two or three weeks ago, I heard on the news about a painting which sold at auction for $110.7-million. The name of the painting is “Meules” (Haystacks). I admit that it’s a pretty picture of old fashioned haystacks in a field. I’m assuming that a nice frame was included in the sale – and perhaps a certificate of authenticity.
You see; this wasn’t just any old painting. The very famous French impressionist Claude Monet created it in 1890. When the oil on canvas piece was painted, some high society folks in Chicago purchased it. It remained with that bunch until 1986 when it was sold for $2.53 million.
That 1986 purchaser, as a seller now, just crashed through the previous record for a Monet painting which was $84.6 million. That was just a year ago when a painting called “Water Lilies in Bloom” sold.
That 1986 purchaser increased his original investment by about 40 times – not bad – not bad at all.
In a separate news story, within a day or two of the Monet painting sale, it was reported that a 41-inch high stainless steel sculpture of a rabbit, titled “Rabbit,” was sold for $91.1 million. It was made by American artist Jeff Koons. The auction house announced that this was a record price for a work done by an artist who is still living.
These two news reports were interesting and really very striking to me. The question arose in my mind: What makes something valuable? I’ve thought about this quite a bit since hearing about those art sales. I haven’t arrived at a simple answer.
As is my way, I took my question to the Internet and found some interesting results. I liked what sanespaces.com had to offer. The breakdown there was that there are several categories of reasons that give an item value. Here they are: historical significance, intrinsic value, re-Sale value, popularity value, and sentimental value.
When flipping channels on television, sometimes I’ll run across a show called “American Pickers.” It shows a couple of guys who travel around the countryside looking in people’s garages, barns and sheds for “treasures.”
It’s amazing the stuff people collect, hoard, and hang onto. (Actually it’s not that amazing, I’m sort of a living example of collecting, hoarding and “hanging onto’ism.” And I know a few of you who are in the same boat.)
These guys on the TV show get really excited about rusted out Volkswagens, ancient motorcycles, broken historical toys, World War II uniforms, old pinball machines, and a gazillion other things. They pay good money for stuff that’s been literally buried in heaps of junk for decades. It’s “valuable stuff.”
I was at the Rat Fink Reunion in Manti over the weekend. They had an auction at the park during the car show. Many people saw value in new memorabilia that has been produced. Pretty substantial prices were paid for works of art and other items. Maybe it’s a good investment. Maybe ownership of some things just feels good. I’m not sure.
Speaking of the car show, there’s another category for the question of what makes something valuable. Some of those cars have been restored with hundreds of hours of hard work. And some of them are one-of-a-kind. Every category of value applies to them.
At the car show, I asked one guy, whom I’ve been acquainted with for many years, how much he would sell his car for. The answer was, “I’ll never sell it. It’s going to my son.” He bought it originally for $400 and thousands of dollars have gone into it, besides hundreds of hours of work. The sentimental value is indeterminable.
So, like I said, the concept of value is complicated. It’s like the lyrics from the old Ray Conniff song “Happiness Is.” Just substitute the word “Value” for “Happiness” in this line from the song: “Happiness is different things to different people. That’s what happiness is!” Going along with this is the saying that applies to the question of what makes something valuable: “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.”
Value isn’t always wrapped up in a physical item. Friendships, relationships, knowledge, good health, and many other things are very valuable.
I would say that people in Sanpete have some things in common as to what is considered valuable. We value country living. We value being able to get from one end of the county to the other without encountering traffic jams. (Not counting sheep herds and farm equipment convoys)
We value being able to let our kids ride their bikes across town by themselves to their friend’s house to play. We value being able to have a reasonable expectation that stuff when left out won’t be stolen from our porches and yards. We value knowing our neighbors and knowing that they watch out for us.
It’s valuable to us to have nature’s beauty so close with our mountain canyons, lakes and streams. Most of us can be on a mountain road within a very few minutes after leaving our homes.
There’s a lot more that we consider as valuable here in Sanpete – more than I have space to list.
Interestingly though, if we circle back to the beginning of this piece, we have wonderful art here as well. Sanpete artists are awesome. I’m not aware of any multi-million dollar sales of paintings or sculptures, but who knows? As in the sales that I referred to in the beginning, the buyers and sellers are often anonymous.
I own a little bit of art. The most valuable pieces fall in the “sentimental value” category of value. I’m not sure what the appreciation rate in dollars will be on the drawings done by my children and grandchildren. But whatever it is, I’m not selling. They’re too valuable – to me.