The "Historically Rich" game

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Jennifer
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jennifer »

I checked linen thread -- still used in Mesopotamia to sew bolts of cloth into garments, or string beads together into a necklace -- but even that's pretty pricey today (in the sense that $50 won't get you THAT much). Ignoring thread color, the first item I found in an Amazon search was $5.23 for a spool of 125 yards of thread. (And if you actually did bring it back in time, you'd first have to go through the bother of unrolling all that thread from its plastic spool, and re-wrapping it around a twig or whatever ancient thread-sellers used to store their wares.)
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jennifer »

It would be easier if you go only as far as the mid to late Roman Empire: salt of course, and pepper (salt is not included in the "spices" category because pepper and spices are merely for flavoring, whereas salt is an actual biological necessity with many uses beyond altering the taste of food), some clear glassware (not the kind that is obviously pressed or molded glass, though; thin-blown only IIRC); various glazed ceramics, gemstones and/or cultured pearls. Definitely max out your $50 allowance on olive oil, and raisins also were extremely valuable in ancient Rome -- although I think seedless raisins were anachronisms, and I'd guess raisins with seeds are less commonplace and more expensive than seedless these days.
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Jennifer
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jennifer »

Related thought -- not specifically "modern cheap or worthless stuff that would've been valuable back then AND would not have been an obvious anachronism," merely "modern stuff that is cheap or worthless, but would've been valuable back then, anachronisms be damned": I belong (but don't contribute pictures) to a Facebook group where people post photos of weird, cool or unusual secondhand finds -- either to show off, or to ask "Hey, does anyone know what this is?"

Someone posted a picture recently (with a caption/explanation that she found this in a cleanout of the home of someone with "hoarderish tendencies"): a Ziploc bag with the masking-tape label "2013 lint." And several people pointed out that, while dating it might be weird, it's not that unusual for people to save limited amounts of dryer lint for firestarters. (I recently read a frugal-tips list suggesting that for backyard firepits, campfires and the like, dryer lint stuffed into empty cardboard toilet-paper rolls made an easy DIY option.)

If you change the rules of acquisition a bit -- not "cheap or worthless stuff today that could blend in and sell for a fortune then," but "completely worthless stuff including literal garbage today that people back then would've found at least useful, if not valuable--" if you had to make an actual list, it would be quicker and easier to list today's garbage, junk or ultracheap thrift-store items that wouldn't make the list somehow.
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Jadagul
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jadagul »

Hell, I'm pretty sure dryer lint would be really useful for making paper, too.

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Ellie
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Ellie »

Jadagul wrote:
28 Aug 2019, 17:42
Hell, I'm pretty sure dryer lint would be really useful for making paper, too.
I did that as a Girl Scout project! :geek:
Jennifer wrote:
28 Aug 2019, 16:28
"completely worthless stuff including literal garbage today that people back then would've found at least useful, if not valuable--" if you had to make an actual list, it would be quicker and easier to list today's garbage, junk or ultracheap thrift-store items that wouldn't make the list somehow.
Further proof that even a shit life in the modern day still contains innumerable riches compared to living in the past.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Warren »

So what you're saying is, the hoarders are right.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Warren wrote:
28 Aug 2019, 22:19
So what you're saying is, the hoarders are right.
In all seriousness, I have wondered before if hoarding (at least "safe-stuff hoarding," not the more severe cases such as "That guy saves all of his own body waste and anything with his DNA on it in jars") might not be psychological "disorders" [in the sense of "something that's gone entirely wrong"] so much as "too much -- way too much -- of a good thing." It's only extremely recently in historical terms -- the last few generations out of the thousands since modern man first arose -- that there's been enough stuff available for most people to have the option to become hoarders in the first place. And even now -- and especially for most of humanity's time on earth -- some tendency toward thrift rather than wastefulness is genuinely useful and even necessary (how much is necessary for a given person depends on the individual's circumstances, of course) ... but at a certain point, such tendencies stop being helpful and become harmful instead.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Ellie wrote:
28 Aug 2019, 17:53
Further proof that even a shit life in the modern day still contains innumerable riches compared to living in the past.
It's something I think about whenever I see one of those stories about a country where many people still live in what is literally a dump and make a living as trash-pickers. (cf https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/20 ... age-dumps/) I think that as a society becomes richer, that kind of thing becomes less common because what you could possibly earn as a trash-picker is minimal compared to what you could earn doing virtually anything else. But then I also wonder if, as society gets richer, could it become more common again because people throw away even more valuable stuff. And it looks like that might be true:
One of Zuckerberg's neighbors, a military veteran named Jake Orta, has been earning money selling items he found in the trash bins outside of the CEO's $10 million home. During an interview with the New York Times, Orta described how amazed he was at what people tended to throw away.

Items he found in Zuckerberg's trash included a vacuum cleaner, a coffee machine and a hair dryer -- all in working condition. On other hunts, he's managed to find more expensive items including designer jeans, Nike shoes, iPads and bicycles. Orta then sells these items, hoping to bring himself the minimum of $30 per day he needs for survival.
https://www.komando.com/happening-now/5 ... ires-trash
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Ellie
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Ellie »

I've had a lifelong secret desire to be a dumpster diver but I'm too afraid of getting arrested over it. I placate this crushed dream by following a lot of dumpster diver reddits etc. It's definitely true that as society gets richer, more people can at least partially support themselves trash picking (if not by selling on the items, then using them for themselves).

Moveout week at college campuses is apparently the Super Bowl of dumpster diving. Kids not wanting to haul stuff home throw out IMMENSE amounts of perfectly good shit.
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Ellie
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Ellie »

Also, barely related but I feel like posting it:

Image
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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A few weeks ago a relative of mine posted on facebook. Seems one of her neighbors set a complete dining room set (table and chairs) out at the curb on trash day. She posted "If you need a dining room set get to 123 4th street before the garbage truck comes and hauls it away. I know these people and they take care of their stuff". I asked "Don't you have Craigslist?"
Her: We do but I was on my way to work and just saw that and wanted to post before it got picked up.
Me: I was more wondering why your neighbors threw it out. Even if they don't want money, there's Goodwill, SA, etc.
Her: I was wondering that too. Places pick up even.
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Jennifer
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Warren wrote:
29 Aug 2019, 11:05
Me: I was more wondering why your neighbors threw it out. Even if they don't want money, there's Goodwill, SA, etc.
Her: I was wondering that too. Places pick up even.
Possible answers: one, depending on where she lives, even various thrift stores in certain regions are getting more particular about what sort of donations they'll accept. (The Salvation Army stores in the Atlanta region must be incredibly picky about accepting furniture: every such offering I've seen was of vastly higher quality than what I'd call the "norm" for thrift store furniture. Looks more like an antique store than a thrift store, if you know what I mean.)

Two: even if free thrift-store pickup of her goods is available where she lives, from her perspective it's likely quicker and more convenient to just put things on the curb rather than stay home and wait for the furniture pickup guys.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Mo »

Ellie wrote:I've had a lifelong secret desire to be a dumpster diver but I'm too afraid of getting arrested over it. I placate this crushed dream by following a lot of dumpster diver reddits etc. It's definitely true that as society gets richer, more people can at least partially support themselves trash picking (if not by selling on the items, then using them for themselves).

Moveout week at college campuses is apparently the Super Bowl of dumpster diving. Kids not wanting to haul stuff home throw out IMMENSE amounts of perfectly good shit.
Yeah. I met some folks who were dumpster diving when I was moving out at ND. Nice couple. I had them pull out by my grad dorm and just let them have their pick. The most memorable part was they were going to use my yoga mat for Lamaze.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Painboy »

If you were wondering how you might communicate on your trip to the past this might be of interest.

How Far Back in Time Could an English Speaker Go and Still Communicate Effectively?

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JD
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by JD »

On a related note, here's an interesting factoid: the screwdriver is the only simple hand tool to be created in the last thousand years. Screws and bolts of various sorts have existed for a long time, but screwdrivers didn't become a practical tool until screws could be mass-produced consistently and profitably.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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JD wrote:
25 Oct 2019, 15:55
the screwdriver is the only simple hand tool to be created in the last thousand years.
ORLY? Link me to the archeological dig where they unearthed 1000+ yo meat claws.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Eric the .5b »

The earliest historical mentions of the bagh nakh go back to the 1600s, though you're supposed to use those on another kind of meat. I suspect another version might be older, but I can't immediately find one.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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A local science museum has a temporary exhibit on "Traveling the Silk Road," which included re-creations of various ancient marketplaces and stops along the way. If you ignore the $50-per-category limit and focus just on the $1,000 total, you could easily buy everything I saw in that marketplace, except for the rubies, sapphires, furs and bolts of silk: spices, gemstones currently deemed "semiprecious" rather than "precious," certain types of glassware (assuming thrift-store rather than retail prices), and peacock feathers (this website sells peacock feathers in bulk: for tailfeathers with "eyes," you can get 50 for $20, or 1,000 for $301).
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Jennifer wrote:
29 Oct 2019, 05:31
A local science museum has a temporary exhibit on "Traveling the Silk Road," which included re-creations of various ancient marketplaces and stops along the way. If you ignore the $50-per-category limit and focus just on the $1,000 total, you could easily buy everything I saw in that marketplace, except for the rubies, sapphires, furs and bolts of silk: spices, gemstones currently deemed "semiprecious" rather than "precious," certain types of glassware (assuming thrift-store rather than retail prices), and peacock feathers (this website sells peacock feathers in bulk: for tailfeathers with "eyes," you can get 50 for $20, or 1,000 for $301).
Yeah, the Silk Road is going to have everything and at wholesale prices. The thing about a Silk Road market is that the weapons guys are where the money's at. True in Marco's time, true today.
I not sure what kind of firearm you can get for under a grand, but that and a handful of ammo would buy the whole road.
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Jennifer
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jennifer »

I had never thought to add "peacock tailfeathers" (or unusually attractive feathers in general) to any list of "$50 or less worth of items you take back in time where they're immensely valuable," but apparently they are! In retrospect it does make sense when you think about it.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

Post by Jennifer »

Related musing:

In a thrift store, I found and bought an old jewelry box made by the "Tilso" company in Japan. What initially caught my eye was the dark mother-of-pearl inlay framing the top of the box; mine looks like this only with a different broad-strokes Japanese landscape painted on it. Also mine is a bit damaged: there's a couple edges where the black lacquer is chipped, showing the cheap wood underneath (if I feel sufficiently inspired later, I might color that in with a black Sharpie); the wind-up music box part doesn't work properly (it will play anywhere from one to six notes when you open the lid, then stop); the key is missing so it cannot be locked; and there's a small circle of either old wax or glue in the center of the lid, which I dare not try to remove for fear of wrecking the paint and making everything look worse.

But the box's little internal compartments and levels are in perfect condition and it was only $3, so I bought it because it occupies about the same amount of space as did the tiny dollar-store plastic and cardboard drawers I'd used to hold paper clips and other small items on my desk, but this IMO looks a lot cooler, and opening just "the one lid" is actually more convenient than opening "up to five different little drawers" to get whatever I am reaching for.

I did a bit of online searching, and in various collector-chat forums found anecdotes like "I used to have one like that, from a Sears catalog in the 1970s or 80s." (Actually, most of the Tilso boxes in this style were far fancier and more elaborate than mine was even when pristine and new.) Can't find the original price, but if Sears sold it, it wouldn't have been too expensive in its day -- though I'd also guess that, if you'd simply wanted "a decorative jewelry/music box with an equivalent number of compartments," it would've been much cheaper for you to get one without the hand-painted panels and nacre-chip inlays.

So this box is at least 30-something years old, likely more. That means it is officially an "antique," and in Ye Olden Days when today's antiques were new, anything "antique" was likely to be more valuable than its new equivalent. But nowadays (after many many decades of consumer-luxury mass production) the opposite is true: I've been browsing places like eBay and Etsy (IOW, places where people with an unwanted Tilso box try to sell it, rather than donate it to a thrift shop) -- if you wanted "a nice, decorative musical jewelry box" you can get an old Tilso in excellent condition -- not at all like my shabby office-supply box -- for about the same price or even less than what you'd expect to pay for an equivalent box bought new in the type of retail stores or catalogs that sell such things.

Of course there are many exceptions to this rule -- certain particular old mass-produced jewelry boxes which today have enough "collector's value" that they're considerably more expensive than a brand-new equivalent. But in general, if you want the sort of small luxury consumer goods that do not involve electronics or any other technology that becomes obsolete -- anything you could have now which Americans in the 1940s or 50s also could've had, say -- an antique (even in like-new condition) is cheaper than the new version, even when you ignore thrift stores and other "donation" sales, and focus exclusively on the more-expensive secondhand market where the original owners of things sell them rather than give them away.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Jennifer wrote:
25 Jan 2020, 15:13
So this box is at least 30-something years old, likely more. That means it is officially an "antique," and in Ye Olden Days when today's antiques were new, anything "antique" was likely to be more valuable than its new equivalent. But nowadays (after many many decades of consumer-luxury mass production) the opposite is true: I've been browsing places like eBay and Etsy (IOW, places where people with an unwanted Tilso box try to sell it, rather than donate it to a thrift shop) -- if you wanted "a nice, decorative musical jewelry box" you can get an old Tilso in excellent condition -- not at all like my shabby office-supply box -- for about the same price or even less than what you'd expect to pay for an equivalent box bought new in the type of retail stores or catalogs that sell such things.

Of course there are many exceptions to this rule -- certain particular old mass-produced jewelry boxes which today have enough "collector's value" that they're considerably more expensive than a brand-new equivalent. But in general, if you want the sort of small luxury consumer goods that do not involve electronics or any other technology that becomes obsolete -- anything you could have now which Americans in the 1940s or 50s also could've had, say -- an antique (even in like-new condition) is cheaper than the new version, even when you ignore thrift stores and other "donation" sales, and focus exclusively on the more-expensive secondhand market where the original owners of things sell them rather than give them away.
Age alone doesn't and never did make something valuable. It was always a matter of supply and demand. Stuff from the 70s is way more likely to be a mass produced gewgaw, you're far more likely to see more of them lying around than people want. I suspect there is also a bit of a baseball card phenomenon. There are a lot of cards from back in the day that were worth tens or hundred of dollars that are became worth pennies after eBay launched. Because everyone was now able to sell something, people realized there "rare" items were uncommon at best and there are way more people interested in selling them than there are buying them.
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Jennifer
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Mo wrote:
27 Jan 2020, 08:56
Stuff from the 70s is way more likely to be a mass produced gewgaw,
Sure, but that's true of anything you might buy in a retail store now. But I still find it odd that -- again, talking exclusively about non-electronics, or things which will NOT become obsolete (or simply be replaced by something better -- like, a modern fridge is "better" than its 1960s equivalent if for no other reason than the modern one is a LOT more energy-efficient) -- the older, "official antique" ones are far more affordable than new ones, EVEN THOUGH the older ones would be "more rare." Like, if you want "a Japanese jewelry box" with a certain look and a certain amount of storage space, the number of brand-new (or <2 years old) boxes in the world today is VASTLY greater than the number of 1970s Tilso boxes in like-new condition, yet acquiring a Tilso box will generally cost you MUCH less money.
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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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Supply can be low and demand for that specific thing can be low at the same time, resulting in low price. A key feature of this is that some key set of features is unique and not seen as substitute-able be people who like the good. So if there's a box and it's storage only, the universe of goods that counts as supply is pretty vast. If it's a box and it's both storage but also has a certain design element, that narrows the supply considerably but it may still be a large supply because for example some later designers used that same element, or there was a later retro movement such that the ones made in 1970 are not the only ones in which the desired feature is present. Then maybe there's a box and it's about storage and that design element and something we'll call authenticity meaning its super important to that buyer that it's a 1970 thing made by whoever. Now the supply is quite low, but you then have to ask how many people care about that last thing? Maybe not very many. Tends to be highly trend dependent.

Collectibles are subject to this all the time. What were those things called, Drendel dolls? They were super collectable by greatest generation people then as those people died the value plummeted because the cultural relevance was lost.

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Re: The "Historically Rich" game

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JasonL wrote:
27 Jan 2020, 16:28
Supply can be low and demand for that specific thing can be low at the same time, resulting in low price. A key feature of this is that some key set of features is unique and not seen as substitute-able be people who like the good. So if there's a box and it's storage only, the universe of goods that counts as supply is pretty vast. If it's a box and it's both storage but also has a certain design element, that narrows the supply considerably but it may still be a large supply because for example some later designers used that same element, or there was a later retro movement such that the ones made in 1970 are not the only ones in which the desired feature is present. Then maybe there's a box and it's about storage and that design element and something we'll call authenticity meaning its super important to that buyer that it's a 1970 thing made by whoever. Now the supply is quite low, but you then have to ask how many people care about that last thing? Maybe not very many. Tends to be highly trend dependent.

Collectibles are subject to this all the time. What were those things called, Drendel dolls? They were super collectable by greatest generation people then as those people died the value plummeted because the cultural relevance was lost.
Maybe you're thinking about Hummel figurines?

But the thing is, it's not just for "collectibles" or even "luxury consumer goods" (any specified "jewelry box" is by definition a luxury good, even if you're using it for a more utilitarian purpose like my desktop office-supply organizer -- even if you posit a genuine need for "a box or container to hold and organize sundry small items," you certainly do not need one to be decorative in addition to functional); something similar applies to almost all, um ...perhaps "durable goods" is the specific category I'm talking about here?

For example: think about the non-edible items in your kitchen right now. Some of them, like your sous vide setup or microwave, are items which your equivalent living in 1960 would not have had -- such things simply did not exist then. Others, like your oven/stove and fridge/freezer combo -- yeah, you'd have those in 1960, same basic function, but those 1960 models used a lot more electricity than their modern equivalents, so even if you could get a perfect-condition circa-1960 appliance for the same price as a new one, or even for less money -- there's solid economic reasons you wouldn't want to do that. The 1960 fridge is objectively less useful than its modern equivalent, for non-sartorial reasons.

But you also have many other kitchen items which did exist in 1960, and a good-condition item from 1960 is every bit as useful now as its new equivalent: pots and pans; stainless-steel cooking and eating utensils; plates, bowls and drinkware; etc. And for these kinds of items (especially the items placed on the table), sartorial reasons often ARE why you choose, say, THIS microwave-safe stoneware set over the ten other options in the same price range, or THIS particular Corelle pattern over all the other identically priced ones.

If you want or need to acquire these kinds of things -- you're just getting started, have to equip a completely empty kitchen (we'll posit you don't need to equip the entire thing TONIGHT; take two or three weeks for this), AND you need to spend as little money as possible -- buying these things new, even from Walmart or Target-range stores, will cost you more than buying older or even antique ones, even if you limit your buying to the non-thrift-shop people. Even when the appearances are equivalent: it's not simply "Yes, this guy on Etsy is selling a complete set of 1970s dishware, still in box, for less money than the same number of same-material dishes at Walmart/Target ... but those 1970s dishes are godawful shades of avocado and harvest gold in a groovy "flower power" pattern -- no, it's also for things which at first glance might even look modern, IN ADDITION TO those things which look "vintage" but in a way more currently in vogue ... I mean, I'm not really "going anywhere" with this, so much as I'm musing yet again about how radically the meaning and consistency of "wealth" has changed.
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