Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The worth of a picayune

Yes, real estate sales have been down this summer. IMHO, prices became way over-inflated during the housing boom. Even though they’ve come down a little, they are still too high in some areas of town. A small bungalow in Boise is not worth $300,000+. This is not the Bay Area or Seattle.

But what do I know? We rent…

Every so often I read the New Orleans Times Picayune website to see what’s going on in the Crescent City. It occurred to me that I was hazy on what "picayune" actually means:
Picayune: Of little value or importance, trivial. Petty or mean. It also was the name of an old Spanish coin that was worth about the same as a U.S. nickel.

A Spanish-American version of the coin was used in the U.S. South during the 1800s, but they stopped minting it in 1873. Thus, the saying, "not worth a picayune," which is similar to "not worth a plug nickel."

Of course, the opposite of picayune would be words like: value, importance, worth, significance, appreciate, cherish.

Let’s take Value. It’s slippery because the value of something, like a house, is subjective to whoever is doing the appraisal—and what conditions they are operating under, such as the "marketplace." And each person values certain things differently than others; hence "one man’s trash is another’s treasure."

This brings up questions, such as: Why is gold more valuable than silver? "Designer" clothing more valuable than non-designer clothing? Why are thrift stores so popular? And "dollar stores"? Why was it that Van Gogh lived in poverty because no one would buy his paintings, but now they sell for millions of dollars?

And what would a picayune from 1803 be worth today?

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.
-Gloria Steinem

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.
-Ayn Rand

Nothing makes it easier to resist temptation than a proper bringing-up, a sound set of values -- and witnesses.
-Franklin P. Jones

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