How can I make epic treasure on a budget?
July 3, 2010 4:37 AM   Subscribe

The world is boring. It needs more buried treasure. What things could I bury as treasure - things with great and lasting value, yet could be obtained cheaply? (Eg, a spirits/wine chest could be inexpensive to buy, but eventually become a treasure worth finding after enough years have passed. Superstar backstage passes are useless as treasure (they expire), but are an example of something of great value that doesn't cost much money to obtain - if you can find a way to obtain them.) How can I assemble epic genuine treasure on a budget?

For argument's sake, let's say the budget ballpark is $50-$500, but if there are compelling ideas that fall outside that range, by all means suggest them.

Obviously, the more specific the better :) Suggesting "collectables" won't get me far - I'd need to know about specific collectables, since most are just fads that don't keep value, and if it were easy to predict in advance which ones would appreciate in value, I imagine Big Money would have already got involved :-)

I think I might need to find some ideas along the "backstage pass" direction - things of great value that money can't buy, and then try to obtain them by non-monetary means.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by -harlequin- to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
How about real treasure?

For the past few years I've only given either gold or silver as gifts.

Spot silver is trading for less than $18 / oz as of Friday's close, and coins will run you about $20 each, depending upon the mint (i.e., US, Canadian, etc).

Fits your requirements in that Silver is definitely precious, more than likely will appreciate in value (could fall as well but not too worry) and relatively inexpensive. Also, its real buried treasure.

Sidenote: We celebrated Mrs Mutant's birthday yesterday, and gave her five ounces of Silver and 1/10th an ounce of Gold, a Kruggerand. Like I said, I don't give anyone anything other than Gold or Silver these days as gifts.

posted by Mutant at 4:56 AM on July 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

If this were an easy question to answer, we'd all be millionaires, because we'd all have collected cheap things that increased in value. That said, I think that if you concentrate on the nostalgia factor, you might have a good chance of picking a winner.

Popular toys, kept pristene in their package for 50 years will have an audience for the youngsters who are playing with them now when they turn old and grey. The key is to not pick items that are so popular that people will be tripping over them from now until then.

Stuff that I wish I had now from when I was a kid include lunchboxes (unscratched with their thermos), and those glow-in-the-dark model kits of famous horror movie monsters. They were cheap enough when I was young but probably worth at least 10 times or more their original cost now. If only I wasn't a stupid kid with a paltry allowance back then.
posted by crunchland at 5:11 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Treasure for kids is cheap. Kennedy halves or Ike dollars can be left under slides and such in public playgrounds. Until our kid got old enough to enjoy them, we would stash happy meal toys where kids could find them.
posted by codswallop at 5:14 AM on July 3, 2010

Their value depends on when you expect them to be dug up. I don't think anyone will care more about a Backstage Pass than a till receipt 300 years from now.
posted by fire&wings at 5:39 AM on July 3, 2010

After enough time, money. Coins from multiple countries are cheap enough and after enough time passes they will probably be quite valuable. Not to mention the fact that they'll hold up well.

Photos / autographs of famous people, especially famous people that will be remembered many years down the line. Top politicians / top music acts / top actors / sport stars etc. These are potentially free if you're in the right place at the right time.
posted by bindasj at 5:46 AM on July 3, 2010

After we moved into a new house, my brother and I found a box containing costume jewelry buried in the sand box in the back yard. It was fun to us, though I'm sure it was worth next to nothing.

It would be cool to do this yourself. Get a small gift box. Buy some inexpensive jewelry. Garage sales would be good for this. Bury in a sandbox in a local park nearby. Set up a squirrel cam and enjoy making someone else's day. Maybe even make a treasure map and post on a tree.
posted by marsha56 at 6:26 AM on July 3, 2010

You're better off making this a kind of scavenger hunt for friends, bury some token thing and have a series of clues to it's location contained within a specific area.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2010

There's a fun treasure hunt going on right now. The numbers on this clock are buried all over the US for people to find.

Here's a look at the gorgeous numbers that have been found so far.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I link to that above as inspiration. You could do something similar but on a smaller scale in your city or town for your friends.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2010

Don't forget that Kit William's book, Masquerade from the 80s. He made a piece of jewellry IIRC and left clues in his book. You could make something yourself out of bits of old jewellry. Might not be a valuable treasure but I bet you'd have fun making it.

Failing that, a complete set of the state quarters would set you back $12.50.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:26 AM on July 3, 2010

If the hunting and finding is the exciting part for you, try Geocaching. "Buried" "treasure" all over the planet. Make some caches yourself!
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2010

One of the things that I've done is to go to some historical event that is currently taking place (eg, a protest, political rally, just being there on the day that something important happens) and record short interviews with ordinary people. I then transcribe the interviews, print them on acid-free paper, and lodge the result in an archive with a note saying that it's to be sealed for 50 or 100 years. Some future historian is going to have a record of ordinary people's observations and feelings on that day, a record of something highly ephemeral which would otherwise disappear (as usually only the thoughts and feelings of 'important' people survive over that kind of time-scale).

I kind of think of this as being like buried treasure.
posted by Dreadnought at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

You need to find someone who is unknown and is going to become really famous then get things associated with them. An old backstage pass is worthless, but think how much one to a Beatles show when they were in Germany would now be worth. Their was probably a first book published this year or last by the guy that will win the Nobel in 2040, get an autographed first edition from that person now while it's easy. Of course you would need hundreds of things from people who will be forgotten, and just hope one pays off.

The safest, more sure fire way to do this, would be to get the rookie cards for every new player in the major leagues, NBA, NFL, NHL and the Premiere League. A few of those players will be on all-star or national teams in five years and the card will be worth real money; at least one or two will get into the halls of fame in twenty-five years and they will be worth a lot. They won't appreciate like a painting from the next Picasso, but they're easier to find.
posted by Some1 at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2010

A big chest of nifty coins has been in style as far as treasure goes since well, slightly after the invention of the coin. They're also nigh on indestrucatble. All these paper related answers have value, but how disappointing to dig up a box and find the treasure's gone mouldy, or had rotted, or is damply welded into a big lump?

Coins take a lot to damage. Commemorative and foreign currency is not expensive and only gets cooler with time.
posted by Jilder at 9:33 AM on July 3, 2010

Money can buy these things, but to the kind of person who is digging up treasure, might be worth well more than the money they require.

Pogs with a super sweet (preferably holographic) slammer.
An old Game Boy/Gear with a classic game or four with them. Or even a Dreamcast, Atari, Neo Geo or something.
An easily obtainable full set of comic books. The Atlantis Chronicles (7 issues, easily found, origin of Aquaman) comes to mind.
Something easily handmade, but labor intensive. A chainmail coif maybe. Now THAT would feel like treasure if you dug it up.
Chocolate gold coins, plastic swords and eyepatches in a wooden chest.
This is random, but i'd be excited about it: That same chest full of lighters. Not plain colored ones, either, but Ozzy lighters or something. Maybe one or two shaped like a pig or a motorcycle or whatever. Or even just a weird novelty lighter.

Now, I'm not really sure if your focus here is on (eventual) monetary value, or on the thrill of finding buried treasure, so i might be way off.
posted by cmoj at 10:59 AM on July 3, 2010

For the price of a stamp...

For that matter, particular stamps would be interesting choices.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:23 AM on July 3, 2010

You should buy and bury these.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:31 PM on July 3, 2010

Sometimes electronics become more valuable with age. E.g. old video game systems and computers become vintage collector's items. If you have an old iPod or iPhone lying around, you could seal it in a plastic bag and bury it as treasure. In 20 years maybe it'll be a relic of "Apple's mobile revolution."
posted by Terheyden at 3:30 PM on July 3, 2010

« Older Where can I get something like a Sonic Impact...   |   Books on the history of medicine Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.