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February 12, 2007 10:39 PM   Subscribe

What objects gain value through use and time?

Some things gain value over time, like wine or rare books. But they lose value by being used -- and so many collections are dedicated to preserving objects in pristine condition. There are a few things that actually become more valuable, or even more useful, the more they are used. I can only think of two examples: the cast iron skillet (the nonstick seasoned surface gets better with each use) and the Yixing teapot (the unglazed clay absorbs oils from tea each time it is used, enhacing the flavor of each subsequent brew and making the pot more collectable - previously). Can anyone think of other examples where the value and/or utility of an object increases with both time and use?
posted by cubby to Society & Culture (55 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe this is off-track, but I'm thinking that maybe certain things gain value based on who used them... For instance, guitars that were used by rock-n-roll greats (that end up selling for millions at auction).
posted by amyms at 10:49 PM on February 12, 2007

Baby blanket or other childhood comfort object. A bunny is just a bunny until it's been loved for a few years.
posted by MadamM at 10:57 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: T-shirts and blue jeans, to a point. Softer, hipper and possibly more resaleable as they get worn, until they fall apart altogether.

Along those lines, anything that can be "worn in" is better once it is, until it's "worn out".
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:57 PM on February 12, 2007

Then again, I don't know what sort of value you're talking about, monetary or sentimental.
posted by MadamM at 10:58 PM on February 12, 2007

There's also the time when used jeans (worn and frayed) were more valuable than brand new jeans. This of course made manufactures produce jeans which were intentionally worn and frayed.
posted by vacapinta at 10:58 PM on February 12, 2007

Response by poster: I see your point, and it is kind of what I mean. But those things must then never be used again, and are often encased to preserve the state they were in when they were last touched by Famous Person.
posted by cubby at 11:00 PM on February 12, 2007

A meerschaum pipe.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:01 PM on February 12, 2007

Oh. Also old silver develops a patina from use, which adds to its value.
posted by vacapinta at 11:03 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Any system that relies on user generated content or user tagging gains in both value and utility with time and use. In fact, the gain is noticeable both from the provider and user side.

As the users generate and/or tag content, they get more use out of it (think flickr,

For the providers, the content becomes more useful for attracting more users and providing statistics, and more valuable in selling the data/metadata to advertisers.
posted by DarkElf109 at 11:03 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cowboy boots.
posted by Kloryne at 11:04 PM on February 12, 2007

Oh, and for the time aspect, Google Zeitgeist, anyone?
posted by DarkElf109 at 11:05 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anything that gains a patina over time. Though you probably wouldn't consider this use, it is markedly different than maintaining an object's pristine, original state.

Antiques that were used can, I imagine, gain value due to that use. A gun that was used during WWI, for instance, might be worth more than one that just sat in a locker somewhere.

I think (depending on what you're using this information for) that you need to differentiate between different kinds of value. Do the two things you mentioned gain monetary value with use, or just functional value?
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:05 PM on February 12, 2007

Paint and Canvas. They're only worth about $20 till you use them.

There was one guy named Jackson Pollock who totally destroyed the value of a tube of paint and nearly ruined his canvases by throwing the pain at it! But, it Seems he was on to something, because he was able to make $80 to $100 per painting! unbelievable!
posted by joelf at 11:07 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Real estate!
posted by joelf at 11:08 PM on February 12, 2007

Jockstraps and panties.
posted by chudder at 11:13 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

joelf, nice freudian slip about pollock.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 PM on February 12, 2007

posted by joelf at 11:22 PM on February 12, 2007

The early Germanic warrior culture placed great value on old swords, because they had been tested in battle.
posted by nomis at 11:25 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: I don't know if there's any truth to this, but it's often claimed that musical instruments such as the Stradivarius violins must be played regularly to maintain their quality.
posted by teg at 11:32 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Oh, just thought of a good one: sourdough starter.
posted by teg at 11:38 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Acoustic guitars sound better over time with the right woods.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:47 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Saddles, especially English-style saddles, provided they've been well-oiled and well-cared-for. And on that note, animals such as horses and sheepdogs; a trained animal is worth more than an untrained one.
posted by Rubber Soul at 12:08 AM on February 13, 2007

Furniture, maybe? I'm thinking of antique tables and bureaus and such. I think it depends on how well-made it is to start with, though.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:16 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: Oh! Ha, recipes.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:17 AM on February 13, 2007

And, speaking of food, high-quality knives. They get thinner and therefore sharper with repeated sharpenings. (I mean long-term; obviously they get sharper when you sharpen them.)
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 12:24 AM on February 13, 2007

Perhaps hardwood flooring? 100-year old wood floor planks have been known to fetch big sums at auction.

Trees & plants, etc?
posted by Extopalopaketle at 12:50 AM on February 13, 2007

Oak barrels used for aging wine or liquor have a substantial resale value, it turns out. They don't get reused forever, but they get used several times.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:26 AM on February 13, 2007

A political or business friendship.
Your credit rating.
Your marriage.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:26 AM on February 13, 2007

Leather things other than shoes.
posted by textilephile at 4:28 AM on February 13, 2007

Those little things with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment.
posted by flabdablet at 4:39 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: Violins of any quality.
posted by sid at 4:57 AM on February 13, 2007

gouda cheese (up till 6 years)
posted by ouke at 5:02 AM on February 13, 2007

Baseball gloves.
posted by dobbs at 5:52 AM on February 13, 2007

posted by roue at 6:12 AM on February 13, 2007

One that probably not many will agree with - classic cars.

Their prices initially tank, but then they start going back up. Looking at UK classics magazines, by the time they're 25 years old, pretty much everything is going up in value.

Using the car is better for the price than not using it.
posted by twine42 at 6:21 AM on February 13, 2007

Baseball gloves. New ones were useless to my brother. He'd keep one on his hand for weeks, hitting it and stretching it until it was perfect. This, in turn, I guess improved his ability to catch the ball.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 6:25 AM on February 13, 2007

Moka Pots
posted by [@I][:+:][@I] at 6:38 AM on February 13, 2007

There's a good market for reclaimed lumber, beams and such from old farm houses.
posted by bondcliff at 6:50 AM on February 13, 2007

Handmade flutes appreciate in value over time. Factory-built ones depreciate, which is weird.
posted by mkb at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2007

Bowed stringed instruments - definitely. Not just Strads either, any instrument will sound better if it's played regularly for a few months, and this process continues over the years. (however, Strads were fabulous when first made, as well, so it's not just age).

Pianos - not so much. An old often-played piano is not necessarily better than a new one, not without restoration anyway.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:07 AM on February 13, 2007

Wooden piccolos, but only if they're played regularly. We just bought a 30-year old handmade piccolo for our daughter that belonged to a retired symphony musician, and the sound is breathtaking. The tech who overhauled it for her said that the sound was due to graceful aging of the instrument.
posted by Flakypastry at 7:29 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: If a high-quality set of Great Highland bagpipes is played regularly and well-maintained (takes lots of work to keep them maintained), it can resist depreciation. If it also survives long enough to be termed vintage, then, well, you can get quite a bit more money for it.

Looking at the previous responses, it would seem that most quality wooden instruments increase in value with age.
posted by J-Train at 7:42 AM on February 13, 2007

ouke writes "gouda cheese (up till 6 years)"

There is no way I'm googling "used cheese value"
posted by Mitheral at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2007

The base of a well-maintained Nordic ski, though the process doesn't carry on indefinitely: eventually the ski will suffer a stress fracture, or else the base will accumulate enough damage to necessitate regrinding or repair, thus nullifying the benefits of repeated rewaxing.
posted by goetter at 9:36 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: Cookbooks. I inherited a c. 1943 copy of the Joy of Cooking that has notations galore and period recipes clipped from magazines pasted in the back. It might be falling apart, but to me that makes it a more potent cooking talisman.

Also, color-changing bongs and pipes. Not that I'd know anything about that.
posted by Vervain at 9:54 AM on February 13, 2007

i wouldnt say that real estate gains value due to use. technically it depreciates (there is a tax deduction for this). real estate prices tend to rise over the long term, but this isn't due to use but to a rising market. just to clarify.
posted by BigBrownBear at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2007

The brain.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am not a pipe smoker, but I recall reading that Meerschaum pipes increase in value the more they're used, and this site (first hit on Google when searching "meerschaum pipes" without quotes) seems to confirm this. (Although, since it is a site selling such pipes, it is to their advantage to promote this idea.)
posted by SomePerlGeek at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2007

Wearing pearls next to the skin is said to enhance the luster.
posted by equipoise at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2007

Stamps? They're more valuable if they're cancelled. They're one that can't really be used again, but it behooves a collecter to try to use a stamp once to mail a letter.
posted by FortyT-wo at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2007

a few that come to mind:

racing tires are usually more valuable "scrubbed in", but thats only a short usage.

I could argue that a software API that is old and heavily used gains value.

cast iron pans and grills is a good one.

I've heard people claim old and heavily used anvils are much better than new ones, though I'm not sure if thats because of build quality or any actual "aging" that goes on.
posted by alikins at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2007

Wow, there's a lot of crap in this thread.

First, Rubber Soul, that's simply not true. While a worn-in saddle will perhaps be nicer when you use it on the horse it was broken-in on, its resale value on the market absolutely does not go up over time. This from my girlfriend, who has a lifetime of horse riding underneath her.

Secondly, FortyT-wo, like the above, you're simply wrong. The most valuable stamps are ones that are unused, and any stamp collector will tell you the same.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2007

Ahh well, Wazoo, I've never collected stamps, but I did read a couple Wikipedia articles before posting that seemed to reinforce what I understood about the cancellation of stamps.

Looking into it further, it can definitely be said that not all stamps benefit from cancellation. And perhaps the msot valuable stamps in the world are unused. But there are certainly examples where used stamps are worth more than unused stamps of the same kind:

"many stamps issued by Germany during its infamous inflation period are worth far more used than unused, because they could only be used for a short time, after which they became virtually worthless, due to runaway inflation." (here)

Many people also collect "first day covers," which are stamps cancelled on their first day of issue. This first day cancellation would increase the value to collectors.

In those cases, I do think the stamp becomes more valuable through use and time. Although the stamp could certainly never be "used" again.
posted by FortyT-wo at 8:46 PM on February 13, 2007

In the vein of Vervain's suggestion of cookbooks, I always prefer a well-used textbook. I have a copy of the Odyssey that was marked up by at least six students before me. While if you're the type to write in your books, this may be a minus as it'd be hard to tell which markup was yours, I don't write in my books and I love seeing what questions and comments ended up in the margins. A textbook marked up by someone really smart is worth its weight in gold.

I looked through my dad's copy of Paradise Lost once and I think word for word he had about as much text in there as Milton did. I'd definitely pay extra for it - it's like getting an annotated edition nobody else has!
posted by crinklebat at 10:57 PM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Musical compositions. Assuming you define their value by how much people like/enjoy them.

There is a very well-established finding in music preference that people's preference for pretty much** any particular piece of music follows an "inverted U" shape.

That is to say, people's preference for the piece goes up with repeated listenings up to a certain number of listenings--and then it's all downhill from there.

Some pieces reach their peak rather quickly (just a few listenings and - yeck) but on the other hand there are works like Beethoven's 9th . . . it only seems to be going up in popularity the more it's performed.

The research seems to show that the repeated listening itself is what brings to the listener further interest/insight/joy/whateveritisthatmakesmusicworthlisteningto. So if you'll swallow that a musical composition is an object . . . there's your answer.

For the insanely curious: Hargreaves, D. J. (1984). The effects of repetition on liking for music. Journal of Research in Music Education, 32(1), 35-47.

**'Twould be interesting to try to compose a counterexample to the "inverted U" law--a piece where the first few repeated listenings cause increasing DISlike but after that even more listenings lead to increasing preference for the piece.
posted by flug at 2:28 PM on February 14, 2007

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