The Price of Anything

Today’s Machining World Archives January 2007 Volume 03 Issue 01

One of my abiding lifetime fascinations has been under-standing how markets value things. My father raised me on stories about buying machines at low prices and selling them at higher ones. I’ve been titillated by the stock market since childhood as I’ve tried to grasp the mystery of the shifting values of equities.

Recently our new accountants leaned on us to do a comprehensive inventory of our stuff so they would feel secure about the values ascribed to our inventory in case the IRS came to visit. So we counted every screw and shaft (well, give or take a few) and dutifully recorded the tally. The accumulation of a business lifetime of buying and selling, stripping and saving. And what is it worth?

A useful fictional number will be affixed to the iron because the taxman demands it. But what is it really worth? Nobody knows because it changes every day, just like the stock market and the price of celery.

In this magazine we have the audacity to explore the ideas – and the prevailing fictions that affect our personal and professional lives.

The fear that a tiny amount of lead in a steel fitting in a junked car could be injurious to a wandering French lad is an idea (a fiction) that affects the business life of a toolmaker in San Diego or a machinist in San Juan. It changes the price of metal you buy and the components you sell.

The price of anything is a market-driven construct, shaped by the ideas of an instant. And the fictions.

Lloyd Graff

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