Blowing Money on Grail Objects

holy grail cup

I have a friend who has lusted after a certain board game for years, now. It’s out of print and if you can find it on the secondary market in good to mint condition, it usually sells for north of three hundred dollars. While this seems crazy to me, it’s not to him. To him, finding this game in near mint condition would be the culmination of years of work and saving. To each their own, I guess.

Many people have some “grail object” like this that they want. Something that is so rare or expensive that getting it is almost impossible but should they succeed, it would mean fulfilling a long time dream. For some people it’s finally owning something from a luxury brand like Tiffany’s, Prada, or Gucci. For others it’s owning some rare collectible, piece of memorabilia, or an out of print game or record. Whatever their personal grail object is, you can bet it will be expensive.

So should someone blow money on such a thing, when there are likely many more affordable alternatives that are just as fun, cool, or useful? The answer is that it depends. First of all, you have to ask if you can afford it. Not if you can finance it, but can you pay cash for it? If you can pay cash for it and doing so won’t derail any of your other financial needs such as building an emergency fund, putting aside money and saving for the future, or buying food next week, then you can probably afford it. If it has to go on a credit card to be paid off over time, then, no, you can’t afford it.

Second, don’t make the mistake of thinking of this grail object as some kind of investment. While you might be able to sell it for more than you paid, the secondary and collectible markets are fickle. What fetches a high price today may not tomorrow. If you’re going to buy it, make sure it’s for your own enjoyment and use, first. If you later decide to sell and you’re lucky enough to make a profit, great. But don’t trick yourself into believing that it’s a great investment. It’s an object whose value can fluctuate.

Third, make sure you really want it. Sometimes the thrill of the hunt is worth more than owning the object. While this may be fulfilling to you in and of itself, you need to understand that about yourself in advance. Otherwise, you’re going to blow a lot of money, get the object home, and then wonder what you ever saw in the thing. Then you’ll be off to hunt for the next grail object on your list because the hunt is what gives you the rush. Not the thing. Do your research in advance and know whether it’s really the object itself or the hunt that makes you happy. If it’s the latter, perhaps you can work a deal with someone else where you will hunt for the object, but they will pay for it and own it.

Finally, if you have a partner who also has their own grail hunt going on, make sure you talk in advance about whether you can afford both items and what happens if you both find your grail object at the same time. I have another friend who hunted for years for a certain record. He has a wife who hunted for years for a certain doll for her collection. They both found their items at roughly the same time and a big fight broke out because they could not afford both at the same time. It got ugly. He got the record and also got to sleep on the couch for a while. Make sure you and your partner understand the rules of the hunt.

Also make sure that you accord the same respect to your partner if you’re both hunting grail objects. It’s selfish to say, “I can spend three hundred dollars on an out of print comic book, but I don’t want you spending money on an out of print game.” Just because your partner’s grail object isn’t something you understand or would choose doesn’t make it less valuable to them. If you’re going to hunt and spend on grail objects, accord your partner the same respect and freedom. Otherwise, there will be more sleeping on the couch.

Hunting for and owning grail objects can be fun. You can complete a collection and get the “thrill” of saying that you have something that few other people have. Just make sure it’s something that you can afford and that you really want before you sink the time and money into the hunt.

(Photo courtesy of Eddi van W.)

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5 Responses to Blowing Money on Grail Objects

  1. Byron T says:

    I have a relative who is a car nut. Buys, sells, repairs, trades, constantly. And not profitably. I think it’s important to have a real come-to-Jesus meeting with your spouse and/or yourself and figure out what these Grail Objects (and I love that term) mean to you. Usually it’s an insecurity or something you think is going to fill some void in your life. Only a few times is it something that you’re going to feel good about over the long haul. You made many good points here.

  2. jim says:

    What’s the board game your friend is looking for? If it’s in my basement (and it may well be) I’ll ship it to him/her – free of charge. I’m trying to clean out my basement and I am not into craigslist or garage sales.

  3. Gailete says:

    I too was curious what the game was.

  4. Jennifer says:

    For those who were curious, the game in question is called “Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit.”

  5. Cristy says:

    I was hoping it was Dark Tower, that’s my grail object but I will freely admit I don’t constantly hunt for it.

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