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08th Nov 2021

What Makes Money, Art and Crypto Currency Valuable?

Value and worth is based on the perceptions and decision(s) of an individual or collective.

How $1 = $100 USA

For instance, a one-dollar USA bill is considered to be worth less in value than a hundred-dollar USA bill. Yet each bill is the same sized paper printed with basically the same amount of chemically compounded inks. Each bill costs about the same amount of money to print.

What differentiates the one-dollar bill from the hundred-dollar bill is their artwork and the promise that the current value of the bill is backed by the government of the USA. Yet their intrinsic worth is almost exactly equal.

The paper money issued by the USA used to be backed by gold. Now they are only backed by a promise from the government. This is true for most paper money issued in the world. After the American Civil War, the value of confederate bills plummeted as there was no Confederate government to back up these promissory notes.

Value or Worth is Not Intrinsic to Any Currency or Collectible

Food, water, shelter, or medicines, etc. have some inherent value. Their individual costs may rise or fall based on supply and demand, but these commodities are necessary to sustain life. Neither currency, art nor collectibles have inherent value because they cannot sustain life.

For instance, a bag of rice can be exchanged for an amount of wealth because it has an intrinsic value to sustaining life. People need food to survive. The currency paper bills issued by governments, even if they were backed by gold or silver, have no intrinsic worth, they are only small, printed pieces of paper that are issued to be valued as stated on the print.

For the value of any currency, art, or collectible to be trusted – and thus in demand and considered valuable – it must appear to be relatively secure by many people. The more people agree that a rare or one-of-a-kind item is valuable, the more valuable it becomes.

Dollar Bill, 2012, Series 2
Dollar Bill, 2012, Series 2 (Exodus 20 strokes) by Judy Rey Wasserman

Art: The Alchemy of Turning Oil Paint on Board into Gold

Let’s compare two same sized oil paintings, which are portraits of women who are pleasant, even lovely looking but not exceptional beauties. Neither woman is historically famous for any achievement beyond being the subject of a portrait.

The first painting remains in private hands. It was commissioned by great Uncle Harry who was a wealthy manufacturer of cotton towels and linens from 1919 until 1967 when his heirs sold to an even bigger company. Great Uncle Harry commissioned one of the then best portrait painters of his time to create a portrait of his beloved wife, Betsey. Aunt Betsey’s memory is cherished by her living descendants who have argued over who gets to keep the painting over their mantle since it was inherited. The family continues to tell of her kindnesses and her role in founding the family. To them, this portrait is priceless.

The second painting has a similar background story.  A popular artist was commissioned by a wealthy husband to paint a portrait of his wife, who like Aunt Betsey, had no real claim to fame, such as being a queen, or famous in her own time. Her descendants, if she had any, are not known to have fought for ownership of this painting, which was never delivered to the husband.

These paintings each have the same materials, are same sized, and have similar subjects, who are similarly positioned.  If we simply valued the paint and wood panels these works are painted on, their worth would be just about the exact same.

A Painting’s Value Can Vastly Differ Between People

For our example, Aunt Betsey’s portrait was painted by John Singer Sargent. Sargent remains considered one of the best, if not the best American portrait painter of his time. His works today remain revered. They hang in great museums and collections. The current auction price reached for a work by Sargent is $23.5 million. Similar strong offers from dealers and collectors have been made but rejected by great Aunt Betsey’s family because the portrait remains priceless to them.

The painter of the second portrait was also famous in his day and most of his works hang in the best museums. His portrait of the other lady is of someone we have come to call, the Mona Lisa.

Since the Mona Lisa has belonged to the Louvre since the French Revolution, and although it was stolen for a brief time, it was returned and has resided at the Louvre since 1911. It is not for sale. This portrait is said to be the most valuable painting in the world based on its insurance.

Just as we can guestimate what the auction price for great Aunt Betsey’s portrait based on previous priced received at auction, we can look to a recent auction price for a recently sold da Vinci. The difference is that we absolutely know the provenance of the Mona Lisa, whereas the da Vinci painting we are using is only attributed to him by many, but not all da Vinci authorities. The portrait of Salvatore Mundi, attributed to da Vinci, was sold at Christie’s auction in 2017. The Saudi Royal family purchased it for $450 million.

Why is a Da Vinci Portrait Worth Outstandingly More Than a Sargent?

Opinion.

That means most people who have seen the works by da Vinci and Sargent – and who are financially able in to purchase either work, hold the opinion that would prefer to invest in, and more frequently view a da Vinci.

Investment not only refers to money, but time and effort and perhaps some dispensable entertainment cash, the kind of money one might spend on a movie or less expensive activity like bowling or a sightseeing bus. It is well known that significant numbers of people, usually tourists, pay the entrance fee to the Louvre so that they can see one specific painting: the Mona Lisa. It is a big draw for the Louvre. The tourists go home with bragging rights that they have seen the Mona Lisa, having spent time, money, and effort.

The greatest art inspires people to see their world in a new way. It changes lives. Through the painting of the Mona Lisa da Vinci takes us past the surface of things, letting us peek at depths beyond our common visual perception, at a smile that fades and teases, and at a background that seems real the way dreams can for the dreamer.

Everyone who bid on the Salvatore Mundi for over $23.5 million held the opinion that the da Vinci was worth more than even the best John Singer Sargent. The Saudi Royals either figured that the painting was worth more to them, or possibly had current access to more money that they were willing to spend on art than the other bidders.

John Singer Sargent remains a great and inspiring portrait painter. Museums and collectors covet his works. $23.5 million dollars obtained at auction testifies to the prestige and value of his works. Granted, there are many more John Singer Sargent paintings whose whereabouts are known in the world than there are da Vinci’s. Scarcity does tend to make an artist’s works more valuable. Yet, not so much more valuable that scarcity could account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in disparity between the value of a da Vinci portrait to Sargent portrait.

One of a Kind Scarcity Does Not Equal Valuable

One-of-a-kind never to be repeated exactly items are produced daily by most adults, even children. These disposable items are tossed in the garbage or flushed away, even though precisely repeating the item is likely impossible. Thus, scarcity itself does not make an item valuable.

If an item is considered valuable to a significant enough amount of people who have the means to purchase it then scarcity adds to its price. Usually, thing bestows a kind of bragging rights to the owners.

Collecting Toilet Paper

In the early days of Covid 19 in the USA, there was a run-on toilet paper. Many states and municipalities had issued shelter-in-place orders. People were busily stocking in extra household items including toilet paper. This meant that stores were running out of items as customers were purchasing unusual amounts of supplies. Nearly half of the stores in the USA were out of toilet paper for part of the day on April 19, 2020. The news of lack of toilet paper prompted people to begin hording toilet paper for fear it would run out.

According to How the Coronavirus Created a Toilet Paper Shortage, Dr. Ronalds Gonzalez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forest Biomaterials at NC College of Natural Resources, the shortage was caused by panic-buying, not a problem with the supply chain. Grocery stores and other retailers usually only keep several weeks’ worth of toilet paper in their warehouses, the sudden increase in demand — largely fueled by panic-buying and hoarding — quickly depleted stocks. https://cnr.ncsu.edu/news/2020/05/coronavirus-toilet-paper-shortage/

Stores were limiting quantities sold to buyers. People who managed to buy up and horde these supplies were privately selling rolls at a limited profit. People who had enough toilet paper stocked away gently bragged that they had enough or were ok for now to acquaintances. For a few weeks having enough toilet paper gave a boost in status.

By the end of a few weeks, stores were fully restocked with toilet paper, although many continued to limit quantities purchased to prevent more hoarding. People who had hoarded toilet paper began to use up their supplies. Those who had invested in toilet paper to sell privately for profit were left with a lot of toilet paper.

The Covid 19 toilet paper scarcity was a small-scale enactment of what can happen when a perceived scarcity creates a boom then bust scenario.

Worth in Art, Life, and World Currencies is Ever Changing

Like the weather, value moves like autumn leaves blown up, down and away by the wind. And, like leaves on deciduous trees, value moves through seasons that are both intrinsic (personal) and extrinsic (societal).  

We are all aware of occurrences of extrinsic value shifts. For instance, when the cost for consumer goods like food or heating oil rise, or when we approach a seasonal communal holiday when we purchase special foods, decorations and, perhaps even gifts like toys. Those items that were not on sale up to the day before the holiday, plummet to giveaway prices the following day.

What we value intrinsically can also be fleeting. This is especially easy to perceive by observing children mature. The tot who is bereft when a favorite toy teddy is misplaced turns into the preteen who tosses the same now distasteful teddy into the garbage.  

Yet there are things, and ideas (including ideals) that we hold to be personally meaningful, inspirational, and even eternal. We belong to groups that have visual symbols to represent these values, which can vary from wearing a sport team’s brand logo to religious symbols of Stars of David or Crucifixes.

Since Alexander the Great first placed a portrait of himself on his realm’s coins to help spread his power and fame, governments have places images or symbols to represent their message. What messages does the actual physical money you have convey?

Do We Value Money Enough to Actually See It?

Most people, worldwide, think about their wealth (money, or valuables that can be exchanged for goods and services) frequently, more than on a once-a-day basis. All kinds of thinking and emotions may be involved in relation to money, from excitement and happiness to worry, fear and even grief at loss. We even fuss over money that we do not have, meaning our lack of funding and perceived ability to purchase a desired outcome. Yet how much do we value money? How much real attention, beyond the mental litany of not having enough, needing more, and the seesaw of daydreams of what we would buy verses fears of imagined financial woes? How familiar are we with actual money we carry with us and use?

Do you recognize the image below? Do you own a similar image of this artwork issued by the USA government yourself?

Federal Reserve Circle (Exodus 20)
Federal Reserve Circle (Exodus 20) by Judy Rey Wasserman

Do you recognize what this artwork portrays? Where have you seen this kind of image before?

Good for you if you answered USA paper money.

All of the bills, or only some of them? Does this image appear on the right or left side of the portrait in the center?

See for yourself:

Ten Dollar Bill, Series A, by Judy Rey Wasserman

This art image above of a USA $10.00 Federal Reserve Note was created with strokes of the original letters of Exodus 20 (Ten Commandments) plus the English letters and numerals, including Judy Rey Wasserman’s signature, which on most other works is in Hebrew in her signature-logo, but here used to emulate the placement of a government official’s signature normally placed on an USA government issued bill. The use of Exodus 20 is to inspire the viewer to use their money lawfully and according to eternal principles and truths.

So, What Makes Money, Art and Crypto Currency Valuable?

Value and worth is based on the perceptions and decision(s) of an individual or collective. We each decide, consciously or unconsciously what has value and worth to us.

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art.

Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory is based at the intersection of ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge contemporary science. It shows us a new and enhanced spiritual and science-based way to see the world. It is a life changing vision that can even become an actual new way of seeing that is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Can this be true? See for yourself. See more or yourself. Discover Judy Rey Wasserman’s UnGraven Image Art.

Change the way you see the world through art mage of the Word. Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com.

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