|Apologies for the delay: since the last edition back in May, I've (mostly) finished a degree and moved to Saint Lucia (!). This is the second to last edition of Interesting Things, and what follows are a ragged assortment of items in no particular order.
If the shoe fits: invest in it
Right now, somewhere in the world, a person with (possibly, but not necessarily) size 11 feet, is waiting for the opportunity to spend $27,000 (that's USD) on this pair of Nike MAG Back to the Future 2016 shoes. That person is, unfortunately, out of luck. Because for all the people elsewhere in the world who happen to own a pair of those shoes, the lowest price anyone seems willing to accept is $52,000.
Had the would-be buyer been in the market on 5 July last year, they could have secured a pair of size 11s for just under $24,000. Put another way, the person who bought the last pair back in July 2018 could, at this very moment, make a 12.5% return on their money: or, a 50 percent better return than the S&P 500 over the same period.
This information is from StockX, a website claiming to be 'the stock market for things', most of which happen to be luxury streetwear goods. Here's an old article for background. StockX serves the purpose any other marketplace platform: improving market efficiency by reducing information asymmetries and reducing fraud by helping buyers confirm they are purchasing authentic items. (It takes 90 days (!) to train a certified StockX sneaker authenticator).
If the owner of one of those pairs of shoes decides that, all things considered, $27,000 is in fact a very reasonable return, StockX will facilitate the sale and verify the shoes' authenticity for in exchange for a 9.5 percent commission. Stock X averages more than 10,000 such sales per day. The number of shoes literally changing hands may be much smaller: buyers can opt for StockX to hold goods for safe-keeping, and some buyers may never see the physical good: purchasing shoes purely as speculative instrument vehicles (recall the concept of fictitious capital from Edition 19).
Objects of speculation
Not all assets can be used for speculation. A single U.S. law prevents both trading in the future value of onions and, for some reason, movie box office receipts. The part of the law concerning onions came into place in the 1950s, after two men bought 14,000 tons of onions -- basically all the onions in Chicago -- to corner the market, making money first on the gradually increasing onion price, and later, by using futures contracts to short the onion market (i.e. bet on prices going down) before oversupplying the market to crash the price. The Wikipedia article is here.
A good I Told You So
The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures lawmakers cannot increase their own pay within the same term of government. Originally proposed in 1789, it wasn't officially ratified until nearly 203 years later. Its eventual ratification is due to the actions of a second-year university student, Gregory Watson, just 19 at the time. Or more specifically, the actions of Gregory Watson's professor, who gave Watson a C-grade on an essay in which he suggested the amendment could still be ratified. To prove his professor wrong, he launched a public campaign resulting, fourteen years later, in ratification of the amendment -- and a revised A grade on the paper.
Various elements of computer iconography (say, the save icon) is based on technology that's becoming outdated (a floppy disk), and I've seen anecdotes online of young kids not understanding what the icons are based on, which of course makes me feel three thousand years old. However: learning about the term 'computer bug' made me feel relatively younger. I'd never really thought about its etymology, but teh term dates back to when computer programming involved inserting a physical punch cards into a machine. A 'bug' was a literal squashed bug, found on the surface of a punch card, responsible for disrupting the code.
Here's an article about a Communist regime seizing power, albeit briefly, in the online game Runescape.