It may just be me, or election season, but I seem to find more references to values lately. Family values, core values, values-based leadership, American values, hometown values, conservative values…The list could start sounding like Bubba describing the different types of shry-ump. Regardless of what descriptor you use, it is vital to understand the essence of value.

I used to think that value came from the intrinsic or inherent worth of an object. Rolex watches are deemed better than Timex, and a Rolls Royce is valued at a higher price than a Ford, each because they cost more to make in both time and materials. This seemed to be why people are willing to shuck out the cash to own one.

I also used to think that value came from the rarity of the item possessed. Diamonds and gold have greater value because they are harder to find than aluminum or copper. Isn’t this why I didn’t buy my wife an aluminum wedding ring? Metal found deep in a mine is worth more than metal found in a trash can or roadside ditch, right?

But now I believe differently, thanks to eBay.

A few years ago I started selling on eBay to get rid of tons of stuff my Mom had saved from my childhood. GI Joe, comic books, Matchbox cars, etc. Stuff that held nice memories, but probably not things a 40 year old man would have much use for, unless play dates for men make a comeback anytime soon.

I was pleasantly surprised at the price some of these things fetched during a 7-day auction. It felt a little like shark fishing. Drop in the bloody chum and sit back and watch the action. Who knew so many people were still interested in Richie Rich? And would pay dearly to acquire?

I believe now that value stems, not from the item, but from the collector of the item. Evidently the old comics I once thought about throwing away suddenly increased in value, not because the items changed, but because a group of people were willing to pay a certain price for them.

Note to self: All values are such because I make them so. What is important to me is because I assign it worth.

What’s it worth to you?