Uncle Bill was visiting for a week, and Gabi was thrilled.
Gabi loved her Uncle Bill. He had a long, gray mustache that stuck out on the sides like whiskers, a deep, gravelly laugh, and he told the best stories. Gabi especially loved when Uncle Bill talked about growing up in South Chicago with Gabi’s mom and their younger sister, Jenna.
“I was always getting into trouble,” Uncle Bill would laugh. “But your mom? She was always the goody-goody, never stepped out of line.”
Today, Uncle Bill had brought down a small, wooden box and opened it on the coffee table.
“Come here, Gabi,” Uncle Bill said. “I want to show you something.”
Gabi didn’t need to be asked twice. She hurried over and looked at the box.
“What’s inside?” she asked. “Can I see?”
Uncle Bill wagged a finger at her. “Uh-uh,” he said. ”Not yet. First, I want to tell you a little story.”
Gabi settled back against the couch with a little sigh. She really wanted to know what was in the box. But a story from Uncle Bill was definitely going to be good.
Gabi wasn’t disappointed. Uncle Bill started talking about back when he was 9 years old and really into baseball.
“I used to collect Topps,” he said. “Baseball cards, especially ones from my favorite team. I got myself some really good ones, too.” Uncle Bill’s eyes took on a faraway look, and Gabi knew he was getting lost in his memories.
“One time,” Uncle Bill continued, “your grandfather promised me a quarter for every A I got in school. I had a really tough teacher that year, and all of her exams were super hard. But I wanted those cards! So I studied and studied; I did my homework every night; and I skipped lots of fun outings with my friends. I earned those A’s and I got those quarters. And this is what I bought.”
He unlatched a lock on the box and pulled the cover open with a small creak. Inside was a small pile of baseball cards. Each card was wrapped in plastic and they looked very, very old. But Uncle Bill was obviously very proud of them.
“You see this one here?” he said, pointing to a card. “It’s a genuine Ron Santo; it’s worth more than a thousand dollars today. And this one here, this old Ernie Banks card, is worth double that!”
“A few thousand dollars for a little baseball card?” Gabi couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“It’s not just a ‘little baseball card’,” Uncle Bill said, smiling. “These are collectors’ items. They’re very, very valuable.”
Gabi looked at the cards again. Something just didn’t add up.
“I don’t get it,” she said. “How could you pay that much money for these cards when you were just a little boy? How many ‘A’s did you get?”
Uncle Bill looked at her and then he burst out in huge, rolling laughs.
Now Gabi was even more confused. “What’s so funny?” she asked. “What did I say?”
Finally, Uncle Bill calmed down enough to explain. “Do you know how much money these cards cost me when I was a little boy?” Without waiting for an answer, he said, “Just fifty cents, that’s all!”
“But, you said they’re worth thousands of dollars today!”
Uncle Bill smiled again. “They are!”
“How is that possible?”
Uncle Bill carefully put the cards back into his little box, snapped the lid shut and leaned against the couch.
“Let me teach you an important money word,” he said. He spoke slowly and carefully: “The word is app-re-ci-a-tion.”
Gabi knew she shouldn’t interrupt, but she didn’t understand. “Appreciation? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Not the appreciation you’re thinking of,” Uncle Bill explained. “When something appreciates, that means it goes up in value. It’s worth more over time.”
Gabi nodded, thinking.
“Like these cards here,” Uncle Bill said. “They’re worth a lot more today, because they aren’t in print any more. They’re rare and old, and that makes them worth a whole lot of money. Do you get what I’m saying?”
Gabi thought she did. “Does appreciation only work for baseball cards?”
“Well, if you hold onto your sneakers for 50 years, I don’t think they’ll be worth thousands of dollars,” Uncle Bill said, winking. “But limited editions of things that are collected, like stamps, and coins—and baseball cards, of course—usually go up in value over time. And it also works with houses.”
“Yes. My house is worth a lot more money today than it was when I bought it 35 years ago. The neighborhood has gotten very popular, and lots of people are interested in moving there. If I sell it, I would make a lot more money than what I paid for it all those years ago.”
Gabi thought about what Uncle Bill had said. It sounded very interesting.
“I want to save something for a long time, too!” she told Uncle Bill. “But I don’t own anything that can really appreciate.”
“How about I give you a little something to start you off?” Uncle Bill asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“Oh, would you, Uncle Bill? That would be awesome! Thank you!”
Gabi watched as Uncle Bill reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a coin. Gabi already knew it wasn’t going to be an ordinary quarter. She couldn’t wait to look up exactly what kind of coin it was. And then she was going to put it away somewhere safe, where she could hold onto it until it was worth a whole lot of money.
Just like Uncle Bill.
● Why do you think collectors’ items appreciate over time?
● Do you think Uncle Bill’s cards will continue to go up in value each year? Why or why not?
● As Uncle Bill mentioned, houses usually appreciate over time. In comparison, cars tend to depreciate, or go down in value, instead. Can you think of a reason houses appreciate over time but cars do not?