The Endowment Effect and Used Game Sales
Selling a used video game? Don’t let the endowment effect hamper your efforts.
Let’s go back to my rapidly diminishing game collection. After realizing that I had to overcome the endowment effect, I started pricing things to move. There were, however, some games that I simply could not bring myself to reduce my prices on. These were watershed games in my time with the hobby: Baldur’s Gate II, Half-Life, Quake III, NOLF, Planescape: Torment, and other stuff that I had a real history with. Why couldn’t I part with them the same way I’d parted with the others? I’d still probably never play them again.
It turns out that the endowment effect really gets ramped up the more personally significant the item are to you. This shouldn’t be shocking because we’re all familiar with the concept of “sentimental value.” But what’s really amazing is that not only can that meaning be invoked by your ownership, bit can also be elicited simply be knowing that an item has a history –even if you’re not a part of that history. This is the principle upon which the philanthropic project Significant Objects is founded.2)
The team at Significant Objects buys junk then has professional writers make up elaborate and interesting faux histories for those objects to be incorporated into eBay auctions. Even though the team makes it perfectly clear that the stories paired with these objects are fictional, the results are amazing: an empty chocolate tin sells for $36. A jar of marbles goes for $53. A simple ash tray rakes in $107. Just because framing the objects in terms of its elaborate, personal history makes the buyers perceive it as having more significance and meaning. (And lest you become indignant about such manipulation, allow me to point out that the Significant Objects project donates some of its earnings to charity.)