Why is it that, for most of us, big packages and presents seem to stir more excitement than little ones? Think about when you were a kid: Which gift on Christmas morning got you more excited — the big box that was standing in the corner because it was too large to fit under the tree, or the tiny little one that almost got lost underneath all the other presents under the tree?
In reality, of course, what is in the small package could be far more valuable than what’s in the big one. A tiny box, for example, could contain a diamond ring that is worth thousands of dollars, while a big box could contain nothing more than a yard rake or a broom.
Thinking about this got me wondering about how much things we buy cost when compared to each other by their weight. For example, it is hard to compare the cost of a steak with the cost of an automobile — unless you compare them by their cost per pound. When you do, you discover that steaks and cars may cost just about exactly the same amount of money.
The average price of a new car in the U.S. is now $32,074, according to research recently conducted by TrueCar.com. Since the average car weighs just a tad over 4,000 pounds, this results in an automobile cost-per-pound of about $8.
Well, last weekend I bought a nice, big sirloin steak for a backyard cookout, and guess how much it cost? It was $7.99 per pound. Not surprisingly, a car is a good bit more expensive than chicken, which costs anywhere from $0.99 to around $3 per pound.
Of course, some steaks are more expensive than others are. Filet mignon costs about $15 a pound where I grocery shop, or about twice the price of an average car, while I can get a chuck steak for around $4 or $5 a pound on sale, or about half the price of the average car.
And what exactly is an “average” car, anyway? Let’s see how a luxury, high-performance automobile like a Maserati compares on a cost-per-pound basis with a filet mignon. The MSRP on a 2014 Maserati GranTurismo is $126,500 and it weighs about 3,900 pounds, for a cost per pound of $32.43. Therefore, a luxury car is about twice as expensive per-pound as a prime cut of beef.
Moving down the scale, how much does an inexpensive, low-end car cost compared to chuck steak? The MSRP on a base-model 2014 Nissan Versa is around $12,000 and it weighs about 2,400 pounds, for a cost per pound of $5 — or just about the same as chuck steak.
How much do some of the common electronic gadgets we use cost per pound? The iPad Air weighs 1 pound and starts at a price of $499, so it is easy to compute that it costs $499 per pound. Meanwhile, an iPhone under contract weighs 4 ounces and costs $399 (for a 64 gig model), so it costs about $1,600 per pound.
So are there any foods that are comparable in price to an iPad or an iPhone? It turns out there are. Kobe beef goes for around $500 a pound, while Bluefin tuna can cost more than $1,300 per pound. Matsutake mushrooms fetch up to $2,000 a pound while saffron, an exotic spice, is sold for up to $2,700 a pound.
Now, what about a diamond, which is one of the most valuable and expensive things you can buy that comes in a very small package?
Diamonds are usually priced per carat, but when converted to a per-pound price, they might be the most expensive items in the world.
There are 5 carats in a gram and 453 grams in a pound, or 2,265 carats in a pound. The price of a diamond varies greatly based on its quality and other factors, but the jeweler’s average price of a 1.0 carat round brilliant cut diamond is $8,400. Therefore, the average wholesale price per pound of a diamond is over $19 million!
Obviously, you’re not going to walk into a car dealership, a jeweler or the Apple Store and ask them how much their cars, diamonds or iPads cost per pound like ordering salami at the deli. However, it is fun to look at the prices of these items in this way in order to compare them to things that we do buy at a per-pound price. Doing so gives you a different perspective on the relative cost of a wide range of different kinds of items.