Cheap now, valuable in past

  1. I’ve built a time machine. I have the dial set for London, 1871. I’m not very rich here in 2009 Illinois. But I want to be very wealthy when I get back to Victorian England. Assuming I don’t take the Biff Tannen route, what is the best thing to stuff my suitcase with? (That is, I don’t want to get rich by knowing the future and wagering on it.)

  2. Repeat Q1 for your own favourite era.

Digital watches? (You can stuff a whole bunch of them in a suitcase.)

Oh my god. You mean those guys with the briefcases near Battery Park are time-travelers?! :eek:

I was reading a book about life in the the 1200’s in Europe and it said that peppercorns were quite valuable. They were so expensive that some people could only afford a single peppercorn. It was called Black Gold and was even used as a form of currency. Considering that you can get it now for $5/lb, I suspect you’d be quite wealthy if you went back to the middle ages with a couple of suitcases full.


From the Wikipedia page;

“The Washington Monument was completed, with the 100 ounce (2.8 kg) aluminium capstone being put in place on December 6, 1884, in an elaborate dedication ceremony. It was the largest single piece of aluminium cast at the time. At that time, aluminium was as expensive as silver.”

Just melt down a few pop cans and other scrap and you’re rich!

I’m guessing that some object that you could take, that could then be back-engineered would be most valuable. Particularly if it had military applications. I’d suspect that metals technology of that time might be able remake a copy of an Uzi, for instance.

Go to Holland in the 1600’s instead with some black tulip bulbs. You will either make a fortune or be burned as a witch or both. :cool:

Exactly what I was going to say, with exactly the example I was going to use.

Briggs and statton small gas motors :stuck_out_tongue:

Peppercorns or other spices. I haven’t tasted bacon salt yet, but maybe that would be good, too.

And we synthesize gemstones nowadays, so possibly you’d want to take along some good sized rubies, sapphires, and emeralds?

bic lighters?

Ball point pens?

Cheap reading glasses?

This was going to be my suggestion. Before it could be separated from bauxite it was massively expensive, as it was extremely rare in its pure form.

Penicillin and sulfa drugs. Lots of Victorian gentlemen with embarrassing social diseases that need curing. Lots of rich folks with consumptive daughters. You could be a doctor to the wealthy.

Be sure to get out before the tulip market collapse that brought the country to a halt. Darn speculators!

Amethyst was considered a precious gemstone right up there with Diamonds, Rubies, Saphhires and Emeralds. Then in the 19th century they found tons of them in Brazil and the value crashed.

Viagra. Not only would you get very, very rich you’d also soona be elevated to the peerage (possibley even a dukedom. :smiley:

This is so funny because I was just talking to someone about how eBay has RUINED the “value” of so many things for so many people. There are scads of things that we thought were so rare and unusual up until now and held onto them as precious…and then went online only to find everyone and their dog was ALSO squirreling away those exact same things. The (real? apocryphal?) story of the discarded Mickey Mantle rookie card has created a nation of hoarders clinging to a bunch of worthless junk that everyone has and nobody wants.

I remember people getting up at the crack of dawn to buy Beanie Babies thinking they were going to retire off of them…now it’s Bobble Heads. Really? REALLY?

Salt and peppercorns. You could be a millionaire with a suitcase full of salt and a suitcase full of peppercorn.

Salt will not make you a millionaire. Salt was valuable, yes, but a suitcasefull isn’t going to make you rich.

Pepper is a better choice. Or whole cloves.

Ultramarine Blue paint.
Formerly made from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, it was worth more than its weight in gold. It is now synthesized and only marginally more expensive than paint pigmented with dirt (ochre, umber, sienna).