XKCD valuable shoebox revisited

I would like to see this redone with a few rules added to it.
What is the maximum value that can be put into the shoebox with the following stipulations:

  1. Contents must be legal to purchase in the USA without a prescription or special license. Products where age is the only restriction, however are allowed.
  2. No financial instruments, gift cards, vouchers, tickets, or real estate deeds.
    3.Rare collectibles are allowed, but only to the point that they actually exist. No speculating on the value of hundreds of copies of a one-of-a-kind item.
  3. Since digital goods usually can’t be resold, they do not count either. Boxed copies are allowed since they are transferable if not used.

Californium-252 is hard to beat. It costs about $27 million dollars per gram. You could easily fit several billion dollars worth in a shoe box. It is highly radioactive but so is the plutonium referenced in the linked article. Californium is orders of magnitude more expensive than plutonium as well.

According to this list, I’d suggest either diamond or californium. Might be hard to track down enough californium to fill a shoebox, but it has industrial uses and so must be legal (if restricted) to purchase.

How big is a shoebox? 33x18x13cm = 7722 cubic centimeters? If Californium, your shoebox is worth about 208 billion dollars. If diamond, 1.5 billion dollars.

The OP stipulated:

I doubt you can buy highly radioactive material without a special license…

I would suggest looking for some rare, high purity, non-hazardous chemical. They fetch ridiculously high prices: for example, Sigma-Aldrich sells guanosine 5’-triphosphate tris salt for € 11.385/500 mg. And GTP isn’t really all that rare in biochemistry use…

What’s the critical mass of Cf-252? I suspect that, like plutonium, it’s less than a shoebox-sized amount.

Also, have they even made a shoebox-amount (10-15 liters) of Californium total? The wikipage on Cf says

At those rates, it’ll take a very long time to produce 10 liters.

One problem is that the goods might cost a lot but not be worth much, like the in-app purchases in the article. But this might also extend to gold, diamonds or just about anything you can think of. There may be a point in the future when the public get wise and the bottom drops out of the diamond market and even the gold market is artificial.

So what could we put in the box that would increase in value, even after, or maybe because of, an apocalypse. I vote for seeds.

Not strictly apropos of OP’s proposition, but much more ego-boosting: “footnote” 3 regarding the density of cocaine, reads as follows:

So. Um. Yay for us as another valuable reference resource in the rarified world of exotic and dubious knowledge?

InkJet printer ink.

You can’t keep that in a shoebox. As soon as you close the lid, it disappears and you have to start all over.

Photographs of famous people doing naughty things with barnyard animals. 1,000 photos @ $2,000,000 each matches diamonds’ value.

I know the OP ruled out digital content but if you did go that route (as xkcd did) would songs be the way to go? Wouldn’t e-book files like Kindle or Nook give you a higher total? They’re much smaller than music files and cost more individually. My quick estimate is they cost about 20,000 times as much per byte. So if you could fit $1,500,000,000 worth of iTune songs in a shoebox, you could alternatively fit $30,000,000,000,000 worth of Kindle books in one.

watchwolf, if we go that route, we need for there to exist photos of a thousand different bestial celebrities.

And if we allow digital content, then neither songs nor e-books are the way to go. You don’t need to store the artwork itself, just the license to the artwork. That’s where all the real value is, and depending on how the licensing is managed, could be stored in many fewer bytes.

Although there may not be enough valuable ones to fill a whole shoe box, some room should probably be made for stamps. The British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta sold for about 9 million, and 4 Baden 9 Kreuzer Error stamps add another 6 million dollars, it would be hard to beat 15 million for the size of 5 postage stamps.

In fact, you can purchase small quantities of americium-241 in any hardware store. It comes with a free smoke detector. The bulk cost of americium oxide is only ~$1500/g, though the cost in smoke detectors is roughly $35M.

Or Bill Gates and a thousand sheep?

I agree, digital (or analog) media is cheating; for this game, it should be a commodity item, with enough resale market size (like diamonds or gold or cocaine) that it could be realistically re-sold.

Raw e7-2890 processor dice.

How about the gem Painite it costs $300,000 per gram. It has a density of 4 grams per cubic centimeter. So it’s valued at $1.2 million per cubic centimeter.

All of the rarest coins, from the most rare, and most valuable, which can sell for millions at auction, and going down to the next most valuable, and the next, until the box is full. You would have all the extant coins from the Roman Empire with enough detail to ID, probably down to the most valuable of US coins, gold $20 coin that is unique (albeit, it might belong to the US mint, and there might be a rule about private possession, I’m not sure). You’d easily have over a billion dollars of coins in the shoebox.

It seems to me that packaging should also be a factor in this calculation. For instance, as I understand it, californium 242 comes in milligram or sub-milligram quantities, but it’s embedded in a plastic capsule or something like that. So you’d have to figure out how many capsules you can fit into the shoebox, besides finding out if you can get enough of them to fill it. And that’s ignoring the lead box they’re usually shipped in.

Similarly expensive chemicals are usually shipped in small vials or other containers, but each one may only have a small quantity.

Taking both availability and packaging into account, the shoebox will probably contain several kinds of things. Find the most expensive item in terms of $ per milliliter of the package and get as much of that as is available, then move on to the next.

Antimatter. Wikipedia gives cost figures of 25 billion to 62.5 trillion dollars per gram.