People love cliches like, "He's worth his weight in gold!" I'll bet we've all used that famous phrase when we wanted to praise someone or something. We'll say things like, "My fancy, new cordless electric drill is worth its weight in gold," even though no one would be dumb enough to pay that much for one as long as Sears is still in business. Still, it seems perfectly acceptable to compare things to gold. Gold is rare and valuable. It wouldn't do to use a measure of questionable value, would it? Would you say, "My son's math tutor is worth his weight in potato chips"? That doesn't sound impressive, no matter how much you like snack food. Gold is a universal standard. Potato chips are not.
Well, if you've followed the rising price of gold, you know this comparison is running into trouble. Let's say you were worth your weight in gold last year. Maybe you helped a friend fix some plumbing problems, or maybe you baked your neighbor a casserole or read a big book to a little kid. Now that gold prices are way up, are you still "worth your weight" this year? If not, people will start saying, "David was worth his weight in gold last year, but this year he's only worth 7 percent of his weight." I don't like that at all, even though it's still better than being measured in potato chips.
I suppose I could lose weight to solve the problem. I weighed about 190 pounds last year when gold was $1,200 an ounce. That means I was worth over $3.6 million. But gold is now over $1,600 an ounce, making me worth almost $5 million. You and I both know I'm not worth that much. But, if I dropped down to 142 pounds, I'd be worth $3.6 million again at today's prices. So, that's what I have to do. I have to lose 48 pounds and hope the price of gold stays where it is. If I can't do that, I'll just have to give up and let people compare me to 190 pounds of potato chips. That would make me worth about $500 bucks, if you base the price on those fancy salt-and-vinegar chips. If you base it on cut-rate potato chips, I'm just about worthless this year.
David McCoy can be reached at email@example.com