The Economics of Swapping

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Panini Sticker SwappingPanini Sticker Swapping

Panini Sticker Swapping

I grew up in a golden era, as technology products were slowly becoming affordable (and not taking up entire houses). I remember saving up months of paper-round money to buy my first Walkman, and then later for my first CD player.

The epitome of all this was taking a product home from the shop and having it permanently installed in my life. Without any real means of selling-on aging devices I would keep hold of most of this technology until it no longer worked (or I was persuaded to pass it down to my younger brother).

I’ve noticed that these days, with technology changing ever faster, I have a different perspective. Rather than seeing gadgets as something I’ll keep for the long haul I often find myself eBaying last year’s model to upgrade to something newer.

My kids seem to have a similar idea too. They buy and sell games without even batting an eyelid. At first I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to look back on their old toys and games and reminisce. But then I realized that if they did want these things back they would be able to find them online for a fraction of the price.

With their recent interest in Skylanders, and other collectable figure toys, they have come up with another way to deal with their purchases: swapping. They will buy a figure, play with it for a while and then make a decision about whether to keep it or not. The ones that don’t make the grade go into the “swaps” box and are used as playground collateral to exchange with friends.

I remember swapping Panini stickers as a child, but this is at a whole other level. The problem here is that swapping a toy with another child can become tricky if either party changes their mind. In fact there have been a few Skylanders swap wrangles where various parents have tried to decipher who originally owned which figures. Such was the web of exchange it was almost impossible.

In this light I think that the Disney Infinity approach to its upgrade tokens will make things a little easier. Not only are these closer to the stickers I used to swap (and sold in the same foil packs) but they are also less valuable. Seeing a child swapping a plastic token is very different to them swapping a toy.

Swapping seems to be the new economics of our family life. But I’m still trying to teach my kids that some things you want to keep even after you’ve finished/completed/broken them. There are plenty of trinkets I appreciate still having from my original dot matrix Gameboy to some prized PS1 games (MicroManiacs in particular).

To that end I’ve created a “Keep” box next to their “Swap” box. So far it’s pretty empty though, apart from a half eaten chocolate bar my son says reminds him of his favorite movie.

[Header Image Credit: flickr/Freddycat1]

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