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Crack is Cheaper
aka: Stuff That Costs Money
"Any time! Honest!"
Original cartoon used with permission.

Stop spending all our cash
On back issues of The Flash
Ookla The Mok, "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You"

Being a geek is tough. But never mind any social stigma, or trying to explain your hobbies to other people. Oh no. The hardest hits in Geekdom go straight to your bank account.

Perhaps because they feel that they don't reach a wide audience, makers of so-called "geek" paraphernalia charge a pretty penny for their wares. It doesn't help that geeks are as into their interests as any Sports fan is into his favorite team, which is to say a lot. Just because their bobbleheads are more likely to be Mobile Suits than football players, doesn't mean they're not like the rest of mankind. Just in different ways.

Can be made worse by the hardcore Fan Boy's preference for overpriced merchandise. This guy wants geek paraphernalia to be overpriced because he wants to be the only one on the block who can afford to own it. If an item costs $9.99, then any old fan, even one who has a mortgage and bills to pay, can afford it; but if it costs $129.99 and comes with the fake totally legitimate signature of the fandom's creator, then only a true fan would spend so much of his mother's money to purchase it. This is a dream come true for the manufacturer, who would much rather sell 10,000 items at a $128 profit margin than 50,000 items at a $8 profit margin.

Additionally, because the in-roads and availability of material related to the hobby seems so tenuous, the Fan Boy will be willing to pay inflated prices to ensure that material keeps being produced. Of course, the rise of the internet has proven there is a breaking point, as many anime licensees have found out: expecting people to pay $40 for a good seventy-five minutes of entertainment that can easily be distributed online may soon put you out of business.

As these hobbies become more mainstream, the prices will often fall. Many fans then find that the situation doesn't get all that much better, as the lowered prices simply encourage them to get more.

Since these hobbies are so expensive, ads for them count as Up Marketing, just at fans of these instead of the upper class.

Obviously, this trope doesn't just apply to "geek" culture. People can be obsessed with collecting just about anythingnote , ranging from guns to sports memorabilia to classic cars and everything in between. The prices for some items can be absurdly high, depending on how rare the item is and how much money collectors are willing to shell out.

Add only In-Universe examples.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Medabots has a main set of characters, the Medabots themselves, as expensive to buy and maintain. (Justified, in the fact that they are built to shoot missiles, lasers and other things.)
  • Air Gear has the Air Treks that are expensive, comparable to what you'd expect from rollerblades with motors, necessitating the teens to work part-time. Unless it's provided for them.
    • Possibly justified by the fact that wearing them apparently allows the user to violate physics.
    • Definitely justified by the fact that wearing them lets you jump several stories and move close to 100 MPH. from shoes. If anything, the fact students on a part time job can afford them makes them cheap for what you get
  • In Yureka the characters have all the money hangups of online gamers, but the technology is much better (read: More expensive). Add to that the price of Netrooms when a home computer isn't available, it's no wonder most of them can barely afford it.
  • Yoshii of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu spends all his food allowance on anime and manga. He gets around this by eating ridiculously small meals, including sugar water.
  • In the Read or Die series, the main protagonists often spend so much money on books that they have no money for food, much to the dismay of the one Paper Sister who isn't a bibliomaniac.
  • In Lucky Star:
    • The girls discuss this trope when they talk about how Japanese people seem to love limited edition items. Konata herself does this a lot, often buying limited edition items that are hard to get.
      • It might be related to the aesthetic ideal of wabi-zabi, and to the Zen idea of the impermanence of all things—that wouldn't be the oddest place in Japanese culture that wabi-zabi has turned up.
    • This trope is also Played for Laughs in the Bonus Material mini-series The Empty Stomachs of the Miyakawas. The titular family in in Perpetual Poverty exactly because the older sibling was trying to fit her otaku hobbies into a bookstore staff wage.
  • In Welcome to the NHK, Yamazaki, who is already a massive otaku with shelves packed full of manga, DVDs, and figurines, gets Satou into the hobby and trains him to buy things on impulse. But Satou doesn't have much money to spare, so this just accelerates him towards bankruptcy.
  • Hinted at in Yu-Gi-Oh!. While never specifically stated that cards cost vast sums of money, they do mention that the packs do cost something, assumably about the same as they do in real life. Considering that the characters are playing the game for a living, and that the rarer cards are more or less unique note , so presumably they spend even more money building their decks than professionals do in real life.

Comic Books

  • Part of the reason BA and Bob are perpetually broke in Knights of the Dinner Table is that they use what little money they earn from their minimum wage jobs to support their role-playing hobby.
  • Often a topic of discussion in Full Frontal Nerdity, whether it's how much one of the characters spent on CC Gs, making fun of someone else for buying some overpriced piece of memorabilia (usually followed by pointing out how much they spend), or a meta discussion on why people spend so much on the games.

Film

  • Right before the submarine is submerged in Crimson Tide, Gene Hackman offers Denzel Washington a cigar with the admonition not to get too used to them, as they are "more expensive than drugs."

Literature

  • Don Quixote: This attitude is showed In-Universe (and deconstructed) by Alonso Quijano. At chapter I Part I we learn that he has acquired a lot of chivalry books (almost three hundred), and if you remember that the printing-press had been invented in Europe only some years ago, it's a considerable feat. Later, Alonso Quijano will decide that it would be a great idea to become Don Quixote:
    "and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillage land to buy books of chivalry to read"

Live-Action TV

  • This is a borderline Meta example since it's based on Real Life, but Pawn Stars shows the opposite side of this trope with some people who make a living off it. The Harrisons frequently buy things because they know they'll be able to resell them to collectors who are willing to pay huge sums of money for antique guns, classic cars, historic documents, pop culture memorabilia, etc.
    • On both Pawn Stars and Counting Cars the word "boat" is said to be an acronym for "Bust Out Another Thousand".
    • Comic Book Men plays both sides of this trope as it's about a comic book and toy shop that is run by fanboys.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, the fellas play a card game called Mystic Warlords of Ka'a. One episode sees the release of an absurd Wild West and Witches expansion pack, which Raj describes as "like a secret tax for guys who cannot get laid". Moments after, the four have shelled out $25 each for said expansion. Raj will later show off his Wild West and Witches collector's tin...
  • An episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun had Dick becoming addicted to Fuzzy Buddies, to the point he begins to lose control of his family's finances.

Music

  • In the song "Byens hi-fi asyl"note  by Norwegian folk singer Øystein Sunde, the salesman literally describes the items he sells as "cheaper than opium, but more expensive than marijuana". The song also mentions a customer who's very addicted to hi-fi, and willing to pay a lot for it.

Theater

Video Games

  • The Xtended Game Mod for X3: Terran Conflict adds the Fuzzico® Fuzzy Dice collection, a series of twelve fuzzy dice which are valued by in-universe collectors. Their price varies from negative credits to hundreds of thousands on the black market, depending on the color of the dice. In-game however, they are worth only two credits, simply being a Bragging Rights Reward. The only way to acquire them is to loot the wrecks of civilian cargo freighters.
  • Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia has a merchant in Firefly Alley who deals exclusively in collectible cards, and the first few are pretty cheap... Even the cards' descriptions lampshades this trope, complaining about how expensive they get and eventually suggesting the makers are just milking the cash cow. However, they can be turned into grathnode crystals with special effects for Item Crafting, so they can be worth getting.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Grey Ghost": the villain is a toy collector who turned his toys into bombs to get the money to buy more toys
    You see, I need the money to buy more toys. I love toys. They can play songs. They can dance. They can even eat money. Oh, boy, can they eat money. All my money. And then I remembered an episode of The Gray Ghost. And I knew what else a toy can do. It can carry a bomb. It can hold a city for ransom. Oh, the power of the toy. It can earn millions. Millions for the little old toy collector, me.


Christmas CreepTropes For SaleDungeon Shop
Conspiracy TheoristObsession TropesThe Collector
Could Have Avoided This PlotAdministrivia/In-Universe Examples OnlyDiscredited Meme
CosplayAcceptable Hobby TargetsMerchandise-Driven
Artistic License - EconomicsMoney TropesJust Pennies A Day
Couple BombYMMVCrack Pairing
Couple BombYMMV/Home PageCrack Pairing
CCG Importance DissonanceCollectible Card GameDiscard and Draw
Covert PervertAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Crapsaccharine World

alternative title(s): Stuff That Costs Money; More Expensive Than Crack; More Expensive Than Drugs
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