open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Played with in One Piece. The Straw Hat Pirates decide to act like pirates for once and make off with a bunch of gold from the Skypieans... but it turns out that gold is extremely common there and they'd be happy to just give it away to the people who had just saved their lives.
- In the first Tenkaichi Budokai in Dragon Ball, one of the finalists is Nam, who wants to use the prize money to buy water for his drought-stricken village. After he's defeated by Goku, Jackie Chun gives him a capsule and tells him water is so plentiful in the region that he doesn't need to buy any at all: he can just fill the capsule at a nearby spring.
- A story of Brazilian comic Monica's Gang has the title character going through lots of ordeals in search for a missing jigsaw puzzle piece. Then upon seeing the puzzle her father tells on how the woman on the puzzle was related to them, and hid that piece from the puzzle because it depicted her ugly nose... and then the father reveals all those missing pieces hidden in a drawer at their own house!
- Gold was so common on pre-Crisis Krypton that it was considered a cheap metal. When Jor-El first tried building a spaceshipnote :, he was mocked for using something as heavy as gold; but the ship used anti-gravity, so the weight didn't matter. He had made it out of gold as a cost-saving measure.
- In one Archie comic, Jughead loses his hat and is none too concerned, telling Archie not to worry about it and going home. Archie, believing it to be an irreplaceable staple of Jughead's personality, goes to great lengths to retrieve it. When he returns it to Jughead at home, Jughead thanks him, but shows him that he has a cupboard full of them since they tend to get lost or damaged over the years.
- A Storm of Swords: Daenarys tries to buy off a mercenary company and offers a casket of wine as a goodwill gift. The mercenary captain complains that this is not enough and demands a whole wagon of caskets instead, to which Daenarys obliges. The captain wasn't aware that Daenarys *did* just loot an entire city famous for (among other things) its wine.
- In the Myth Adventures books, Aahz tells Skeeve that things that are rare in one dimension are commonplace in another, and so a skilled enough magician could make a small fortune selling cheap trinkets at marked up prices. The biggest offenders are the Deveels, who've become Proud Merchant Race Guys thanks to this trope.
- The Counterweight Continent in Discworld has a rather large concentration of gold compared to the Ankh-Morpork area. From a Counterweight perspective, Twoflower's Luggage filled of treasure is an appropriate amount to cover his traveling expenses. From Rincewind's perspective it would probably buy a kingdom.
- And when Rincewind first encountered Twoflower in The Broken Drum and saw his Luggage made of sapient pearwood, he estimated it was worth more than the drinks, the bar and all its inhabitants combined. In Interesting Times we learn that, while they're not common, many Counterweight nobles own one. The luggage is still a unique example, being much more proactive and aggressive.
- In The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, Bernie Rhodenbarr is hired to steal what he is told is a valuable, one-of-a-kind book. After he and several other people scheme and counterscheme for possession of the book, Bernie discovers that there are many other copies in the possession of the man who hired Bernie in the first place. The man has been selling the books as one-of-a-kind and is trying to prevent a powerful, short-tempered buyer from finding out that he's been conned.
- Two Examples from Vorkosigan Saga:
- On Beta Colony, wood is very rare, so Cordelia is shocked when its so common on Barrayar
- While in reverse, Aral tells a story about how one of his Barrayarn ancestors invested in gems (rare on Barrayar) but ended up losing the family fortune because they were much more common in the rest of the nexus (due to synthetics).
- In the Cordwainer Smith story On the Gem Planet, gems are ridiculously common and essentially worthless on Pontoppidan (the eponymous planet), but dirt is rare and precious.
- In Triplanetary, the first part of the Lensman series, the Nevians come up with a way to transmute matter into (tremendous amounts of) energy, but the problem is that it needs iron, which is incredibly rare on their world. They power an interstellar spacecraft with the few pounds of it they can manage to scrape together to go out looking for more, which they find ... in the form of a spaceship from Earth. The Nevians and "Tellurians" get off to a rather rocky start because of this, but eventually become friends.
- In Dean Koontz's The Bad Place, one of the main characters teleports to another planet in his sleep and comes back with pockets full of red diamonds, enough to be worth a considerable fortune here on Earth.
Live Action TV
- When Star Trek: Voyager started they were in an area of space where water was the go-to commodity. Our heroes can make all they want (within reason) and find themselves a common target because of it.
- There's an episode of Only Fools and Horses which uses this as the punchline to a Violin Scam: the boys raise a huge amount of money to buy a rare Hindu statue from one man, intending to sell it to another. Both men then disappear leaving them with the statue ... and then they find an identical statue in an Indian restaurant, and the manager tells them he got it for a couple of pounds at a Portobello Road stall filled with them.
Restaurant Manager: It's amazing the bargains you can find if you shop around.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Elaan of Troyius", the ship's dilithium crystals crack in the middle of a battle. Unfortunately, there are none left... until they realise that Elaan's necklace has a bunch of them. She surrenders it gladly, bemused that they would want what to her planet are Worthless Yellow Rocks.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Nog explains the Ferengi philosophy, which is this in a nutshell. "There are millions upon millions of worlds in the universe, each one filled with too much of one thing and not enough of another. And the Great Continuum flows through them all, like a mighty river, from 'have' to 'want' and back again. And if we navigate the Continuum with skill and grace, our ship will be filled with everything our hearts desire."
- In a Christmas Episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy spends the entire episode desperately searching for that year's Cool Toy for her son, only to find that it is sold out everywhere. At the end of the episode, Eldon sends her one from Europe where the fad has apparently passed and the toys are common and cheap.
- In an episode of Alias, Agent Grace bargains for some intelligence from a German counterpart by promising a shipment of jerky: half beef, half venison. The agents are bemused by the apparent rarity of jerky in Germany, considering its fame for other processed meats like sausage.
- In Peanuts, Lucy, in a fit of rage, destroys Schroeder's piano and Beethoven bust, thinking Schroeder would get upset (as he usually is when Lucy is nearby). Instead, Schroeder simply gets up, cleans the mess, goes to a nearby closet, pulls out a piano from a stack of them and puts it where the previous piano was, then goes to another nearby closet, lifts out a Beethoven bust from a shelf filled with them, puts it on his piano, and resumes playing music like nothing happened. Lucy becomes flabbergasted.
- Foogle Birds are a recurring foe in Toon adventures. The Foogle is always the last of its kind ... but no one ever said there was only one kind of Foogle.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, after returning to a mafia Don who was part of a previous quest to get tickets for a trip on the Excess Express you need to find a Plot Coupon, you find him deathly ill. Turns out he's stick from worry over his daughter and son-in-law (who he exiled previously), so his goons offer you the tickets if you can get them to return. Upon recovering, he's furious when he learn they promised you a reward without his permission...until Mario says what it was, and he bursts into laughter before asking how many you want.
- A variant in Escape from Monkey Island. There are two different puzzles you can solve to obtain the Mega Monkey Meal Coupon; once you redeem the coupon, you will have the opportunity to obtain a part of the MacGuffin you're trying to assemble, but it's possible to miss your chance. Rather than make the game Unwinnable, once you have solved either of the necessary puzzles, an entire barrel of Mega Monkey Meal Coupons will appear, ripe for the taking.
- In Mega Man Battle Network 2, one NPC asks to be payed in "Guard * chips". Talk to another NPC, and she'll give you 30 of them.
- Your town in Animal Crossing typically has one kind of fruit in abundance. Getting others is a real pain because you need to either visit another town, or luck out and get one from a villager. Though in the other villages they could have tons of of stuff that you want.
- The Companion Cube in Portal 2.
"They are sentient, you know. We just have a lot of them."
- In Fallout 2, Vault City has an entire apartment full of water chips, the object that half the first game is spent trying to obtainnote .
- Annihilation amulets in Secret of Evermore: 10,000 gems to get one if you don't want to cross the desert on foot, and once on the other side you can easily buy a couple others in the marketplace.
- Used as part of a rant by Ash in VG Cats 252. He has plenty of Pokemon because he's been catching them, or to be more precise: Bitch be tripping balls!
- Discussed by Sam in one strip of Freefall. Since Jean is in the process of being terraformed, wood and other organics are extremely rare and valuable, while on his planet, the landfills are full of cheap wood items. On the other hand, diamonds are so cheap on Jean that they're thrown away, while a diamond grill he found in the trash would be worth a king's ransom on his planet.
- It has come up repeatedly in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! that aliens can synthesize gold and precious gems effortlessly, and consider them valueless.
- In the Futurama episode "Time Keeps On Slippin'", a character mentions that they'll need "some sort of doomsday device" to solve the problem of the week. Quoth Prof. Farnsworth;
Farnsworth: Doomsday device? Well now the ball's in Farnsworth's court![The professor presses a button on a remote, causing several different stereotypically "mad scientist" style machines to come up through a trap door]Farnsworth: I suppose I could part with one and still be feared.
- In Aladdin: The Series, Al and Iago go on a quest for the legendary Orb of Macana, the only thing that could cure a sick Genie. They have to overcome three arduous trials, and after completing each one, the guardian of the Orb goes to a chamber and retrieves it... from among thousands of identical orbs. The guardian complains that at this rate he'll never be able to get rid of them all.
- Porky in Wackyland is all about Porky Pig trying to capture the last of the Do-Do birds. After he does, the Do-Do replies "Yes, I'm really the last of the Do-Dos. Ain't I, fellas?" Suddenly, dozens of Do-Dos appear out of nowhere to answer him.
- In one of the Three Bears Looney Tunes ("The Bee-deviled Bruin"), Papa Bear nearly gets himself killed trying to get honey from a hive in a tree outside his home. Eventually, he gives up and asks for a bottle of ketchup. Mama Bear goes to get it... from a cupboard filled to the brim with jars of honey. She did try to tell him before, but he told her to be quiet.
- In the Ben 10 universe, iron is actually rare outside of the Earth.
- This will happen quite a lot with food, among other things:
- In Spain, especially in Galicia (the northwest), the vieira is a rare, expensive mollusc that is frequently carefully prepared and served, in its shell, one to a person as a tapa. In the United States, especially in the Northeast (more or less due west from Galicia), scallops are frequently served in large handfuls with bread crumbs and butter, broiled in a disposable pie plate, and are generally the whole meal along with a beer and some bread.
- Until relatively recently, fresh tropical fruit like bananas or pineapples were extremely expensive in most temperate regions because they had to be grown in heated greenhouses or imported in specialist and costly-to-operate refrigerated cargo ships. It wasn't until the widespread adoption of container ships, or specifically shipping containers with self-contained refrigeration systems, that importing them at a price most people can afford became possible.
- Jalopnik's Running Gag about diesel manual wagons. Rare new (only VW offers one at this writing) in America and virtually impossible to find used, but practically the default medium-to-large car in Europe.
- Taken to extremes with the most valuable minerals of all: moon rocks. When you're actually on the Moon, there's nothing but rocks everywhere, but getting there to collect them requires billion-dollar space programs.
- amiibo vary in rarity across regions, with ones that are difficult to find in one country filling up shelves in other locations. Australia in particular has a reputation for inverting the rarity charts compared to other regions, and it sometimes gets called "amiibo heaven" as a result.
- Salt was once rare in Europe. There are specific areas with abundant salt deposits, however, and when towns appeared in these areas, these towns would soon become important destinations for merchants with "salt roads" established between them and major metropolitan centers. Towns often displayed in their names that they had salt: Old English's word for salt was "wich," for instance; all towns and cities that end in "-wich," like Sandwich and Norwich, were once sources of salt.