Follow TV Tropes


Crack is Cheaper

Go To
"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 hard. 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 an $8 profit margin.note 

Additionally, because the in-roads and availability of material related to the hobby seem 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 , be it guns, sports memorabilia, classic cars or anything 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.

Often display their expensive treasures in a Nerd Hoard. Compare and contrast Snobby Hobbies where expensive non-geeky hobbies are used as a signifier of wealth.

In-Universe Examples Only:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Aggretsuko's third season kicks off with Retsuko getting hooked on a VR Boyfriend dating sim and blowing through more than 200,000 yen (most of her savings) in a single night buying clothes for her virtual boyfriend. Fenneco mocks her for this when she finds out, then tries the game herself and becomes just as addicted.
  • 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.
  • Yoshii of Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts spends all his food allowance on anime and manga. He gets around this by eating ridiculously small meals, including sugar water.
  • Busou Shinki: Those cute little Shinki can blast your wallet. Their Spiritual Successor, the Frame Arms Girls, has this crop up as well. In episode 4, when the girls start making their own 'rooms' inside a bookshelf, the Materia Twins end up using such luxurious and expensive materials that they end up using up Ao's first paycheck from Frame Advance. She's understandably angry with them for this.
  • 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.
    • This trope is also Played for Laughs in the Bonus Material mini-series The Empty Stomachs of the Miyakawas. The titular family are in Perpetual Poverty exactly because the older sibling was trying to fit her otaku hobbies into a bookstore staff wage.
  • Medabots has a main set of characters, the Medabots themselves, as expensive to buy and maintain.
  • In Oreimo, Kirino (a 14-year-old) has a vast collection of anime and Dating Sims; her brother is suspicious about how she could afford it all, since it follows realistic Japanese pricing (equivalent of hundreds of dollars for anime box-sets). It turns out she has a lucrative job as a teen clothing model.
  • In My Dress-Up Darling, this pops up regarding the realm of cosplay, with Gojo usually getting his funding from Marin's savings for her cosplays. He also freaks out at the increasingly-expensive prices of professional cameras online after meeting with another cosplayer and her sister who takes her photos. This also becomes a central issue when he takes on a cosplay for the latter, since she doesn't have much money due to being a middle-schooler, but they pull through with money-saving purchases and using Gojo's own school uniform since it coincidentally resembled that of the character he was working towards.
  • 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 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 or very close to it note , so presumably they spend even more money building their decks than professionals do in real life.
  • If Doc of Zoids: New Century had his way, he'd have every Zoid ever built much like Harry Champ does. Granted, much of why he buys what he does is because it's cool, but he was "conned" into buying the Liger Zero because "White Ligers are rare". There's also the time he nearly melted at the mere sight of a Red Blade Liger that his son was piloting, and the time he ordered a Buster Cannon to mount on a Shadow Fox. Granted, all of this pales in comparison to the sheer number of model kits he has laying around, some of which he'll break out during a fight or a briefing.

    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 CCGs, 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.
  • Batman: This was the origin of Jonathan (the Scarecrow) Crane's Appropriated Appelation. Crane spent all of his money on buying books, so he was always very shabbily dressed. As a result, his university colleagues nicknamed him 'Scarecrow'. When he turned to crime, he adopted this as his alias.

  • Right before the submarine is submerged in Crimson Tide, Captain Ramsey offers Commander Hunter a cigar with the admonition not to get too used to them, as they are "more expensive than drugs."

  • 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. Unfortunately, Alonso Quijano is an Impoverished Patrician who sells part of his lands to buy more books. Then he takes his obsession the next level: Alonso Quijano decides 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"
  • A Twitter microfic by O. Weston depicts a conversation with a dragon about their latest hoard, painted toy miniatures. They've also in the past hoarded trading cards and LEGO... They don't hoard gold, though — not anymore.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. Though sometimes one of them will buy such items for their own collections, especially if Rick encounters a rare item connected to his idol Steve McQueen.
    • On both Pawn Stars and Counting Cars the word "boat" is said to be an acronym for "Bust Out Another Thousand".note 
    • 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 the expansion. Raj will later show off his Wild West and Witches collector's tin...
    • In one episode when Raj needs money, Stuart offers to buy back at a low price all the collectibles he sold him at inflated prices, then gives Raj a job restocking all those same collectibles - at high prices.
    • Stuart selling such overpriced items to the main characters features in several episodes.
  • 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.
  • In Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw spends a ridiculous amount of money on shoes, and wears said expensive shoes pretty much everywhere. It´s deconstructed because instead of Carrie's constant shoe-buying being just part of the background of the series, it suddenly becomes a problem when it turns out she has tens of thousands of dollars worth of shoes...and not enough money to get a mortgage.
    I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!
  • Often discussed on RuPaul's Drag Race due to the sheer expense of competing on the show. Drag in general can be a very expensive hobby and it's rare for a Drag Queen to make it her full-time career. Most gigs pay next to nothing, and the majority of drag artists have day jobs in addition to performing. While the average local queen who performs every other weekend can get away with frugality (off-the-rack dresses, drug store makeup, costume wigs, etc.), competing on Drag Race means having to spring for the high-end items, commission designers if necessary, and so on, and many contestants go into debt to gather the necessary components. Competing on the show has gotten so expensive that many talented drag queens have turned down invitations to audition, precisely because they don't have the resources necessary.
    Kandy Muse: Baby there is $100,000 on the line! If y'all won the prize money, what are y'all gonna do with the prize money?
    Rosé: Invest in my drag...just like all the rest of my fucking money at all times.
    Simone: Yup, whatever I win is just going right back into Simone.
  • Taken quite literally in Tiger King by former drug kingpin Mario Tabraue. Discussing his menagerie of exotic animals, Tabraue claims, "I sold drugs to maintain my animal habit."
  • Welcome to Wrexham follows Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney's purchase of Wrexham AFC and how the initial, huge, cost is just the beginning of their expenses. Throughout the first season, Ryan and Rob have to fork over cash to have the pitch sodded and then resodded, increase the salary cap so that the club can afford better coaches and players, tear down a derelict stand and build a new one in its place, and purchase the actual land the club sits onnote . It's mentioned that the English National League is actually the most expensive to operate in, in relative terms, because owners have to pay for everything themselves. From League Two on up, the Football Association provides funds to help offset costs.

  • One issue of Cracked, when it was still a print publication, had a two-page illustration on its take of a collectible card game tournament. A tag pointing to a competitor pointed out that he "spent $1,000 on a deck to compete in a tournament with $250 of prize money."

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • There's a joke that goes, "Playing in an indie band means packing $5,000 of equipment into a $1,000 van for a $100 gig."


    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.
  • Power Quest has this in the form of the small robot models used to battle with one another. Despite the protagonist saving up money before the game starts, their friend quickly lets them know that it'd only be able to afford a single part! Thankfully, your mother informs you that something arrived for you that day... a voucher you can exchange for your own model!
  • A realistic example occurs in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. The card game pazaak gives players the option to buy more powerful cards for their deck for a sum of credits that would be meaningful to a normal citizen of the galaxy, such as 25-200 credits. For comparison, a normal blaster rifle (the sort many characters in universe would carry around in a dangerous wilderness) costs 300 credits in this game, and high-stakes games of pazaak could be played for a couple of hundred credits. A top tier pazaak deck would run about a thousand credits, or about half of what Luke sold his used speeder (think car, but floating just off the ground) for in A New Hope.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Gwent is a recently invented trading card game in a fantasy setting thanks to interdimensional elf shenanigans, and Geralt can purchase extremely powerful cards by trading in his real hunting trophies. The game is so popular in-and-out of universe that a mob of angry villagers formed to protest official rule changes, and the game itself is now free-to-play on Steam and GOG (and just as costly to buy actual cards).
  • In Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, Futaba mentions that her Featherman figurines cost a total of 200,000 yen or nearly $2,000 together. She sheepishly admits that it along with her high-end PC, video games, and manga collection all came out of Sojiro's pocket.


    Web Original 
  • Phelous's spinoff show Bootleg Zones has the Galaxy Warriors (a line of action figures based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)) due to how many sublines, spinoffs, variants and bootlegs the figures have. He often refers to them as the "Galaxy Black Hole" or "Galaxy-Hole" when discussing them.
    • It gets to the point where, while revisiting Turtles Fighters for his 50th episode, Phelous discovers that the figures he's showcasing actually use accessories bootlegged from a Galaxy Warriors bootleg line, making Turtles Fighters part of the Galaxy-Hole by association.

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Gray Ghost" has an example of this, as 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."
  • Referenced in an episode of The Simpsons where the entire Springfield library is out of books, and some of the only readable material left is "Yu-Gi-Oh! Price Guides".
    • Another episode has Lisa getting hooked on collecting Olympic pins, to the point of trading in her pearl necklace for a pin from the French Winter Olympics in 1924 and busking on the street corner.


Video Example(s):


One More Pull

Professor Chalk puts way too much time and money into Genshin Impact.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrackIsCheaper

Media sources: