So you need something. Maybe you need your equipment repaired, maybe life will become so much easier if you have a certain piece of equipment, maybe you need the next item in a Chain of Deals or perhaps you're outright looking for the next Plot Coupon. After much effort you track down the only source of this rare good or service (or perhaps try and fail to procure it from other sources) ready for yet another quest or to pay through the nose in exchange...and they're astounded you're so desperate to get your hands on something so easy to get hold of. Occasionally the trope is downplayed, with the item in question being hard to obtain, but granting a high yield (for example a rare ore which you can dig up tonnes of after finding your way to an isolated mine) or something minor compared with the rest of what you get (for example, requiring just a single coin made of a particular alloy or a special magic item in a massive hoard) making just one a trivial reward.
This trope is a close relative of both We Have Those, Too and Worthless Yellow Rocks. Not only does the person you're addressing have what you're looking for, but they're amazed you had to expend so much effort to find it (or maybe they're aware it's not easy for most people to find, but they have the means to get it easily). In a Video Game this might be used to lampshade a Commonplace Rare. Contrast Bulk Buy Only for when the protagonists have more of something than they want.
Remember that someone simply giving away things they have a large amount of doesn't count; it must also be what someone else is searching for. Also known as Shaggy Dog MacGuffin.
- 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.
- In A Horse for the Force, Ranma buys a white gold torque on a planet where it's so common he had to argue with the jeweler to get jewelry of the metal rather than something else.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines
- Inverted with Pokedexes. Rather than every trainer having one, only those who do well enough on specific tests get one due to each one having to be handmade by a Pokémon Professor. Because of this, trainers with Pokédexes are treated with a lot of respect.
- Inverted as well with evolutionary stones. In the games, while some are rare (like the Dawn Stone or Moon Stone) others like the Fire Stone or the Leaf Stone can be easily purchased in stores for a very cheap price, and the anime doesn't seem to contest this. In the new reality/timeline, though, these stones are much rarer, to the point that some tournaments offer them as prizes for the winner.
- Played straight with Mega Evolution. While rare in the anime and the games (in the latter, there's usually five or less outside of the Elite Four and Champion who can use it), apparently most gym leaders have a Pokémon that can Mega Evolve and according to Winona, Mega Evolution (or knowing how to handle them) is basically required to compete at League level.
- Harry Potter and the Natural 20: Salt, in Milo's home world, is a trade good with a fixed and unchanging price of five gold pieces per pound. In the Potterverse, salt is plentiful and cheap but it doesn't matter how much Milo pays for it; when he's using it to craft magic items, it's worth five gold pieces per pound.
- In Dragon Knight, Xander and his family bring a chest full of gold and gems from Rivellon when he returns to Sunnydale. He estimates that the amount they brought would buy a large house back in Rivellon but on Earth would be enough to buy half of Sunnydale.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- In The Skylark of Space, the only known chemical that can properly treat the formation of the settings superweapons is sodium chloride, that is, common table salt, which happens to be so rare on the planet which builds the weapons that there is more of it in a single salt shaker than has been mined over the entire history of said planet. Since Seaton is from Earth and gives some salt to the planets natives who expressed curiosity, he ends up escalating a war.
- In an Absent Dream: The world of the Goblin Market is rich in wonders but low on writing implements, so Lundy is able to strike an excellent bargain for her spare pencil when she's stranded there. She makes sure to bring a box on her next trip.
- The Cosmere
- Vstim the merchant of The Stormlight Archive uses this as his modus operandi: he finds places and people who need something, and he goes somewhere where it's plentiful, and then fills the need. It's not as fun or glamorous as going to rich cities and exotic locations, but it made him successful. For example, the Shin have prohibitions on harming stone, which means that they can't mine or accept metal from a mined source. So Vstim buys junk that's been Soulcast into metal, and sells it to them at a reasonable price. His apprentice Rysn takes his lessons to heart, and when she finds all of the grain on her ship is wormy, rather than trying to scam someone into buying it, she sells them to a tribe that eats worms.
- It turns out that the Ghostbloods are interested in Roshar because of this. On Roshar, Investiture literally falls from the sky in the form of Stormlight, and it's considerably harder to get in other parts of the Cosmere (i.e. it has to come from another person on Nalthis, and difficult to share on Scadrial). One of their goals is to find a way to bottle and sell it, since it tends to dissipate offworld.
- When Mraize is explaining the Investiture market to Shallan, he compares it to how water can be valuable in a dry expanse. Shallan is unable to grasp the concept of a dry expanse, because her world has weekly worldwide hurricanes.
- Star Trek:
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 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 Stargate SG-1, naquadah is initially treated as unobtainium, as it can't be found anywhere in the Solar System. In fact, when they discover that an asteroid heading for Earth is made up of the stuff, this is seen as proof that it was towed there by the Goa'uld from another system. Then, as the series goes on, it turns out to be, while not as common as dirt, common enough in the galaxy that the Tau'ri can eventually get a steady supply. Weapons-grade naquadah is quite a bit rarer, though, and naquadria is damn difficult to find.
- 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 paid 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 obtain.note
- 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. Mind you, it's obvious the guy who sells it to you initially is ripping you off- he even admits that it's just a piece of crass jewellery. The only reason to buy it rather than just run across the desert is that the conman throws in a rare charm item as a bonus.
- Pokémon games are divided into complementary versions. The biggest differences between versions are what kind of Pokémon are available. For example, one species might be common in one version but rare in the other, or another can only be found in one version of the game. This encourages trading.
- And in between generations, there are Pokemon that are rare or even unique in one game or region, but more common in another. For example, Eevee was only obtainable as a gift in Generation I, but can be found in the wild in certain areas starting in Generation IV.
- In the 2nd Star Control game, as soon as you successfully complete the Chmmr quest your wealth becomes infinite because they have access to basically limitless resources, and you can now trick out your ship and fleet however you want. This doesn't happen until the game is near its end, but it means you'll go into the final battle well prepared.
- In the Sword Coast Stratagems Game Mod for Baldur's Gate, you need to backtrack to town to buy a length of rope to proceed in a certain late-game dungeon. The shopkeeper has a good laugh over the fact that you, at that point an epic-level badass whose equipment is worth more than the entire town, need something as common as that. He gives it to you for free, saying that he will be "dining on this story for weeks".
- 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.
- In The Transformers, the cure for Scraplet infection is an extremely rare substance that turns out to be water.
- 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.
- Even fruit and produce that could be grown in the region was like this in winter. If it was something that didn't last long without refrigeration, like most green vegetables, it was generally only available when it was in season, or in canned or (later on) frozen form during the times of the year when it wasn't in season.
- Martiniquan Rhum Agricole is a hard to find premium item in the UK but easily found in supermarkets in France and Spain. Import tax is thought to be the main factor. As a general rule, beer that is popular in its own country but without an international distributor will become rare elsewhere - one example being Mahou which is ubiquitous and cheap around Spain but only found in Spanish import shops elsewhere at inflated prices.
- China has a virtual monopoly on rare earth mineral production. The United States used to carry this monopoly, but a combination of factors have made it no longer economically viable to produce them in the US. Since rare earths are absolutely vital to the manufacture of modern electronics this is very much a case of Not Rare Over There.
- 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, basically all of American Internet car culture (starting with Jalopnik but also including everyone from Regular Car Reviews to Doug De Muro) uses "brown diesel manual station wagon" to refer to the kind of very rare and quirky car that car people obsess over. In Europe? They're practically the default medium-to-large car (maybe not in brown, but still).
- 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.
- Trade is a response to this trope. Some trade, especially for commodities, has to do with what is available where. Even when the good should in theory be able to be produced everywhere, the idea of competitive advantage means you will be better off trading for things you have a higher opportunity cost to produce locally.
- Economies develop because of an inversion of this trope; if person A and person B both have lots of something the other needs, but don't want what the other has then they can't just exchange them. Solutions like common trade goods (something they can exchange their goods for something that everyone needs or accepts), currency (when tokens of exchange are produced by some sort of authority), or socialised distribution (a third party takes responsibility for distributing excess goods) ensure they can both get what they need.
- This trope and some of its resultant issues are thought to be why iron replaced bronze as the metal of choice in ancient times. Making bronze requires both copper and tin but there are few places in the world where both metals (or their ores) are found in close proximity and if you lose access to access to the trade networks you need to get one or the other (as has been speculated to occur in the Eastern Mediterranean's Bronze Age Collapse) you have to start looking for alternatives and iron has the advantage of only requiring one source of ore, even if smelting it is more difficult.
- Titanium is an interesting case. It's not getting the ore that's the issue, it's the complex industrial processes required to extract and shape it that are the issue. In any case, the Soviet Union thought it would need copious amounts of titanium to make super sonic aircraft, solid titanium super sonic aircraft in fact, thousands of them. So the the USSR became the first nation to be able to produce titanium on a truly industrial scale. However prototype super sonic bomber designs ended up using far less titanium than had been thought needed, and it was eventually discovered they did not really need titanium at all (the math had been really off). Of course they still used titanium in other military applications, like the Alpha class submarines and did eventually make titanium aircraft parts, but they still had so much manufacturing capacity for titanium that they just had no idea what to do with. This ended with a scenario where the Soviets commonly made solid titanium crow bars where other countries were struggling to make any at all. Eventually the others caught up, but Titanium prices in Russia are still substantially cheaper than elsewhere and solid titanium products are still relatively common.
- During the Cold War, there was a vast range of consumer goods whose equivalents in the West were almost universally regarded as better, shinier, more enjoyable and more durable than their Eastern counterparts. However, trade was strongly restricted, so few of those "Western goodies" could reach people of the East. Countries like Bulgaria had the so-called "Intershops" in which a select few could trade in Western "hard" currency (domestic currency was extremely volatile due to frequent "amendment" of prices) and only at those places (outside of the black market, that is) could people get their hands on such goods. Western currency was, however, hard to find, not to mention illegal for most of the population (if you had somehow converted some money into dollars, you had to give them to a high-ranking official (if you knew someone you could bribe) or a foreigner so they would buy you the item you want). To top it off, those shops only used Western currency and domestic currency was not accepted there. Cue the surprise of many Eastern Europeans when they could venture West after the fall of the Iron Curtain and see previously unavailable goods for sale at local convenience stores.
- Reportedly, Boris Yeltsin was heard at a (stocked) American supermarket asking if it was reserved for politicians, or the goods were sufficient and available for anyone. Realizing that a small supermarket was overflowing with goods in a way huge Russian stores couldn't compete with (he said even the Party elite didn't have access to so much variety) destroyed his faith in Communism.