Home > Uncategorized > Market-value in the news

Market-value in the news

from Edward Fullbrook

Over the weekend I read two articles (1, 2) in The Guardian about market-value.  One concerned the painter Bansky, the other a truffle hunter in Croatia.

I’ve been fan of Bansky for twenty years, beginning when he was a local graffiti artist in my part of town.  A couple of years ago one of his paintings, Girl With Balloon, was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London for £1.1m. 

As soon as the auctioneer’s hammer fell, Bansky’s canvass “passed through a secret shredder hidden in its large Victorian-style frame, leaving the bottom half in tatters and only a solitary red balloon left on a white background in the frame.”  Here is the one-minute video.

That shredded painting has been retitled “Love is in the Bin” and will be auctioned again at Sotheby’s in October when it is expected to sell for between £4-6m.

Banksy's 'Girl with Balloon' was meant to be shredded completely

Assuming it does sell for four million and a bit, that is three million pounds that six seconds of shredding added to market-value wealth and to this year’s GDP.  More than most of us add in a lifetime.

The other market-value article was a first-person account by a Croatian truffle hunter, Giancarlo Zigante.  In his late twenties he took up truffle hunting, a mostly night-time occupation, to supplement his income as a tool-maker for the medical industry.  He fell in love with truffle hunting and soon was earning enough money to give up tool-making.

Giancarlo had been happily living the truffle hunter’s life for twenty years, when one night in 1999 after leaving his house with his German pointer at 2:OO AM, he and his dog dug up by far the biggest truffle Giancarlo had ever seen

“I weighed the truffle straight away and knew I had something special on my hands. It weighed 1,310g. In the morning I spoke with Guinness World Records, who confirmed that it was the biggest truffle ever recorded. I could have sold it for €1m and made my fortune, but I knew instantly that I didn’t want to do that. It’s great to be rich, but I felt the truffle could have more impact if it was shared. The truffle was found in Istria and should be consumed here, not sold to a rich person abroad.

I invited 200 people from Istria to a feast, on me, and we ate it between us. The night was very special; an amazing atmosphere. Even the president of Croatia was there. Every white truffle tastes amazing – but this one was different.”

Giancarlo Zigante with a replica of the giant truffle he found, Livade, Croatia, 2021

Giancarlo today holding a sculpture of his truffle

So it was that that one million euros of market-value never came into existence.  By eating instead of selling that ruffle. Giancarlo and his friends lowered Croatia’s per capita GDP.



Market-value: Its measurement and metric by [Edward Fullbrook]



  1. September 6, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Actually, it is an empty statement to claim that the truffle had a market value of 1 million or so unless the mushroom is in fact sold. That’s true for all goods and services including shares and so on. Their market value is defined by the transaction price. No transaction, no market value.

    • merijntknibbe
      September 6, 2021 at 6:45 pm

      This is not entirely right. A fundamental tenet of markets is the fact that there are bid prices and offer prices (even when bid prices are as ubiquitous as a price sticker in a supermarket). The ex ante price. This contrary to the non-monetary exchange economies and gift economies, where ‘shadow prices’ or costs can only be calculated ex post. However – the gift exchange economy (a feast might be considered to be part of the gift exchange economy) is also characterized by the construction and sharing of cultural and social values, not just economic values. In this case, the bid price might have been around a million and this must be considered the market value of the fungus. True, the Bansky transaction has an element of conspicuous consumption blended with post-modern irony and decadence, which are cultural and social values too. Contrary to the cultural and social meaning of the feast – hey people, you are the truly important element of my life! – these meanings is however somewhat anonymous and, let’s face the truth, empty. Edward is however right that GDP measures the monetary value of transactions. Which is (my view) an important thing to do! The interpretation of these measurements should however be based upon knowledge of the cultural and social embeddedness (often related to all kind of ‘mode of production’ stuff) of transactions.

  2. Bill
    September 6, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Christian Mueller-Kademann, the piece is about market value. Property has a market value absent a sale. It is readily assigned to property for the purpose of dividing an estate or imposing value for tax purposes such as where property is given as compensation for services or an estate or inheritance tax is imposed, to mention just a few situations where it is commonly used.

  3. Ikonoclast
    September 6, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    I read Edward Fullbrook’s tale as a morality play. It shows the absurdity of greed and of notional (money) measures of value. It also shows the absurdity of GDP and the absurdity of the collision of art with capitalism. Banksy did a very ironic and “cock-a-snoot” thing. However, if he kept the money rather than donating it to a good charity then he is an opportunistic hypocrite and not to be admired in the least. Of course, I don’t know who he is, what he did with the money or even if he got the money.

  4. Ken Zimmerman
    September 10, 2021 at 4:50 am

    This deems to fit the theme.

    How Poop Can Be Worth $9.5 Billion


    TIME NOVEMBER 3, 2015 12:20 PM EST

    Let’s get two nasty numbers out of the way first (and don’t say you haven’t wondered about these at least once): The human race produces about 640 billion lbs. (290 billion kg) of feces per year, and about 3.5 billion gal. (1.98 billion liters) of urine. Divide by 7 billion if you’d like to get your own annual contribution to this heaping helping of yuck.

    From the moment human beings shambled out of the state of nature, the problem has always been just what to do about all that biological refuse. In the developed world, the answer is familiar: Flush it away as fast as possible and try not to think about it. In the developing world—especially in the parts where up to 2.4 billion people have no access to advanced sanitation and 1 billion have no facilities of any kind—things are a lot more difficult. Worse than difficult, the problem is dangerous, since human waste fouls water supplies, spreads infection and wrecks overall quality of life.

    Now, according to a smart study by a United Nations think tank on water, environment and health, there may be a simple—and profitable—solution: turn human waste from a disposal problem to an energy resource.

    Human feces ranges from 55% to 75% water. Much of the 25% to 45% that remains consists of gaseous methane—produced by bacterial breakdown—and a solid residue which, if dried and concentrated, has an energy content similar to that of coal. Unlike coal, of course, this is a fuel that hardly needs to be sought or mined, but like coal, it can have a lot of value.

    The U.N. report estimates that globally, human waste converted to fuel could have a value of about $9.5 billion. The amount of waste produced just by the 1 billion people with no sanitation facilities could be worth up to $376 million in methane production alone—enough to power 10 to 18 million households. The compressed, solid residue would produce the equivalent of up to 8.5 million tons of charcoal for industrial use.

    “When it comes to creating misery and poverty, human waste mismanagement has few rivals” said Zafar Adeel, the director of the U.N. group, in a statement accompanying the report. “If we can demonstrate a simple, cost-effective new approach…we can enhance development, protect the environment and help reduce sanitation problems causing one-tenth of all world illnesses.”

    The energy-generating part of this equation involves solid waste only, but all that urine humans produce every year has a role too. According to a Swedish study, every 1,000 liters (264 gal.) of urine contains 600 g (.66 lbs) apiece of phosphorous and potassium and 900 g (1 lb.) of sulphur. Combining both solid and liquid waste, a single human produces 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs) of nitrogen per year, according to the World Health Organization. All of this could be recycled as nutrients for crops, increasing yields and helping to bring down both poverty and hunger.

    The problem with any think tank study is how you implement it—and when the implementation is as complex, cumbersome and just plain messy as it would be in this case, that’s especially so. But a pilot project is being launched in Uganda, with the help of seed money from Canada (which is home to the think tank), the U.N. and the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment. The program will involve decentralized collection and processing in towns with poor or no sanitation, as well centralized collection in institutional settings—beginning with schools and prisons. A similar, if smaller, pilot study is being run in Kenya.

    Scaling up from two small trials to a global recycling system would, of course, be no easy matter. But it was not easy to link the world by air or Internet or electric grid either—and even now, the coverage is not uniform. Still, if there’s one truism about all organisms, it’s that they must both consume fuel and excrete waste. The problem will be here as long as we’re here—so we’ve got all the time we need to figure it out.

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