Priceless?

I always enjoy juxtaposing seemingly unrelated news items published in the same issue of a newspaper.  Today’s topic:  markets and pricing.  Two situations, related (I think) but not identical.  From last Sunday’s New York Times:

“An Artifact, or a Payday” New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen, who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, will auction off his jersey from that game — after reclaiming it from a San Diego sports museum to which he had previously given, er, loaned, the jersey.  The museum isn’t putting up much of a fight.   In the hands of Larsen, and of the collector who may buy the thing, the jersey is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In the hands of the museum (the San Diego Hall of Champions), the jersey doesn’t have a value:  it’s history, made available publicly to any one who pays the modest admission fee ($8 adults, $4 children, $6 for students, seniors, and vets).

Don Larsen is taking what might be called a priceless artifact, in other words, putting on the market, and giving it a price.

He says that he is trying to raise money for his grandchildren’s college education, which is a respectable, even generous and honorable, thing to do.  One wonders whether the Yankees have an interest in the jersey.  One wonders as well whether the pitcher tried to take a tax deduction when he transferred the jersey to the museum in the first place.

Did someone say taxes?

“Art’s Sale Value? Zero. The Tax Bill? $29 Million.” The heirs of the art dealer New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend are at odds with the IRS over taxes allegedly due on ““Canyon,” a sculptural combine and master work of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg, which Sonnabend’s children inherited on her death. The work includes a stuffed bald eagle. Under federal law, that means that the piece cannot be sold. Nonetheless, the IRS has attached a fair market value of $65 million and is claiming past due taxes, and penalties, of more than $29 million.

The IRS is trying to take what really has been called a priceless artifact, because there is no lawful price (no market) for it, and giving it a price.