Question: When does a gift card gain in value?
Answer: When its a vintage Starbucks Gift Card and only 6 cards were made.
A gift card collector paid $10,277.00 for a used Starbucks gift card in a 7 day eBay auction that ended yesterday. The gift card was a limited edition card from 2006. Apparently, only 6 of these cards (called the “Crossword” card) were issued. The original owner won the card in a national crossword contest sponsored by Starbucks (SBUX) in 2006. As the original owner put it “While I used my card’s original loaded cash value of $500 to buy lots of lattes, I want to part with the card to buy more.”
While most gift card users worry about expiration dates, fees, losing the card, and other ways their gift cards can lose or decrease in value, a community of gift card collectors sees cards in another way as an opportunity to build collections that may actually increase in value.
According to one collector (who runs a site to be launched in the Spring of 2011 at www.cartodorology.com), most collectible gift cards are still either swapped between collectors, or trade for under $5.00 apiece.
The term for the gift card collecting hobby is “Cartodorology”, from the Greek Carta Doro, literally “Card Gift” The hobby of collecting gift cards is just becoming popular. Most cards are quite rare in real collectibles terms, as they are usually issued by the stores for a short seasonal run, and quickly become unavailable. Many stores that issue gift cards, such as Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Walmart, have produced long series of gift cards over the past decade which are a challenge and fun to collect.
The Starbucks “Crossword” gift card, apparently, is the highest reported sale price for a gift card. It is rumored that another one of the six copies of this gift card sold previously in mint condition by private sale to a collector for $15,000.00.
The next highest recorded sale of a gift card was also a Starbucks issued gift card (referred to as the “Prototype” card). The Prototype Starbucks card brought a little over $3,500.00 recently at an eBay auction.
According to John Buck,the operator of BucksCards.com, a site dedicated to information about gift card collecting, the sale of the Starbucks Crossword card has created quite a “buzz” in the card collecting world. BucksCards.com provides some history of the Crossword card, explaining the rules behind the original contest:
This Card was given away to the winners of the “Ultimate Coffeehouse Crossword Challenge”. The first puzzle of The Ultimate Coffeehouse Crossword Challenge appeared Sunday, February 19, in Starbucks in-store copies of The New York Times, and continued for six consecutive Sundays through March 26. Here’s how it worked.
“Will Shortz – editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle and host of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament – has created six weeks of crossword puzzles that will be available only in The New York Times newspapers sold at Starbucks locations nationwide.”
That will be six special Sunday crosswords.
“Each crossword created for Starbucks is linked to coffeehouse experiences, featuring artists, musicians, painters, and others whose works were inspired at the coffeehouse of their time. The puzzles range from easy to moderate, with each week presenting a new thematic test of wit and wisdom, and a unique way to shake up your weekend crossword ritual with Starbucks.”
“To win coffee for life, you must complete (and save) the puzzles each week. After the final puzzle, log onto www.starbucks.com/crossword to complete a virtual scavenger hunt, in which the answers are found in each week’s puzzle. Once the clues are all answered online, a telephone number will appear, and the first correct respondent to the final question will win Starbucks coffee for life.”
And make sure to save those gift cards! (or at least the ones that are limited editions).