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2010 Big Dig Scholarship Winner:

Emmanuel Rios of Michigan

Emmanuel will be entering his first year of general business studies at Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida.

"I would like to thank Henry and the staff at Antique Trader for this fun opportunity. You don't know how much I appreciate the help. The scholarship funds will be put to good use." ....Emmanuel Rios

Emmanuel's Submission

1. What is the Item you are going to bury?
The item that I have chosen to bury is an autographed basketball jersey worn by Yao Ming.

2. How much does the item cost?
The item was available for purchase as a “Buy it now Item” for $399 + $25 for shipping and handling.

3. Where could you purchase the item today?
I found this item in many different online stores, including Ebay.

4. What made you choose this item? and
5. Why do you believe that the item will have immense value 200 years from now?

The most important criteria of this scholarship is to bury something that will increase in price by the largest amount over a 200 year period. To determine this I had to first think of what determines the price of an object. This is quite simple. Most economic models will suggest that price is a function of supply and demand. See figure below:

What we can deduce from this graph is the following:

1) All other things being equal, Price will go up, if supply goes down
2) All other things being equal, Price will go up, if demand goes up

Thus, the object I choose should meet the following criteria:

1) Constraints on Production and
2) A likely Increase in Demand.

The basketball jersey signed by Yao Ming passes this test with flying colors. While it is obvious where the constraint on production will come from, as Mr. Ming will sadly pass away sometime in the future, it is much more difficult to project where demand for any item will be so far out in the future.

However, if we shift our thinking from projecting demand for one single item, and instead focus on aggregate demand within a country, we start to get a better idea on where demand will be increasing. Since aggregate demand within a country will largely be a function of income per capita multiplied by the total population, we will examine each below:



The estimates of population growth above take us to the year 2050. In 2050, India will be the largest country in the world. The only other country of similar size will be China. However, this does not present the full picture. We must look closely at expected income per capita.



If we take a careful look at this graph, we notice that, according to Goldman Sachs, the expected per capita income of China in 2050 is going to be roughly $60,000 US Dollars, while India is expected to hover around $20,000 US Dollars.

Given this, we should expect that the aggregate demand in China is going to increase by the largest amount between now and 2050, as compared to other countries. Furthermore, we should also expect that the general price of goods in China will rise, on average, much faster than any other country in the world.

This leads me to the conclusion that the item I need to bury should be primarily targeted to the citizens of China. While I realize that this is not a 200 year time frame, I think it is obvious to anyone that projections any further out would be an exercise in futility.

What will be popular in China in 200 years?

Due to my limited knowledge of the Chinese economy, it is impossible for me to guess what will be popular 200 years from now. Instead, I will focus my energy on what is popular today and, as a result, will also likely be popular 200 years from now. However, it must be something that I have a solid knowledgebase on. I cannot choose a painting, as I have no idea who is, or will be, considered a popular painter. I cannot choose a statue, as I have no idea who is, or will be, considered a popular sculpture.

Thus, I must look at where my knowledgebase is most advanced. The only thing I could really be considered an expert at would be sports. Since we know the most popular sport in China is basketball, one can assume that basketball memorabilia in China is also very popular. We also know that the most popular basketball player is Yao Ming and anything that bears his likeness sells at a premium to other similar goods and services.

Conclusion

To ensure that my distant relatives will experience instant financial security in the future I will bury a Yao Ming autographed jersey. While the item I have chosen will likely not experience the greatest appreciation, as the ability for anyone to predict that far out in the future is and always will be an exercise in futility, it is one that most certainly will lead to a windfall profit for my relatives.