Obama commemorative plates vs. high-end audio

Even before President Obama was sworn in, booming sales of Obama plaques, plates, T-shirts, and coins were, in small ways, boosting our economy.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
Steuben Glass

Granted, Steuben Glass' stunningly beautiful Presidential Commemorative Plate 2009 will be cherished for generations, but is it really worth $7,500?

Thing is, it's offered in a numbered, limited edition of 44. The 16-inch commemorative plate was created by the Steuben Design Team to mark the inauguration of America's 44th President. But other than its symbolic importance, wouldn't that money be put to better use buying American-made hi-fis? Seven thousand five hundred dollars for a hunk of glass might seem like an outrageous extravagance, but I have no doubt all 44 plates will sell out before long.

Still, the plate will merely grace a shelf or cabinet; a first class hi-fi will deliver beautiful sound for many years to come. In the spirit of the times, I'm thinking about American-made gear: specifically, Rogue Audio electronics and its 99 Magnum ($2,495 MSRP) stereo preamplifier matched with Rogue's M-150 power amplifiers ($4,495). Rogue's vacuum-tube electronics start around $2,795 for the Tempest II stereo integrated amplifier. Expensive, but way less than the Steuben plate.

The M-150 amplifier is still cheaper than the Obama commemorative plate. Rogue Audio

I'm just making a point here that people, even now, spend money on all sorts of things. But $7,500 for a piece of glass? Well sure, it's a lot of money all right, but there's a market for such things. Same could be said about high-end audio: it's for people who appreciate owning gear that's made with care, and lasts a long, long time. Digital-audio formats come and go, but you're always going to need amplifiers to play speakers. Why not get the good stuff if you can afford it?

I suppose it's a question of value, or how we value things. Maybe value involves evaluating the object's functionality or how often it's used. A hi-fi has the potential to be enjoyed on a daily basis, at least. The Obama plate? Not so much.