People talk about the value of a dollar a lot, and these days that usually includes lamenting how a dollar isn’t worth much at all. Things are expensive and they keep getting more expensive because the powers that be know we can’t not have food or fuel or Netflix. But that doesn’t mean a buck is totally useless. Throughout history, a single dollar has been enough for some remarkable purchases.
10. Coke Sold Their Bottling Rights For a Buck
Coca-Cola sold 25 bottles in its first year of operations and now sells about 1.9 billion bottles per day. If the world population in 2023 is 8.045 billion, that means about 1 in 4 people buy a Coke every day. In dollars and cents, the Coca-Cola company makes about $45 billion per year.
With all of those big numbers floating around, it’s kind of remarkable to learn that the rights to bottle the stuff were sold for a buck. Back in 1888, Asa Candler bought the rights to the Coke formula, improved it, and began selling concentrated syrup. For a long while Coke, and most sodas, were sold this way. The syrup would be mixed with soda water on site, at a soda fountain, in front of the customer. Candler was convinced this was how Coke should be enjoyed.
While he expanded his syrup production, a pair of lawyers approached him about the idea of bottling the stuff. Candler thought the idea was dumb. The lawyers eventually convinced him to try it so they signed a contract for bottling rights. Candler, so convinced the idea was dumb, sold them the rights for a single dollar. A dollar he didn’t even bother to collect.
9. The Patent for Insulin Was Sold for A Dollar
It’s been argued that insulin has saved literally tens of millions of lives since its discovery. It’s arguably one of the greatest medical advances in history. Back in 1923 when Sir Frederick Banting discovered it, he understood the value and importance of it. But he also devoted so much of his life to it for a reason, he wanted to save lives.
Because Banting was concerned with the value of insulin to society as a whole rather than its value to him as an individual, he didn’t sell it for a fortune or patent it to keep it a secret for himself. He thought a doctor profiting off of medicine was unethical. Banting is quoted to have said “insulin belongs to the world, not to me.”
Banting wouldn’t even put his name on the patent for insulin and, instead, his two coworkers, James Collip and Charles Best, were issued the patent. Like Banting, they were not looking to profit, so they sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $1.
Sadly, the altruism expressed by the creators of insulin hasn’t made it to the present day and many kinds of insulin are still very expensive, but things arguably could have been worse.
8. Bombardier Sold Stake in One of Their Planes to a Boeing Competitor for $1
There’s a lot more drama in the world of jet manufacturing than you may realize. So, to set the stage here, know that Boeing, an American company, competes with Airbus in Europe and Bombardier in Canada. All three technically compete with one another but Canada and Europe teamed up to stick it to Boeing in a trade deal.
Bombardier made the CSeries of jets. The US Commerce Department backed Boeing by threatening the Canadian company with a 300% tariff, which would kill their ability to sell the jet. But Bombardier worked a deal with Airbus in which Airbus got a 50.01% stake in the CSeries production and it only cost them $1.
Why the great deal? Airbus would assume massive risk and CSeries would be manufactured in Alabama as a means of skirting the 300% tariff since the jets would be produced in America. Eventually the tariff ruling was overturned and Boeing didn’t appeal, but Airbus took a larger stake in the jet’s production and Bombardier dropped out completely.
7. James Cameron Sold the Rights to The Terminator Script for a Buck
James Cameron has become an iconic filmmaker over the years with some of the most popular films in history under his belt. This includes Titanic, Avatar and the Terminator franchise. Terminator was the movie that really put Cameron on the map back in the day and it set the stage for everything that was to come. It also proved no one has as much faith in James Cameron as James Cameron.
Cameron had only directed the movie Piranha II: The Spawning before Terminator and, if you haven’t heard of it, it was not a popular flick. So he hadn’t proved himself in the eyes of Hollywood by any means. But he was convinced Terminator was a winner and, more importantly, he needed to direct it. To convince the studio to let him take the reins, he sold the script for just $1 on the condition he could also direct.
Keep in mind, many studios liked the script and offered big money for it, but none wanted him as director. So he rolled the dice and bet on himself. Despite the fact it worked out and Cameron has made two of the highest grossing films of all time now, he still regrets that decision.
6. Stephen King Sells the Film Rights for His Short Stories for $1
If you add up all the movies, TV shows, short films and anthology entries based on Stephen King’s works, you’ll end up with close to 100 of them. People love adapting his work to the screen and sometimes the results are great, sometimes not. King himself seems to be open to almost anyone and everyone trying their best, though.
If you’re a new filmmaker, like a student, you can buy the rights to one of dozens of King’s short stories for just $1. There are some strings attached, including that you have a year to do it, you can’t distribute it without his permission, and you have to let him see it when it’s done.
Some filmmakers have gone on to big success after taking King up on his offer, but none more popular than Frank Darabont. Darabont, you may recall, was the showrunner for the first season of The Walking Dead. He also directed The Green Mile, The Mist, and The Shawshank Redemption, all based on King stories.
5. Houses in Detroit Were Going For a Buck a Piece Around 2010
If you know little about Detroit, Michigan, it used to be the hub of the automotive industry in America. For a time the city was doing incredibly well until the industry fell apart and Detroit’s entire economy tanked. The city had to file an $18 billion bankruptcy. The population went from two million to 700,000 and unemployment skyrocketed.
That huge population drop left many homes in Detroit empty and there are entire streets and even neighborhoods that are still like ghost towns. The housing crisis made things even worse and back around 2010 houses were practically being given away. The median house price was $25,200. While some houses could be purchased for under $100, some went for the bargain basement price of just $1.
Were these $1 homes good? No. Useable? Not really. Many look like horror movie props, all burned out, broken and rotten. But there’s land to use and the potential to make something better out of it, and that’s enough for some people.
It’s not just Detroit that tried to unload its trash properties, either. St. Louis also offered a $1 home program, though they had some stricter rules about buying them.
4. The Inventor of Chocolate Chip Cookies Sold the Recipe For a Buck
It’s odd to think that every ubiquitous and common food item we all know and love had to have once been invented by someone. Chocolate chip cookies, for instance, didn’t exist officially until the 1930s. The recipe was first published by Ruth Graves Wakefield as “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie,” named for the tourist lodge that was once a tollhouse that she and her husband owned.
In 1939, she sold the rights to both the Toll House name and the cookie recipe to Nestle. Her price? $1. Rumor has it she also got a lifetime supply of chocolate and did consulting work for them, which sweetened the deal in more ways than one. Also, they apparently neglected to actually hand over that $1.
3. You Can Sell an Academy Award But the Academy Has the Right to Buy it First for $1
In the world of Hollywood, an Academy Award is the most prestigious prize you can win for some reason or other. Regardless of how it got that reputation, people still hold that little gold man in high regard. Historically, of course, not everyone has cared about them that much. Three people even turned down their Academy Awards.
For those who choose to keep them, if they lose their luster over the years there may be a temptation to sell the thing. There is some bronze and gold in the statuette and its overall value is estimated at around $400. Of course there is more value in one as a collectible. Orson Welles’ Academy Award for Citizen Kane once sold at auction for over $860,000.
In an effort to prevent the trade in Oscars from continuing, the Academy has instituted a rule that any recipient who wants to sell their award has to give the Academy the right to buy it first at a price of $1. This even extends beyond death so that if a family member inherits the award, they’re bound by the same conditions which seems legally questionable, but here we are.
2. DuPont Built a Nuclear Site to Produce Plutonium in WWII for One Dollar
During World War II, America put the pedal to the metal to produce nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project was the program that oversaw it. Knowing how to make a nuclear weapon is one thing, but building it is another. The project needed facilities able to handle that scale of work. They enlisted the DuPont company for their expertise in building and operating large-scale manufacturing, despite the fact they were not a weapons manufacturer at all.
DuPont had already been accused of making chemical weapons in WWI. They eventually agreed to work on reactor production and ended up being the main contractor for all the plutonium work related to the project. But in an effort to escape the scrutiny they’d faced in the previous war, they set their price for helping at $1. That way no one could accuse them of profiteering and instead recognize that they were simply doing a patriotic duty.
1. NPR Bought the Radio Rights to Star Wars for $1
The Star Wars franchise, which includes movies, shows, books, merchandise and all of that, has an estimated value of about $70 billion. It made George Lucas a very rich man, and it continued to make Disney even richer. But every so often George Lucas proved he wasn’t always about the money, like when it came to the Star Wars radio drama.
Way back in 1983, NPR wanted to turn Star Wars into a radio drama. No one had really been doing radio dramas since the 1950s and they wanted to revive the format with something exciting. The USC theater program asked George Lucas for the rights to the movie and Lucas, a graduate of the school and fan of their NPR station, gave it to them for just $1.
Mark Hamill reprised his role as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels returned as C-3PO. They hired a novelist to adapt a highly visual movie into a radio show and included entirely new scenes to flesh it out since the actual movie only has 30 minutes of dialogue and they were making 13 half hour episodes.
In 1983 they produced Empire Strikes Back and, many years later in 1996, they finally did Return of the Jedi. Each script was purchased for the same $1 deal.