Scrabble Z

Market Bubbles: “Pricing” Scrabble Letters

Jan 18, 2013 • Behavioral Economics, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic History, Economic Humor, Innovation, Labor, Thinking Economically • 230 Views    No Comments

Just like technology stocks during the late 1990s or housing in 2006, the Scrabble letter Z might reflect a market bubble.

The “price” of a Z is 10 points. However, one (Scrabble) researcher suggests it is really worth 6. Here is the story.

During the 1930s, when Scrabble was created, the value of a letter was derived from how often it appeared on the front page of the NY Times and perhaps several other sources like the Saturday Evening Post magazine. A letter that rarely surfaced in news articles like the Z would be more valuable because it was in fewer words.

Now though, the “Z” is in many more words (like za). Similarly, because we see them more frequently, c, j, p, f, h, k, m, and x  have too high a value. By contrast, G, L, V and U are undervalued.

Maybe, as with tech stocks and housing, we have a “Z” bubble?

A final thought: Curious about the 1930s NY Times issues on which Scrabble scoring is based, for a very unscientific survey, I looked at one page, of course concluded nothing, but loved this headline from Thursday, May 13, 1937:

“Housewives Entitled to Fixed Salaries Like Any Worker, Mrs. Roosevelt Holds”

Sources and Resources: Well worth your time, the 1930s article about Mrs. Roosevelt is wonderful in so many ways. For more about Scrabble’s history, I recommend this Time article and, for a new scoring system, this one from the BBC.

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