Quality Stuff

I try to be sensible and logical and so on, but I will admit to a weakness for quality (“luxury”) items, across almost all categories of living.  Of course, I don’t have the wallet to afford any of them anymore, but I’d still prefer to drive, say, an Audi instead of a VW.

This philosophy does clash — frequently — with commonsense as I muse on such things, but the lure of quality still gets to me.  And as Longtime Reader Mike Of The Dueling Pistols so eloquently said when talking about watches“You know why I own a Bremont and an IWC? The same reason I own a Hammerli… I like it. My bills are paid, why not buy something I enjoy with the money?”

Amen.  In Daphne du Maurier’s novel The Progress Of Julius, the protagonist is a man who starts off as a street urchin in North Africa and ends up becoming enormously wealthy in Britain.  I don’t remember the exact words, but one night he thinks about the fact that he now wears silk shirts, and wonders if he could ever go back — and realizes that he couldn’t, because luxury is seductive.

And it is.  On the very few occasions when I’ve been able to afford a real quality item, I always felt good about it, and it always repaid my investment in spades.  An example:  back when I was a pro musician, I could have got by with playing a $400 Fender Precision bass guitar, but instead I bought a $1,200 Rickenbacker.

The very first time I played the Rick, I felt a rush of something — enjoyment and satisfaction, I suppose — because I was playing the best bass guitar in the world and good grief… it sounded fantastic.  That’s not a knock on the Fender, by the way:  the old P-bass has been played by bassists far better than I, it’s super-reliable and sounds just fine, and if for any reason the Rick hadn’t been an option, I’d have got the Fender and been quite happy with the thing.  But it wasn’t a Rickenbacker, and it became my (and the band’s) signature sound over the years.

I feel the same about lots of life’s little toys:  cars, watches and guns being the categories where I’m most prone to going for the spendy, so to speak, and which tendency will be well-known to Longtime Readers.

So just as an intellectual exercise, I’m going to do the same for them as I’ve done for bass guitars:  post a perfectly-good choice, against what I’d really like to own.  Note that I’m not going to post a “budget” item — I never even considered a cheap bass guitar like Epiphone or Squier, for example, even though I was quite poor at the time — but only something that’s of (very) acceptable quality.  So here goes:

1911s:  Springfield G.I. and  Ed Brown Kobra

There’s nothing at all wrong with the Springfield — there’s one on my belt as we speak — but the Kobra is exceptional, and I lust after it bigly.

Bolt-action rifles:   Ruger Hawkeye and  Mauser M12

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the Ruger — I got one for Boomershoot, as you’ll recall — and it’s a perfectly good rifle… until you fire a Mauser M12.  (Both the above, by the way, are chambered in 6.5x55mm Swede.)

Side-by-side shotguns:  AyA No.2 and David McKay Brown Round Action (note:  as we all know, you can go nuts when it comes to fine shotguns — Purdey, Holland etc. — so I gave myself a price ceiling of merely “expensive”, and second-hand to boot)The kicker here is that you can get a new AyA for about $6,000, and a second-hand McKay Brown can run around seven times that, because machine-made vs. handmade.  Indulge me…

Watches:   Longines Flagship and Jaeger-LeCoultre Master

…and I didn’t even have to go super-pricey on this:  the Longines runs just under a grand, and the Jaeger just under five.  I’ve owned a Longines before, and I still regret getting rid of it (because poverty);  but Jaeger watches are both lovely and super-reliable.

Fountain Pens:  Sailor 1911 and  Pelikan Souveran 800

For when you want to sign that important contract, and the Bic just won’t cut it.  The Pelikan costs nearly three times the Sailor, but Pelikan… I don’t think they make a “regular” pen — all their models are excellent.  If you have big hands and need a thicker barrel, then try the Cross Peerless 125. (And Montblanc Meisterstuck pens are fine — they’re the Rolex of pens — for those who want to be seen using one.  My budget Pelikan writes better, in my hand.)

Classic Sports Cars:   1967 Corvette Stingray and  1957 Mercedes 300 Roadster

This one’s not even close.

Modern Saloon Cars:  Mercedes S560 (4-liter V8) and  Bentley Continental GT Speed (6-liter W12)

Y’all know that I’m holding my nose with this one, because modern cars are almost all fugly.  If I had  to own one, however… but I cheated.  Because while a new S560 costs around $130k at the above dealer, an extra 5 grand gets you a secondhand Bentley, with less than 10,000 miles on the clock.  As with the earlier car choice, this one isn’t close, either.

Feel free to list your “quality” options in Comments — they don’t have to be the most expensive you can buy, just better than the average or typical.  And please:  I’m not interested in hearing from people who are perfectly happy with their 1983 Dodge Whatever, Casio Digital and inherited Winchester 100, and see no reason to upgrade any of them, ever.  Play the game.


  1. Perhaps the whole subject is, er, subjective?
    My Beretta 92FS stainless is the best 9mm semi auto pistol in the world, in my opinion, and though I’ve fired a few Glocks and have no problem with them I have never owned one.
    My shooting buddy is the opposite. He has never owned a Beretta but has shot mine many times and he owns dozens of Glocks.
    We shoot all the time and we’re both good with what we have, and with each other’s.

    Life is such that I rarely buy the top of the line (pricing wise) of anything but I’ve tried to buy better than average. Some would argue my vast array of Ryobi power tools are beneath them but I have been using most of them for more than 20 years with very few let downs. Lower pricing and dependability makes Ryobi power tools more attractive to me than say, Milwaukee. Lot’s of ways to look at this subjective subject.

    1. No argument about the Beretta being good — it is — but you REALLY need to try a SIG P210, of any vintage.

      1. Yes. I own one of the Swiss-made guns, the trigger is outstanding. Even by my admittedly spoiled standards.

        (blushing at the tip of the hat from Our Host)

  2. Motorcycle helmets.

    Nothing wrong with HJC at $200 – they protect just as well and have a better look – but I have shelled out 4x the cost to wear Shoei instead every time for the last 25+ years of riding. There’s just “something” about them that I can’t explain, but want.

    1. Have both an HJC (1) and Shoei (2). The HJC was bought for a certain look: Custom paint for wearing at events on a Classic Bonnie; the Shoei’s for serious riding on the Bonnie, the MV F4-1000, and the Duc Desert Sled.

  3. Kim,
    My ex-wife, aka “Satan” has a cousin who is, among many other things, a collector of fine European 19th century impressionistic art. Cuz has a 2-part philosophy for buying art:
    1. Buy what you like
    2. Buy the best you can afford
    I’ve applied this 2-part mantra to many, many purchases, and it has served me well. I also make a habit of having cash-on-hand to pay for my purchase. I might make the purchase on a credit card, but I then immediately direct said cash to said credit card. By saving/paying this way, I add a layer of satisfaction atop the already intrinsic satisfaction of owning a quality, functional, often aesthetically pleasing widget. For the record … I’m currently squirreling away shekels for a 1911. I could buy a Girsan or other knock-off right now, but I’m working towards a Springer.
    Have a safe / healthy / sane weekend free from RCOB moments …
    – Brad

  4. OK, I’ll play. For my purposes I’m adding a third category, Fuggetaboutit, meaning “Only if I won Powerball, twice”.

    357 Magnum Revolver:
    Perfectly good: Smith and Wesson 686

    Luxury: Colt Python

    Fuggetaboutit: Korth

    Fishing rods (for our purposes I’m doing 6-6.5 foot fresh water spinning rods, just to compare apples to apples):
    Perfectly good: Shakepeare Ugly Stick $50 (I’ve fished with a pair of these for well over ten years now and they show no sign of slowing down)

    Luxury: St Croix Premier $160

    Fuggetaboutit: G. Loomis about $550

    Pocket knives (3″ drop point single blade folders):

    Perfectly good: Kershaw Skyline (about $45)
    Luxury: Benchmade (about $275)
    Fuggetaboutit: Rockstead (about $1500)

    Funny thing is I actually own and use all the “perfectly good” items above, I might buy some of the luxury items if/when I have some spare cash (or if my wife wants to give me a REAL nice birthday present). The fuggetaboutit items? Like I said, only if I won powerball, twice.

  5. My brother and I had this conversation years ago in re: Expensive whiskey (or booze in general).

    “The worst mistake you can make is to start drinking High Quality booze. Once you start down that trail you can never go back to the cheap stuff.”

    1. It’s true of most things. Once you’ve shot a 1970s-era Colt Python, for example, all other revolvers are junk.

      1. I did shoot a buddies once. Put 6 rounds through it. He said “Why don’t you shoot some more?” to which my reply was “Because I don’t want to know what I am missing”. Some things are better left undisturbed.

      2. The Python addicted my eyeballs first, then I fucked up and wrapped a hand around it. Oh man. I was instantly changed. I suffer everyday from knowing I will never own one. And I have never fired one or even been in the presence of one being fired. If I did get the opportunity to fire one I suspect I would go into debt right away.

  6. For the record, after my 1st two Fiddles, £60 and £450, I went to a fancy Violin shop in Bristol and tried every Violin in the shop, (including a Stradivarius – which if you gave it to me, I’d say thanks, sell it and buy something good with the money), and finally settled on a choice of two, a Scots Violin for the 1920’s and a German Violin from the late 1780’s, there wasn’t that much difference in the price £2100 for the Scots versus £2000 for the German, I chose with my taste buds and got the German, (after arguing about the price for £1900 – argument discount or haggling, all the same), I was playing it this morning, 30 odd years later and it STILL plays better than I can!

  7. I know about fountain pens, I have a Pelikan 800 and Montblanc 146 Le Grande in a coffee mug to my left, both with ink and I tend to carry the Montblanc when I want to make a little statement but my go to pen is the Pelikan 800. I do know fountain pens but, as for the rest of the stuff, I would probably go for the affordable right now and not the better and the best because I only use money I have for the extra good things in life. Whiskey, I don’t go with the cheapest but I don’t need the extra tasty best, buying good is good enough.

    Age and circumstances also make a difference, I have had some nice German and Brit auto’s in my earlier years and now I am happy to be retired driving my old Ford F-150 which was paid for when I bought it 12 years ago and I have discretionary money for guns, ammo and a little whiskey.

  8. Pocket knives.
    My Spyderco Delica is a perfectly acceptable and very good quality pocket knife, but I have lusted after a Chris Reeve Sebenza for years, and I finally lashed out the $600 cash for one.

    “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten” quoth some old sage.

  9. not to be a spoilsport and not to advertise that I’m a cheap bastard without a lick of sense and about as much taste, we used to live in an area of suburban NY where the crackers, all nouveau riche, just had to have…
    Except for a good steak (and certain French dishes), there are very few high-end items I ever found were worth the money (OK, ski boots); all the rest reminded me of an article in a very old National Geographic (OK, OK, Just stop that! – my teachers assigned these pieces in grade school) showing photographs of the wives of tribal leaders in Africa, upper arms fully covered in copper bracelets to display the wealth of the husband.

    1. There’s a difference between buying bling and buying performance. It’s the difference between the connoisseur and the snob.

      The connoisseur likes fine things because they ARE fine. Work better, are more durable, are made to a higher standard of quality. Ask him about his IWC, and he’ll tell you about it – but if you don’t, it’s just a watch.

      The snob buys fine things to show his status. He’ll flaunt his gold-plated Rolex to show that he can afford a Rolex.

  10. For me, the trick is to determine which things in your life you will really USE the extra quality in. I don’t need a thousand dollar watch. I get what I need from other gadgets, and if I really needed another time piece I could make do with a $5.99 plastic digital.

    I am nowhere near a good enough driver to justify the expense of a really good car. A Subaru fulfill my needs perfectly adequately.

    OTOH I learned VERY QUICKLY that I could have expensive taste in wines. I tried a bottle of good Chateauneuf du Pape, (out of curiosity) and Oh. My God!! So I stay away from the temptation. I have ONE expensive taste (cigars), I don’t need two.

  11. I actually was able to finally afford the top line item I wanted, it just took almost 30 years.

    I bought a used Kenwood TS-820 HF radio at a hamfest in the early 2000s. At $300.00 it was a third of the price of current radios and without all the (then) “must have” current features and doo-dads. (came in the original box and all the documentation from it’s original owner).

    However, at the time I got my license (1978) it was one of the top of the line rigs out there. No way I could afford it as a High School student looking at college, so I got by with a second hand Heathkit (which I place in the perfectly good category) and home-brew accessories.

    Bringing it home and firing it up, actually tuning it up by adjusting plate current etc. on the tubes (as opposed to just turning it on as with my modern solid state gear) gave me a feeling that I had finally “made it” in some way.

  12. This applies to just about ANY hand tool. There’s lots of stuff out there that will work just fine, but if you visit with people who are the masters of their craft, they likely have very specific ideas about their tools. Those tools are more expensive, but they are that way for a reason. If you use them, you can almost always tell why they are better.

    One of the finest joys in life is to use the right tool for the job, especially when that tool is a high-quality tool.

  13. OK, I’ll play:

    Repro flintlock pistols:

    Servicable is a Pedersoli LePage (https://www.davide-pedersoli.com/notizie-armi-dettaglio.asp/l_en/idne_42/le-page-percussion-and-flintlock-pistols.html). Well-made, accurate, great gun if it fits your hand. Medals have been won at the World Championship with these guns.

    Outrageous is a Tilo Dedinski repro of a Tatham & Egg (https://www.dedinski.com/verkauf/pistolen_en/tatham/tatham-egg-flintlock-pistol.html). Hand-made, to the purchaser’s measure. One of those guns where if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it…even the plain ones will run $7K or so.

    Or good sports cars.
    Servicable is a Mazda Miata. Decent performance, fiendishly maneuverable, and a riot to drive. A British sports car…with Japanese detail design and quality control. I drove one as my daily driver for over a decade.

    Outrageous? Porsche 911. Cabriolet, by long preference. Or maybe the budget entry, the Boxster.

  14. This goes along with what I call “inexpensive luxury”. No matter your income level, there’s always some little way that you can treat yourself, even if it’s just a matter of buying a good mustard instead of the Kraft’s Yellow, or insisting on real butter instead of margarine. Yeah, the good stuff is pricier than the cheap stuff, but at this level it’s just a buck or two. Well worth it.

  15. Fucking first Wold Problems, ain’t it wonderful………….

    We are mostly a bunch of fine old folk and assholes living in a world of what do I want to eat tonight, salmon, tenderloin, pork ribs, fine smoked sausage and that’s the problems my wife and I are having in this shutdown stuff…..

    How much more ammo do I need to buy, a few cases of number 9 AA to shoot skeet because I have the rest of it covered. First wold problems.

    Nuff said about that.

  16. I’m very particular about analog watches – – if there isn’t enough contrast between the color of the hands and the face, I don’t want it. Of the two watches you show, the Longines has barely enough contrast to suit my preferences, but the other…no. My ageing eyes just can’t see it with a quick glance. This is why I tend to buy field-type watches with either a black face and white hands, or white face with black hands. If the hands and face are the same color, I don’t want it.

    You also missed the opportunity to include luxury suits and shoes in your post, Kim.

  17. This question might better be the subject of a Friday post, but..

    How did you become a Bassist? I know friends who have learned the guitar, but no bass players.

  18. MacKay Brown shotguns…..

    A few years back I visited my uncle when he was working at the Denver BassPro fine gun room, and he handed me one of their shotguns without telling me anything. Stunning workmanship – cast the wrong way for a lefty, but truly an amazing gun. This one was not overly ornate, which appealed to me even more.

    $85,000 – used. I’ve never worried about dropping a gun until he told me that.

    I’ll stick with my Marlin 90 in 16 gauge.

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