Open a can of Pringles and you will almost always see them stacked nicely. That’s because their hyperbolic paraboloid shape creates a wave in opposing directions that sort of locks them together. Unlike regular potato chips which are cut from potatoes, Pringles are made from reconstituted powdered potatoes (among other things) and then molded, meaning they can become this futuristic shape in the Pringle press. While you might get some broken ones, it’s rare to find one that’s folded in on itself. And, if we’ve learned anything from history it’s that anything rare can have a cult following on eBay – yes that includes Pringles.
Late last year in the UK the offer of a folded Pringles chip for £650 (around $780 USD) had been making headlines. The single chip for sale was just the plain salted flavor, but do a little search on eBay and you can find all kinds of flavors of “rare” folded Pringles, many with prices much much higher than this chip. And, it’s not just a UK phenomenon either. The highest asking price for a single folded chip on eBay at the time of this writing is a $3,500 sour cream and onion flavor one that ships from Florida.
Refine your search even more to only “sold” items and you can see that the actual selling price is far lower than the hefty prices we’ve discussed so far. In September of 2022 a pizza flavored folded Pringles chip sold for $200 from Indiana. While that’s a lot more reasonable of a price, we have to ask if any of this is actually reasonable. $200 for a single potato chip?
Here’s the thing, manufacturer errors have long been a reason why something can become highly collectible. Take for instance one of the most valuable stamps in the world, the Inverted Jenny. This World War I plane, nicknamed “Jenny” after its official name of JN-4, was used to carry mail after the war ended. The plane’s new purpose landed it a spot on US stamps, but was accidentally printed upside down.
The error immediately made the stamps a hot item and single sheet of the corrupted design sold for $15,000 in 1918, more than $300,000 in today’s money. The stamps continue to be highly collectible today, often making top asking prices.
In the vein of collectible food errors there is a market for Coke products that have been misprinted or empty Coke cans that are factory sealed with nothing inside. Like the Inverted Jenny these items (if a bit odd) can be stored for decades with no problem.
Unlike stamps or Coke cans, however, Pringles are a consumable and won’t last forever. While they are shelf-stable and thus can resist decay for long than other foods in terms of storage, they are also so thin that they are easily breakable. It makes you wonder if folded Pringles could ever be seen as a good investment. Would you pay extra for a factory error of your favorite food or drink?
This whole situation also begs the question, “have I ever eaten a folded Pringle thinking it was just a messed up chip?”SKM: below-content placeholder