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The Mobil Oil Company introduced the first retail gift card that recorded value on a magnetic strip in 1995. In under a decade, such gift cards replaced apparel as the number one item sold during the Christmas season. This study will discuss the reasons for the strong surge in the gift card market. It will then consider the value of gift cards as an intermediate option between two alternatives: purchasing a physical gift, which could possibly be returned or exchanged, versus giving cash. Empirical data on the resale price of gift cards from an Internet auction website provide information on the value that recipients place on gift cards suggesting that the difference between the cost of a gift card to the giver and its value to the recipient is substantial, although perhaps not quite as large as the parallel gap involved in physical gifts.
The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.