Our relationship with the concept of ownership has changed dramatically: for instance, why endlessly buy and dispose of new iPhones when you could rent them instead? In this new sharing economy, we're happy to rent out our spare rooms, share our cars, and barter unwanted items.
But what about the last thing we "own" in the traditional sense: our bodies? Kathryn Lawrence puts a value on your arms, legs, and eye teeth...
Sell your body… not how you think
Some say you may be worth more dead than alive but that's a pretty bleak way to think about your future. To put it more precisely, your organs are worth much more monetarily outside of your body than in you.
Until we perfect the science of cloning and figure out the ethics of slaughtering your clone for spare parts, or simply grow organs in labs, we are going to have to do things the old-fashioned way: organ transplants from corpses or live donors.
But it’s not just organs being traded on the open or the black market; there are many, many parts of your body you can sell, several of which you can part with painlessly (and live!) ...and did you ever wonder who’s buying?
Your Personal Inventory
What would you give an arm and a leg for? While voluntary limb amputation isn’t very common (they’re pretty stubborn to re-install) there are a lot of things you can live without if you’re really strapped for cash.
First let’s go through the human products you throw away all the time - money down the drain in a literal way. Then we’ll get to the slightly more risky (and more profitable) items before we hit the big ticket items that may cost you your life to sell.
You can’t sell your sweat (that we know of) but selling these waste products are about as easy. And while you can buy tears for $500.00 per mL, Lee Biosolutions does not list how much they paid the “Single Human Donor.”
Donating blood saves lives, and can net you $120 per year if you donate every 56 days and get a $20 gift card every time. And plasma isn’t much more lucrative than blood: depending where you are, you can get paid $20-50.
As we learned from Sean’s biohacking exploration, there’s a legitimate medical use for your #1 biggest waste product (or should we say number 2?). All gross puns aside, you can make $40 per donation off of selling your scheiße to a stool bank called OpenBiome if you have the right cocktail of bacteria in your gut to participate in fecal transplants for people afflicted with C. difficile.
The most innocuous fluid, that famously sterile (it’s not, actually) golden stream, supposedly can bring in up to $200 per serving. According to the basics of supply and demand, one would think this prolific, nutritious (it’s not, actually - doctors now say you shouldn’t even drink it in the wilderness) liquid would be cheap, because it’s so plentiful.
But it’s the demand that matters: if you manage to break into the market to sell drug-free urine to people who can afford both lots of drugs and lots of clean piss, rumor has it it’s incredibly lucrative.
The most painless and lucrative disposable human product you can sell by far is hair. Virgin hair, as in never chemically styled or dyed, depending on its purity, length, and color, can go for $250-$3,000. HairSellon has a nifty online calculator to help you figure out how much your hair is worth: red hair in particular is more valuable than other colors.
Sex-specific Human Products
That other bank of bodily fluids (the sperm bank) seems like a much more profitable option for those who can produce sperm: between $35 and $100 per donation or up to $125. Becoming a sperm donor also requires a screening process, which sources say very few actually qualify for - but it won’t hurt to try.
That’s also assuming that the Only the Breast buyers are intending to feed it to babies, but there was a trend in the last few years for adults to drink it (which the Journal for the Royal Society of Medicine advises against).
If you produce eggs and are between the ages of 21 and 34 you can apply to undergo a series of tests and, after a several-week process including injections of fertility drugs and hormally-induced ovulation for the maximum harvest, walk away with up to $14,000 depending on how many eggs are produced. This includes an $8,000 compensation for all the appointments and medications. You could gather quite a nest egg, providing one for someone else!
Working as a surrogate and carrying someone else’s baby to term in your own womb (more like a body rental than a sale) can also pay $39,000 - $52,000 “depending on factors including the type of pregnancy and the number of previous pregnancies (surrogate mother experience)” – but that is seriously a full-time job.
Placentas are also highly valued for both cosmetic and nutritional purposes. If you can keep yours (some hospitals do not let their parents take them home) and don’t want to eat it yourself (as one source mentions stir frying it with onions and another recommends powdering it and mixing with something like a Bloody Mary, consider selling it to someone who will make it into a hair mask. This one is a little tricky (and illegal in many places) to sell, so most sources won’t cite a price.
Illegal (For Now) & Risky (But Bankable)
Stanley the Spleen by The Wooly Kraken on Etsy
Due to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, it’s mostly illegal to sell organs and internal tissues (even with a willing, live donor). However, in a 2011 legal case a U.S. court ruled that bone marrow should no longer be included on that list. They also set the price at up to $3,000, but because it’s so hard to match bone marrow donors with those in need of marrow, it’s still very hard to get paid for a donation.
And finally, we’ve arrived at those bloody beans: your kidneys! Because of the aforementioned organ sale prohibition, it is definitely illegal to sell your own kidney in the US but somehow in 1999 someone managed to get bidding up to 5.7 million dollars for a kidney on eBay before they were delisted.
You didn’t hear it from me but after the organ harvesters and brokers take their cut, you can still get between one and ten thousand dollars a pop. Want more reliable (and legal!) compensation? Consider a holiday in Iran.
Do It Yourself
Theo the Thymus by The Wooly Kraken on Etsy
eBay’s policy on human remains and body parts states: “We don't allow humans, the human body, or any human body parts or products to be listed on eBay, with the exception of items containing human scalp hair.”
While another popular online marketplace, the handcraft and vintage shop Etsy, has a slightly looser animal products and human remains policy, prohibiting all items made from human remains, “except for teeth and hair.” It’s more likely you will find a crocheted organ like Theo the Thymus or Stanley the Spleen if your shopping proclivities include buying organs.
Scouring eBay for any human products that may have slipped through the cracks of this policy, we struck gold on a listing for a “Human soul great condition slightly used free of sin”. The seller notes that its quality is “weighted by several minor bad deeds, but all have been repented.” The price has been set at $500.00 with over 30 people watching the item at the time of writing, and yes, according to the description, they are extremely serious:
Human soul, jar not included by zlapatka on eBay
“A human soul extracted with the full consent of the previous owner. Any information regarding the previous owner is strictly confidential and may NEVER be revealed to the buyer or any third party.
Preferred use with a female vessel but WILL NOT in any way HARM a male vessel. In rare cases, may cause mild sexual confusion if used with a male vessel but WILL NOT cause homosexuality.
The presence of the soul is felt by a true believer but is not visible by eye or detectable by any known apparatus.
Jar not included.
Please make sure you're a true believer before purchasing the item. If you do not feel the presence of the soul, there is nothing we can do to help.
If not inserted into a vessel, the soul will expire in autumn 2036. Unfortunately, a precise date can not be calculated.
IMPORTANT: Use with technology (software, robots) has not been tested and is NOT ADVISED. There is no way to predict the outcome or the possible effects on the soul.”
Unfortunately it is not within the MONTAG budget to purchase this item in order to test its compatibility with technology and see exactly what would happen if one attempted to transfer this soul to a robot or a MacBook.
But if you, dear reader, want to buy it and let us know, please email your findings to firstname.lastname@example.org.