When world chess champion Anatoly Karpov of the Soviet Union sat down to begin the defense of his title against Soviet defector Viktor Korchnoi last July it was agreed that the winner would receive $350,000 and the loser $200,000.
Just to be on the safe side, the player's contracts stipulated that the prizes would be paid in Swiss francs.
But when Karpov finally won the dramatic 32-game series 6 games to 5 recently (the rest were eties), it turned out that both men were big winers, thanks t the devaluation of the dollar. Karpov's prize check turned out to be $432,085, and Korchnoi's loser's share had grown to share had grown to $259,251.
While Karpov and Karchnoi are not ordinary consumers, they are just some of the beneficiaries of the recent decline in the dollar, which the administration moved to halt yesterday. The ordinary consumer on the street, however, can learn from the lesson of the cautious chessmen. Believing that the dollar would continue to slide, many consumers planning to travel made certain types of purchases in advance.
For example, as soon as persons planning to travel knew where they would be going, they purchased travelers checks in the currency of the countries they planned to visit. That way they were covered against further declines in the value of Uncle Sam's buck, and found that they had more spending money when they actually had to spend it than they first purchased the checks.
In terms of purchases, there are now new factors to be considered. Domestically produced goods and goods from countries without strong currencies have become beter buys for the price. The nation's largest retail chain, Sears, Roebuck & Co., has become a more attractive place to shop, for example, thanks to its longstanding "buy American" policy. Some 90 percent of the goods sold by Sears are made in the U.S. and have not been subjected to price increases due to foreign exchange problems.
Two-thirds of the television sets said by Sears are produced in the United States. As recently as last year, that number was only one-third. Because of that domestic production, "We have been able to hold the line while other have been forced to raise prices," says Sears spokesman Willey Brooks.
According to the Commerce Department, the slide of dollar was one of the Key reasons - along with the imposition of import limitations - that the price of television sets has begun to rise, while the trend in recent years had been to lower prices.
Another interesting development caused at least partially, by the fall of the dollar in comparison to the Japanes yen has been increased production of electronics items in other Far Eastern countries. Korea and Taiwan are beginning to produce and sell large numbers of televisions and other consumer goods because their local currencies have not been rising significantly agaisnt the dollar. Many goods from those two countries are quietly replacing Japanese-made products on American shelves.
The U.S. automobile industry was criticized sharply last week by White House consumer advocate Esther Peterson, who said the auto makers were blowing the chance of a lifetime to increase their market share by voluntarily raising their prices in step with foreign auto makers' increases forced by economic considerations. Still, imported car price increases of about 20 percent in the past year have cut their sales from 2.1 million annually to about 1.7 million a year.
Last year, the European auto manufacturers had 6.5 percent of the U.S. new car market. This year, that share is 5.9 percent. Overall, Japanese imports have dropped from 12.8 percent to 12.5 percent of the total market, but industry leaders Toyota and Datsun are each down about 10 percent from last year.
Vokswagen also has been hit badly because one of the strongest currencies against the dollar is the West German mark. Volkswagen's sales in the U.S. are down 12 perent "strictly due to the falling dollar," a Commerce Department official said. As a hedge against future sales losses, Volkswagen this spring began to produce its popular Rabbit subcompact in a refurbished plant in Pennsylvania.
If you are going to buy an American or Japanese car, there is still one way to save some money - see if you can get it near the West Coast. Transportation costs are less on Japanese cars if they are purchased out west, and last year three American auto makers began to price the West Coast versions of their subcompacts lower than they were priced in the East in order to compete better with the imports out there.