SAN DIEGO, JAN. 29 -- When you reach Harry Groves' age, a diamond is no longer forever. But a pair of Super Bowl tickets? Now you're talking.
"I'm 73 years old and at my age, I don't need diamond rings," Groves said this week. "The Super Bowl comes to town only once."
So Groves put an ad in a San Diego newspaper, offering two rings -- his own and his wife's -- for two seats at the Redskins-Broncos game.
Results: A few curious calls, but no tickets. Groves might have to watch his beloved Redskins on television.
"The rings are surely worth more than the tickets," he said. "Anyway, I've had the rings for a while now."
Welcome to barter economics, Super Bowl style. In the overflowing pages of the newspaper classifieds (today's local papers had 900 ads offering tickets or lodging) and on every bulletin board in town, fans are offering everything from art to zoo membership in exchange for a chance to be among 73,500 people inside San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Sunday.
Rick Swahn, who owns an art gallery here, offered to trade art for tickets. It worked.
"I made a deal for four tickets for a LeRoy Neiman painting of the Broncos-49ers game," he said. The painting would have sold for about $3,000, which means Swahn's seats on the 20-yard line ran about $750 each.
"I figured for a $20 ad, how can you go wrong? The people buying and selling tickets have money, and people who have money buy art."
That's logical, but logic seems to have precious little to do with Super Bowl ticket sales.
In a city swimming with scalpers and a surfeit of tickets, prices have bounced like a super ball this week.
Ten days ago, confident ticket agents and individuals insisted on $1,200, $1,500, even $2,000 for tickets with a $100 face value. (Scalping is legal in California.) By Tuesday, they were going for $800 to $1,000 each.
Now there are plenty of good seats available for $300 and $400 and even a few at $250. And no one expects those prices to hold.
In the parking lots and around the spruced-up stadium, you could buy game tickets, souvenirs, religious books, bad art and commemorative post cards from the U.S. Postal Service.
The hot item, of course, was tickets. The big dealers, who had traveled to Denver and Washington to offer season ticket holders -- who had a chance at Super Bowl tickets through a lottery -- big profits, are here in force, turning over those same tickets.
They're not making much money.
"I had to pay $300 for these in D.C.," said Matt, a dealer who would not give his last name.
"I sold some yesterday for $700, but today, I'm lucky to see $400 for them. That doesn't even cover airfare, and I've got to eat."
Joe Hodgson, whose ad offers a year of lawn work in exchange for game tickets, is still back in Silver Spring. But he got something: a Tennessee man called and traded next year's season tickets for a year of lawn work for his mother in Maryland.
John FitzRandolph is trying some discounting of a higher order. He is in charge of renting out basketball star Bill Walton's spectacular seven-bedroom, seven-bath home overlooking a canyon near the San Diego zoo.
The original asking price of $20,000 for five days brought only one offer, from a bunch of partying rock 'n' rollers. FitzRandolph nixed that idea.
Now he has dropped the price to $3,500 a day, and there aren't many days remaining.
"The market is very soft," he said. "Lots of people are taking a bath. The real story is how far down the interest has fallen since the players' strike.
"I guess I'll turn on the Jacuzzi and have a nice party for myself, just kick back and relax."