14 Aug 2007 11:15 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 11:15 am UTC
"If you have to ask the price, you, can't afford it".
Where and when did this famose quote first appeare
14 Aug 2007 16:32 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 4:32 pm UTC
“If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it” or words to that effect are popularly attributed to J. Pierpont Morgan, a 19th century American financier, banker, philanthropist, and art collector, when referring to yachting or his yacht.
I have found an account of the conversation in which it arose in Business Education World, 1933, Vol 16, but I do not know how accurate it is. It is clearly not first-hand. The book is available on Google Books with a snippet view so I place the quote here in full.
The topic of yachts came up and Morgan's neighbor said, "I understand that you own a yacht, Mr. Morgan."
"Yes, I do." Morgan replied.
"How much does it cost to run?" his neighbor asked.
"Why do you ask?" Morgan inquired.
"Because," his neighbor replied, "I am interested in buying one.”
“My good man,” said Morgan, “if you have to ask how much it costs to run, my answer is: Don't buy one!"
Clearly, there may be earlier references but I have searched extensively Google Books, Google news archive, 19th American book collections without success.
If the above account is correct, then it appears in different variations.
“If you have to ask the price of such a yacht, you can't afford it.” or “that if you have to ask the price of owning and running a yacht, you can't afford one.” or “if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it” and so on.
I have found numerous uses of the phrase when referring to yachts, private planes, paintings, and Rolls Royce cars.
Here’s some background information on J.P.Morgan on Wikipedia.
According this site, Morgan’s yacht was later used by the US Navy and a picture appears on the second link below.
“This ship is often given as subject of the famous answer to a question of how much it cost. The answer was "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it." The question may have actually referred to "yachting" and not specifically the yacht."
I hope this answers your question. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification of any part of this research
16 Aug 2007 07:05 UTCThu 16 Aug 2007 - 7:05 am UTC
Following on from Daisy’s helpful comment (although not sourced), I have found the following reference to it.
In this book on yachting. Unfortunately it is only a snippet view so I cannot see if it quoted from an original source.
A shortened version mentioning Pierce appears in several places. This is an example.
"You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question."
-J. P. Morgan Sr., in answer to a question by Henry Clay Pierce on how much it costs to own and run a yacht.
And in the book The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (Paperback) by Ralph Keyes, the author makes the following observation,
“ “If you have to ask how much they cost, you can’t AFFORD one.” J. P. Morgan’s alleged response to an inquiry about the cost of his yachts is considered the epitome of wealthy imperiousness. (Some attribute the thought to Cornelius Vanderbilt.) No dependable evidence exists that Morgan actually said this, however, and biographer Jean Strouse doubts that he did. Calling the mot “implausible,” Strouse concluded, “Morgan was a singularly inarticulate, unreflective man, not likely to come up with a maxim worthy of Oscar Wilde.” The closest analogue Strouse could find on the record was Morgan’s response to oil baron Henry Clay Pierce: “You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question.”
Verdict: Morgan’s sentiments, not his words.”
As for Pierce, this is a short biography.
"Henry Clay Pierce (1849-1927)
Henry Clay Pierce was a businessman and financier who was considered one of the four richest men in the country. His business interests included railroads, oil and finance."
And it appears he was not put off by this conversation and he did buy a yacht in 1906.