Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous, most valuable painting in the history of the world?

Sure, it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. But he painted other paintings, too. And there are hundreds of other famous painters who’ve painted well-known and celebrated portraits. But their best works of art do not hold the Mona Lisa’s place in our collective heads.

Of course, the Mona Lisa is unique. But every painting is unique, if you think about it. Other da Vinci works have sold for $450 million, but the Mona Lisa, if the French government ever decided to move it out of the Louvre Museum, would likely command up to twice as much, at least, if its present insured value of about $850 million is any indication.

But, again: Why that painting?

This is how you can stick a toe into the world of Spencer Dinwiddie, and Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency, and TikTok stars, even (perhaps especially) if you don’t know the first thing about crypto — by thinking about how things become valuable. Basically, they do so because of scarcity.

A large number of humans — and it’s important that it is a large number, not just a couple of guys standing on a street corner talking about it — have collectively decided over the centuries that that particular painting, for various reasons, is incredibly important. Thus, it has incredible value. And because there’s only one, the value is, if not infinite, incredibly high — to the point where people can, with a straight face, suggest that France sell the painting for 50 billion Euros (approximately $57.9 billion USD) to help defray its debt from the COVID-19 pandemic.