The art of regifting

Regifting: The Art of Giving Back (The Crap You Don't Want)

Last updated on January 4, 2018 Views: 6783 Comments: 0

Anytime someone has the courtesy to give you a present, no matter how modest or ghastly, it’s an opportunity to scribble a few words of thanks in your gratitude journal—right before you “unfriend” them. These unwanted gifts come in two varieties: No thanks but I know just the person…and landfill.

The second variety speaks for itself. Sorry India.

When it comes to working the first scenario to your advantage, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Let’s first dispense with some obvious regifting etiquette:


Regifting within your social circle.

Some psychologists theorize that those of us with groups of totally unconnected friends are compartmentalizing our lives. So what? Plan ahead to cultivate separate cliques and never introduce members of one group to the other. This way, when that scratchy acrylic turtleneck or a fondue set turns up with your name on it, you’ll be prepared to unload them in a jiffy.

Overtly used stuff

Humans have a knack for carbon-dating. Whether it’s the face immobilized with gallons of Botox but the attached neck as craggy as Death Valley, or a stale gift, there’s always a “tell.” A perfume package that’s slightly yellowed. A handbag with leather that’s a bit too “relaxed”. A cashmere sweater with the aroma of onion rings. Just don’t.


One-of-a-kind items like promotional swag from conferences, mugs, golf balls, t-shirts, or satchels with corporate logos are verboten. Personal, hand-made gifts, (anything crocheted, for example), are blacklisted. Books inscribed to you? Don’t even. Or at least carefully excise the offending page before the re-gift attempt.

Old stuff

Cleaning out your locker or basement is a noble pursuit. Ask Marie Kondo. Just don’t get any fancy ideas. No amount of tissue and tinsel can erase a “best before” date.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, what’s actually re-giftable?



Paul Newman once gifted his famous Rolex Daytona watch to his daughter’s boyfriend, who then auctioned it off at Phillips, where it fetched a cool $17.8-million. This is an acceptable example of a Regift-Squared. (Paul-to-daughter’s boyfriend-to-auction.) The boyfriend asked permission first and the proceeds will go to an environmental foundation run by the daughter. Ditto gold coins from Russian Empress Catherine The Great’s coronation ($8.8-million). Family heirlooms can make wonderful, deeply personal gifts, and apparently all the better if they were passed down from Russian or Hollywood royalty.

Luxury Goods

Tired of your yacht, Tesla, or custom Cartier tiara? It happens. You’ll find that most recipients will be perfectly amenable to these types of “gently used” gifts.

Real Estate, Share Certificates, Art

“Yes, please.”


Cabos and St. Barts. Dear, you haven’t double-booked yourself again? A last-minute invitation to stay gratis at a private villa with cook and driver in tow is unlikely to engender ill will—except from those left behind with Mandarin Buffet gift certificates in their holiday stockings.

Vital Organs

Context-specific acts of generosity, such as the donation of a kidney or liver tissue, are priceless and most welcome, providing the recipient is well-chosen. And, while non-tax deductible, they enrich one’s karma account manifold.

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