Some years ago, particularly before the 1990s, there way a saying in Europe that (paraphrased) you can sell your blue jeans in every part of Eastern Europe and literally live like a king for a week.

Naturally things have changed since then. But is it still possible to do so in any part of Europe?

  • 12
    Even back in good ol' days, probably not 'literally' though... Nov 7, 2011 at 10:56
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    I think it should be posted on scifi.stackexchange.com Nov 7, 2011 at 14:58
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    Nowadays, this is the other way: buy a pair of blue jeans in China and sell it in the USA...
    – mouviciel
    Nov 8, 2011 at 8:49
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    There was big demand for jeans back then and they were hard to get, so they were expensive. My father spent his first salary on one pair. Today, they cost about the same as anywhere else.
    – M.K.
    Nov 8, 2011 at 17:51
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    What @M.K. says. Moreover, here in former Czechoslovakia, you had special currency that was used to buy luxury (yes, jeans were luxury back then), and the curculation of this currency was even strangier than the one of the standard Krown.
    – yo'
    Feb 17, 2014 at 9:31

7 Answers 7


Let's take this one step at a time.

  1. First you must own jeans. Here's your problem - you'll want them to be worth a bit. You can buy jeans for anything from $5 to a few hundred dollars if you really want to in western clothing stores. Let's say an expensive pair - US$200, and I assure you I've never spent that much on a pair of jeans.

  2. Now let's assume you could even sell them for the original purchase price - anywhere. (Take a look at "Global Poverty and the Cost of a Pair of Jeans). So you've sold your jeans and have the local equivalent of US$200 in cash.

  3. Your first problem is the Euro. Even what used to be cheapish countries (Estonia) have seen increases in prices since the arrival of the Euro.

  4. Secondly is finding accommodation 'fit for a king'. I'm not terribly experienced in this, tending to use hostels, but let's say we take my best bargain, which was in Rzeszow, Poland, where for the equivalent of £20 ($30) we had the 2 bedroom suite on the top floor of a hotel for a night, on the main square of the town. To this day I have no idea how this happened, and it included breakfast.

  5. So now you've got accommodation, although at $30 * 7, you've just barely got your accommodation if they give you a slight discount for a weekly rate. But hey, that's pretty good. And you've got breakfast, even if it was toast and fruit :)

So in a way, you can still do pretty well sometimes - not spending much doesn't mean you have to stay in hostels all the time. And with travel deals available on travelzoo or other sites, you can sometimes land a stunning resort spot on the beach for a week in Turkey for a similar price. It just requires looking around, and of course, a lot of luck.

  • 21
    Dude if I ever had $200 to spend on jeans, I would spend it on a ticket somewhere! Nov 7, 2011 at 10:35
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    Answers like this, Mark, are exactly why you deserve 12.3K of rep! Love it! (-: Nov 7, 2011 at 10:37
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    ^ Bromance! :') Nov 7, 2011 at 10:57
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    Great answer, but I think the original genesis of the saying was that your $100 jeans would, due to scarcity, get you $300 or $400, with which you could live like a king etc. I would guess those days are gone. Nov 7, 2011 at 13:29
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    It's fuuny how 12.3K in @hippietrail 's comment got deprecated now quite :) Still, the fact that Mark deserves all of this is entirely true :)
    – yo'
    Feb 17, 2014 at 9:34

That used to be true, back in the 1980s, in the Soviet Bloc countries, because:

  • blue jeans were the fashion trend then and there
  • they were not available on the market, at all (not "sold out", not "in small quantities", not at all.)
  • thus providing an opportunity for home-made imitations and for scarce (rare even) black-market goods

Now, that's a textbook example for Economics 101: high demand, extremely scarce supply - and prices shot through the roof, quite predictably: and yes, people were willing to part with a month's worth of wage to get that one pair of jeans (as @M.K. recalls in the comments). So, it indeed used to be true, literally: sell a pair of blue jeans and live like a king for a week.

Things that have changed in this situation since 1980s:

  • Everything.

No, seriously:

  • Jeans are not the new hot fashion trend (perhaps a fashion trend, if at all)
  • Import is unrestricted
  • Supply is abundant
  • And that all was true even before I could have ordered virtually anything from anywhere, directly, through the Internet.

In short, that specific bubble has popped not "some years", but twenty-some years ago; two major market changes ("paradigm shifts," if you will) have happened since. It's an amusing historical tidbit, but nothing more.

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    3rd major market change: prices for everything else have gone up dramatically, while prices for jeans have come down.
    – jwenting
    Feb 23, 2012 at 11:04
  • @jwenting: Where, here? Alas, the prices of jeans are low worldwide, as they're mass-produced in China; not really sure how this is relevant to the question. Feb 23, 2012 at 11:25
  • up in eastern europe. Thus both the profit you get on those jeans and the goods and services that profit (for every Euro of it) would buy goes down. Double the pain.
    – jwenting
    Mar 1, 2012 at 6:42
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    Hm, I wouldn't call that a fundamental change of the market though (as in, "from planned economy to free market" or "teh market, now with teh internets"); rather, a change in the market - and not an unusual one, really. Mar 1, 2012 at 6:47

Probably not.

I saw blue jeans for sale in streetside markets in Niš, Serbia for €5.

I'm now so far east in Eastern Europe that I'm technically in Asia and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of jeans.

Then again my jeans are about the cheapest I could find in a Chinese import store in Greece, which are probably not what people would stop me in the street for to offer me wads of Georgian Lari.

  • Same in Hungary, jeans are not a big deal anymore; you can buy the same brands here as in Western Europe. Nov 7, 2011 at 16:52

Yes, real Levi's still go for considerably more in foreign countries than in the US, in official shops. Like 501s are usually under $50 in the US, and over $100 in Australia. This is partly historic, partly due to currency fluctuations and the dollar being down at the moment, and partly due to VAT/GST.

No, you will not easily find someone to buy your one pair of jeans in a random size at those same prices. Wouldn't you just buy them from US eBay if you were them?

  • except you can't buy them from eBay US if you're not in the US (at least not new ones from resellers) as Levis prohibits international sale of their products (at least between regions). This is the cause of the price difference of course, as it means I can't as an EU denizen order a pair of jeans from Amazon in the US at a price that's lower including S&H than were I to buy that pair at home (and that's a big if, as Levis models are also regional, apart from a few exceptions like the 501).
    – jwenting
    Feb 23, 2012 at 11:03
  • @jwenting you can buy from private sellers on Ebay. Source: did it myself.
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 18, 2016 at 18:55

It used to be the thing to travel to New York for the weekend and come back with a suitcase full of Levi's (nonchalantly avoiding the red channel).

Looking at Levi US and EU_GB sites, I see the prices for the classic 501 is from $44 or £70 ($112). However, mid-nineties saw the emergence of a large grey market. I guess you only pay the high prices to buy from posh shops. If you are going to try to sell jeans from a suitcase in a pub, you'll have to significantly undercut the legitimate greymarket, and you'll presumably need to pay duty on the imports (don't break the law!).

I understand that in the US Levis are considered an everyday, working brand. In the UK they are considered a fashion brand, so they can command higher prices, and someone has to pay for the advertising.

[I only wear sensible trousers from M&S.]

  • Yes Aussies used to do this too in the late '80s / early '90s when the exchange rate was favourable. I don't know if anybody still does it now. Nov 7, 2011 at 16:34
  • Not just from posh shops, they cost that much in Europe from any Levis reseller, or Levis simply stops supplying them. Only exception are the few outlet stores where they go for a few percent less, but still higher in Euros than the US price in dollars.
    – jwenting
    May 27, 2013 at 13:30

That used to be true in 1980ies, but it ended with the collapse of the USSR a whole generation ago.

In essence, in USSR there was a thriving black market for imported goods which weren't generally available locally - jeans, music records and consumer electronics such as VCRs; such items would be worth a fortune and the 'local' items were price-controlled to be very cheap, so people who could get it through the customs (generally foreign sailors) could live well on selling such items.

But for the last 20 years it's not true.


Not anymore. Now you'd have to sell a blue auto...

Nowadays you can buy a heck of jeans of various quality everywhere, from marketplaces to supermarkets. The prices in, for example, Poland, are much lower than in Germany, so you'd have more luck selling your jeans in Germany...

Before the 1990s the situation was completely different. Almost everything was hardly available (there are various photos of markes shelves, where there's only vinegar on it). Some products, like jeans, were possible (officially) to buy only for dollars and the average citizen wasn't allowed to buy dollars, so such products were available only to people having relatives in the West, or buying it second hand, for the high price.

Now most Eastern Europe is in EU, and the rest trade intensively with the west, and the dollars are widely available, as well as the goods from all over the world. And jeans comes mostly from Asia. Such curiosities as internal export (see Pewex) are known only to older people, for the yougsters they are like knights and dragons.

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