By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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Attractive Woman Holds Holiday Gifts Isolated on a White Background.So, I’m thinking of giving dirt for Christmas.

Mind you, this isn’t just any dirt, it’s “Mound Dirt” that comes along with a “Mariano Rivera Signed Photo With Authentic Uniform,” available from the New York Times Store, a gift “Just for Him” for the holidays.

Apparently, Mariano Rivera is a baseball player, a “closer” for the Yankees, who must be a pretty big deal, since along with the photo, they’re including the dirt the guy stood on when he was pitching. They’ve also chopped up his uniforms and have included a piece of that with the framed gift as well. I don’t know whether the Yankees have canonized this guy yet, but the only other time I’ve seen bits of cloth revered and sold was when they came from some Catholic saint. And yes, they were sold. Even holy relics have a price, you know, although usually less than the $525 commanded by Mariano Rivera’s dirt and clothing. I guess in New York, the Yankees trump the Catholic Church, which must be content with whatever it can get in the relic market these days.

In keeping with the baseball theme, the Times Store is also offering “Game-Used Baseball Cufflinks” for the bargain price of $170. According to the store site, “The patina of the game can be found in the seams of the baseballs, each authenticated by a third-party witness under the auspices of the MLB authentication program. Each carries a uniquely numbered hologram that allows fans to trace the history of the ball at”

Chopped up baseballs for $170. Those New Yorkers certainly love their sports. And apparently, they have money to spare, which is amazing, as a one bedroom apartment in a sixth floor walk-up (no elevator to lug groceries, suitcases, etc.) can rent for $2500 a month. Which makes it a good thing they’re authenticating the stuff via a “third-party witness under the auspices of the MLB authentication program.” Wouldn’t want new baseball cufflinks for that price.

For the women on my list, I’m thinking of “Shakespeare: The Letterpress Sonnets and Poems,” a scant $775 for the volume. That’s volume, as in one, as in one book of writings that we all plodded through in high school, cursing and swearing the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare, just not enough to lay out $775 for a book of his verse when I have all of it in that massive tome I’ve kept in my book case since college just so I’d look smart to anyone who stopped to notice. (No one has.)

I could also opt for the Christa Loiuse Violet Felted Scarf, a mere $150, or the Balloon Dog poster by Jeff Koons (now there’s a guy who deserves a prize for making money off something stupid) for $135. It’s a poster of a balloon dog. I mean, really?

Of course, this is all gifting geared towards New Yorkers, a different breed entirely. An advertising section in The Philadelphia Inquirer also offered up an array of gifts this week, among them the “Taste of Philly” gift packages featuring the Tastykake Sampler Box, $22.99, or the Pennsylvania Pretzel Party for $34.99. Much more cost effective, and unlike the dirt, you can eat these gifts.

If anyone insists on a scarf, however, Five Below has some great bargains, for, well, $5 or below. And I’ll happily chop up some of the scores of old baseballs, basketballs, soccer balls, etc., rolling around my garage for the latest cufflink fashions. I’ve more than enough to spare to sell some as well, and let’s go with a price of $24.99. You get a bargain; I get rid of some junk, er…I mean…specialty gift items. I’ll even throw in an actual balloon dog for free.

Christmas gifting doesn’t have to break the bank. A little creativity can place even the most humble of offerings on par with pricey options, with no one the wiser.

Oh, and if you find yourself in need of a little dirt for that special someone, I’ve got a whole yard I’m offering at wholesale prices. Dig your own. I’ll even provide the shovel.

What’s on your shopping list this year? Click “comments” below and share!