. A relatively trivial object that has repeatedly been given as a present. Strictly, a mathom is probably NOT an object with a tendency to decay (i.e. fruitcake
), nor an object of obviously poor construction (i.e. a crooked handmade sweater or junk
), nor a family heirloom or a useful "hand-me-down" article (i.e. toddler clothing), nor one which requires expensive upkeep (i.e. a large, exotic pet -- a proveribial white elephant
Such objects most likely persist because they are slightly too valuable or unusual to dispose of outright or give to Goodwill
, yet have such limited use or appeal that few wish to retain them. Modern-day candidates for mathomhood are commonly visible in catalogs for novelty electronics, pop art, junk jewelry, and sports
memorabilia, as well as in roadside "local" gift stores.
"It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up; for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents and kept those that he received."
-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 65.