Father's Day Gifts: Cheap vs. Luxury Faceoff

For Father's Day, you can spend a little or a lot on gifts. Here's how to decide.
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WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- Father's Day should amount to more than Fudgie the Whale, but what's the most appropriate way to pamper your patriarch? It depends on the dad.

This year, more than 75% of American consumers will celebrate Father's Day and spend an average of $94.32 and a total of $9.8 billion doing so, according to a survey by BIGresearch. That's up from an average of $90.89 as 12.7% of respondents said they'd spend more on Father's Day this year, up from 7.9% who gave the same answer last year.

That uptick in spending should help dad's haul this year, but a newfound frugality among post-recession shoppers may make Father's Day presents more practical than plentiful in 2010.

With both stingy and spendthrift sons and daughters in mind,

TheStreet

took holiday standbys from both sides of the spectrum and let them square off for the affections of America's fathers. The results of our Father's Day gift face-off are as follows:

Faceoff: Cufflinks vs. Suit

Cufflinks:

Sure, your dad may have sleeve accessories studded with precious gems shaped like Roman coins, but does he have his initials or his favorite car's model acronym stamped on them? We're guessing no.

For frugal offspring, a $49 set of

Shapeways'

personalized stainless-steel-and-bronze links with dad's title ("CFO"), ride ("GTO") or favorite show ("CSI") displayed in any of nine styles is a great way to show you recognize the things he values -- or at least the first letters of them.

Suit:

How is keeping your father from showing up to a family function in an ill-fitting discount-rack suit worth it to you, especially if that sweet bespoke set could one day be yours or your son's?

If you're willing to invest six to seven visits to a bespoke house like

Jon Green Custom Clothing

in New York, up to twice as many hours selecting fabric, pocket liners, buttons and zippers, the $7,500 to more than $11,000 price tag is secondary.

Winner:

We'll take the suit. One bad drop into a sink or a slip of the wrist on a city street can undo a set of cufflinks more quickly than dryer static splits up socks. An $8,000 to $10,000 suit that looks as good on dad the day of his daughter's wedding as it will on her son when he wears it to his Harvard homecoming dinner is worth holding on to.

Faceoff: Beer vs. Scotch

Beer:

Your father shouldn't be out mowing the lawn on his day, so don't insult him with a sixer of lawnmower beer. Fortunately, Delaware-based craft brewer

Dogfish Head

has risen to the occasion by producing its Sah'Tea brew for one month only.

The beer, which retails for $12 to $15 per 750-milliliter bottle and with 9% alcohol by volume, is based on traditional Finnish Sahti beer made with rye and juniper berries. Traditionally, the beer was made in wooden vessels that couldn't be heated with fire, so the beer had to be brewed using hot rocks cooked over flames and then thrown into the tank -- a process Dogfish has replicated.

If your head just exploded after that explanation, perhaps you're better off with a $10 four-pack of Festina Pesche, which is brewed with peach sugar, smells a bit like apricot, tastes like a slightly sour Belgian beer and is only available through July.

Scotch:

Unless you were lucky enough to place the nearly $15,000 winning bid on a bottle of 60-year-old Macallan at the McTear's Rare and Collectible whisky auction in Glasgow last month, you'll be hard-pressed to find a similar vintage this year.

A close second, however, may be the 73-year-old Glenfiddich expected to fetch upwards of $24,000 at Bonhams of Edinburgh on June 16, right before Father's Day. A good child would make the trip and drop the cash, or at least spend the nearly $26,000 on bottles of 50-year-old available stateside.

The winner:

Beer me. A wise man once said that a good libation shouldn't be shelved or studied, it should be drunk. That's tougher advice to take when each dram costs as much as a plasma television.

A good beer, especially one that returns you some change when you pay with a $20 bill, will never have to worry about collecting dust in someone's study.

Faceoff: Chrysler vs. Mercedes

The Chrysler Sebring Convertible:

If your dad needs an island car for his retirement years or just something to get him from the office parking lot to the nearest par 5 hole, the Sebring is the most affordable mid-sized option.

With a $28,500 starting price, the Sebring comes with a retractable soft top or hard top, room for four, heated front seats and a wind screen between the front and rear seats. It's not heavy on the amenities, but for a former middle manager who doesn't believe in closed compartments after Memorial Day, the Sebring can be a little slice of heaven.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet:

If pops wants to blow the lid off his car, why not uncap his expectations as well? With a starting price ($57,000) double that of the Sebring, Mercedes' four-seater comes as either a V6 engine-powered E350 or V8-driven E550, has a standard-issue leather-and-wood interior and multi-area climate control.

When the soft top's away, passengers are protected by a wind-deflecting spoiler above the windshield, a wind screen and draft stop between the rear seats, and an Airscarf ventilation system that blows heat directly onto passengers' necks.

Winner:

The Mercedes' quieter ride and impressive amenities blow away the Sebring, which has been buffeted by bad press. Chrysler's rag top ranked dead last in customer satisfaction among mid-size convertibles, according to a Consumer Reports owners survey.

Meanwhile, Automobile Magazine Editor in Chief Jean Jennings said the Sebring "is not on the top of my list for anything" and concluded that "the best thing it probably has going for it is price." Considering that the Sebring was the butt of a running joke on NBC's "The Office" and is slated to be scrapped when Fiat takes over Chrysler next year, it may not be the best car to put a bow on this Father's Day.

Faceoff: Plasma vs. LCD

Plasma televisions:

Still the standard in terms of picture quality, if not value or efficiency, plasmas are the big-screened behemoth of the HD era and are leading the push into 3-D.

A small stable of 3-D releases and pricey $100-plus glasses aside, however, plasmas like the 54-inch

Panasonic

Viera TC-P54Z1 had a great deal to offer before

Avatar

arrived. For a hefty $4,000 to $4,700, the Viera saturates its colors and shades without blurring and flickering. Panasonic's Viera TC-P50G25 at $1,200 to $1,500 plasma and

Samsung's

PN58B650 at roughly $2,000 and PN50C590 at $1,100 to $1,400 offer similar quality at a slimmer cost.

LCD televisions:

Once considered an inferior whipping boy and a cheap runner up, LCD TVs now stand toe-to-toe with their plasma counterparts, thanks largely to local-dimming and LED technology.

The Samsung UNB8500 series, for example, can seem exorbitant at $5,400 for a 55-inch model, but has heavily saturated color, deep black and a bunch of

Yahoo

(YHOO)

Widgets for playing on the Web.

For less than half the Samsung's price ($1,900),

Vizio's

$1,900 2XVT LED-fueled LCD models deliver just slightly lesser performance.

The Winner:

Anyone's guess. Since

Maximum PC

debunked some common display myths last month, we're left with the bare bones. Plasma has a somewhat better display, but costs a ton and sucks up a lot of energy. LCD, even with LED help, still underperforms, but is way cheaper and will be adequate for all but the most sage tech stalwarts.

Faceoff: Steak vs. Seafood

Steak:

It takes little effort and lots of patience to pack your dad into a steakhouse with dozens of other beleaguered dads on a day when the kitchen's pumping out as much food as possible with about as much care as can be expected.

Offering a more serene alternative, the

Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort

in Elkhart Lake, Wis., has made steak and beer the nexus of its $599 "Time Out for Dad" package. The two-night stay includes a one-bedroom suite, beer and pretzels upon arrival, a steak dinner at the facility's Lola's on the Lake restaurant, a massage and mountain bike rental.

Seafood:

Even though the National Retail Federation says 40% of those celebrating Father's Day will do so by taking dad out to dinner or brunch, it never asks how many dads actually want to leave the house on their day.

Boston-based seafood chain Legal Sea Foods is just fine with leaving your father planted firmly on the recliner, as it has boxed up some of its best dishes for mail-order delivery packages. The $62 package comes with two four-ounce crab cakes, one pound of jumbo shrimp cocktail with sauce and a quart of New England clam chowder. The $78 deal includes two 1.25-1.5 pound live lobsters, one quart of chowder, two Boston cream pies and a pair of claw crackers.

Winner:

The seafood, because why make the schlep?

-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.