Della's most cherished desire is to purchase a Christmas present for Jim that is "just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim." She has endeavored to save her extra money for this purchase but has not been able to raise an adequate amount. She solves the dilemna by selling her beautiful long hair and using the proceeds to purchase a platinum chain and fob for Jim's treasured family heirloom pocket watch.
Jim, in his mission to purchase something that will represent his love for Della, has sold the watch in order to have the funds to purchase an exquisite set of tortoise shell hair combs that Della has longed to be able to wear in her fabulous knee-length hair.
Each unknowingly sold the possession that was to be complimented and highlighted by the present purchased by the other, upsetting the secret plans to demonstrate depth of love through recognition of the material item most treasured by the recipient. Their fate, at that point in their lives, was to give each other deep and abiding love, unadorned by material things.