Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Infinite Swap Shop

Instead of having a garage sale (which event has been attempted here before, without notably glorious results) we somehow ended up offloading most of our old fings on the e-bays. A somewhat time-consuming task, all considered, but the strike rate is better. If there is anyone out there who wants your piece of esoteric junk there is every likelihood they will be looking for it online and not many likelihoods that they will happen to front up to your place on the one particular Saturday morning.

Ebay is actually pretty entertaining and instructive for those willing to learn its ways. Spend a bit of time poking around and you can reconstruct elaborate and detailed buying and selling profiles, lists of objects and obsessions, fantasies and fallings in and out of love, not essentially different from something like Life: A User's Manual except, of course, in not being actual art.

Another thing I like about ebay is this. Because it is all about the keywords - 'Grindley' ; 'Finland Arabia' ; 'Derryn Hinch Autographed' - it is the perfect instrument for bringing about the reunification of dispersed sets of things. Some days, the thought of orphaned single salad plates or saucerless teacups from some fabulous china pattern growing dustier and unknown in the back of dark junk-shop shelves, never to come under the gaze of the one last living collector who knows and appreciates the stuff, is almost too much for me to take. Ebay has the potential to end such unhappiness and waste forever. Think of all the little lost cups and saucers flying bubble-wrapped around the globe, gradually reconstellating new versions of the happy crockery families to which they once belonged. It is just good to think about objects finding homes with people who can value them.

Let me give you a couple of case studies.

It was a toss-up whether to send this prehistoric video game console to the op-shop or to list it; in the event a bidding war erupted between a pair of equally obstinate nerds (here's Nerd A's recent bidding history, and Nerd B's), one of whom eventually secured the item for ten times what it should have sold for.** (You have to wonder why they fought over it, the thing has a two-player mode, surely they could have played it together?) Anyway the buyer seemd really pleased with it and I'm sure he won't sticky-tape a picture of Angus Young over the top plate, switch it on so it emits bleeps, and submit it for assessment in his experimental music composition course, as the previous owner is rumoured to have done.

The inevitable consequence of spending much time selling things on ebay is of course that you begin to buy things as well: I already told you about the wallpaper and the tiles but oh my friends that is only the tip of the iceberg. I also bought a third roll of wallpaper, an extractor fan thing for over the stove, a Bendigo Pottery bread crock, a dishwasher to replace the one we broke here (whole dishwasher cost less than a new element) and rather a lot of brown pottery made by an English firm called Pearson's of Chesterfield. Brown pottery is my new thing. Just as we are now committed to working on driving up the real estate values in the suburb we're moving to (which will be hard as nobody's ever heard of it) I am firmly committed to the idea that brown pottery is the Coming Thing in the op-shop crockery marketplace, now that Carlton Ware, Remued etc is too expensive for the collectors who saw it as more than kitsch in the first place.

Most of the pots and things I have bought are 1970s reproductions of 19th century stoneware - imagine one of those tan-and-cream jugs Michael Henchard would have sculled cider out of - complete with almost-tongue-in-cheek-but-not-quite transfer printings on the front - the jug says JUG, for instance, the pie dish says PIE DISH (just in case you were a bit confused, or baffled) which I like very much, representing as it does a blurry midpoint between usefulness and Magrittean overlabelling. I started looking for this Pearson's stuff because the nine spice jars I stole from my mother when I left home (breaking up her set, I recognise now this was a dreadful thing to do, sorry Mum) are made by this firm and I would like to have more than nine no wthat I'm a grown-up and storing spices in torn plastic bags wedged into an ice-cream bucket JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH any more. I haven't yet found any more spice jars on ebay, though. Patience is a virtue.



**I suspect you might have to be signed in to ebay to see these pages. Don't worry if you can't, it's just lists of the rare smurfs, ninja stuff, manga accessories and theremin kits these guys have acquired in the last 30 days.

21 comments:

Ben.H said...

Damn you! I just finished that Perec book and suspected there were *things* going on behind everything in the text; then I went and clicked that Wikipedia link and am going to be up all night poring all over it again. And it's a school night!

Fyodor said...

I probably don't praise you enough, but godfeckdamn, you are wonderful. I honestly cannot think of any other person who could have written the following:

"Most of the pots and things I have bought are 1970s reproductions of 19th century stoneware - imagine one of those tan-and-cream jugs Michael Henchard would have sculled cider out of - complete with almost-tongue-in-cheek-but-not-quite transfer printings on the front - the jug says JUG, for instance, the pie dish says PIE DISH (just in case you were a bit confused, or baffled) which I like very much, representing as it does a blurry midpoint between usefulness and Magrittean overlabelling."

It's as alien to me as eating roast flight attendant in the Andes*, but I'm oddly mesmerised by the spectacle of you in full nesting mode.

*OK, not that alien. It's even more alien: I have fantasised about eating flight attendants more than I have about buying stoneware.

Meredith said...

That post was just magnificent. So beautifully & easily written. And so quintessentially bloggy with its links, asides, & references. I am inspired for the day.

&Duck said...

I think you should relink it to Sars. It's just so book.

lucy tartan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lucy tartan said...

I have something brewing for Sars...let's just say "Derryn Hinch Autographed" are not idly chosen words

lucy tartan said...

Glad youse liked the post, and everything in it's all true. Although today I must say I strike myself as being kind of full of shit, its FURMITY with a slug of rum that Henchard is fond of, not cider. Furmity would probably not come in one of those flagon jars anyway, the necks are far too narrow and I imagine it as rather gluey and gluggy (rough runny barley and milk porridge with nutmeg and sugar, ugh).

Anyone remember the 70s BBC adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge? One of my earliest tv memories is of images from that show.

Fyodor said...

Nope, can't say I remember that one. Strangely enough, however, one of my earlier TV memories is of the 1970s Beeb production of Anna Karenina. I've had quite a thing for Caroline Langrishe ever since.

pk said...

I sense an untapped PhD in Reunifonomics - lost sock academia.

But I think you're doing quite well with english Ms. Thanks for the chuckle.

Miss Bates said...

There are about 15 spice jars, Pearsons of Chesterfield, in the Sacred Heart Op Shop St. Kilda.

For me, Michael Henchard will forever look like Alan Bates. And didn't he develop a taste for the grog??? It's Hardy, so he will have done whatever was best calculated to make everybody miserable.

librarygirl said...

My earliest exposure to The Mayor of Casterbridge was via a comic strip of the novel in a Princess Tina or Jinty Girl's Picture Annual in around 1972 when I was a tiny girl. (The story haunted me for years before I actually got around to reading the novel.) I'm not making this up. I wonder if the annual coincided with the 70s tv adaption?
And also - I agree with you about the brown 70s china. I've been collecting Kathie Winkle for years. (I'm not making up that name either). Check it out on ebay - I buy it in op shops for about 50 cents a piece but harder and harder to find as the earliest pieces were made in the early 60s. Her brown patterns would tie in well with your collection.
Thirdly, I live in a suburb no-one has ever heard of and it is very restful.

lucy tartan said...

I did check it out and I can certainly see why you're collecting it, it's lovely stuff. I have actually got two odd bits here which were shortly to be sent back to the op-shop, if you could use them I would be delighted to send them to you - at whatever pseudonymous work colleague's sister's boyfriends address, naturally - they are a sandwich plate in the pattern called Kontiki and a teacup (crazed) in the pattern called Newlyn. Email me if you would like to have them.

boynton said...

I've collected Kathy Winkle for years too - Kon Tiki mainly, in the op shops!
(Almost have excess quantity - thanks to family and friends giving me finds)
Someone once spotted a whole dinner set in Chapel Street for me, but (apart from the price) that seemed to defeat the whole game of collecting? Which is why I'm kinda wary of ebay.

However, maybe if your spice set pieces were misspelt? Find Misspelt listings...
(via)

librarygirl said...

Thank you so much for your kind Kathie Winkle offer,but like boynton, I really have too much already(a quick count revealed the shameful total of 26 dinner plates, 19 sandwich plates,18 bowls 2 platters, 1 serving bowl and 4 cups and saucers) - even the cat eats daily off the Winkles like the rest of us. Gift them back to the op shop and a new collector will nab them fast.But thank you for the kind thought.

Stephanie said...

you've gotta love ebay: i offloaded a deeply early '80s ghettoblaster for way more than you would ever imagine it would be worth to a small hairy little man with rampant chest hairs and a gold chain who holds 80s discos in the suburbs and decorates the room with old 80s music paraphernalia - like my ghetto blaster. I didn't tell him it had been in my bathroom for the past 20 years ... tuned variously to RN, RRR and JJJ. And then there was the abusive ebay-er who accused me of fraud because I called it a ghetto blaster, when it really wasn't a REAL ghetto blaster.

Kate said...

No no don't go offering free crockery! Aaargh! Must resist the pull of the plates!!!!

And I can feel a meme coming along and the shameful confession of my secret life as a coffee-pot collector.

Don't laugh.

I'm off to google Kathie Winkle.

*a moment later*

Oh she makes coffee pots too! Heaven!

Suse said...

Have you tried Savers?

Brown pottery HEAVEN.

Ampersand Duck said...

You have to see "Stranger than Fiction" if only for the small moment of brown pottery.

Fyodor said...

There are so many reasons to see "Stranger than Fiction". See it now. It is most excellent.

momo said...

Oh! I just Googled Kathie Winkle, too - fabulouso!

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