The One That Got Away


I saw it listed at $9.99, 6 days to go. It was a drop-dead gorgeous real shell kanzashi with coral. I thought it was real, anyway. My eyes popped out of my head. I emailed two of my friend collectors. “Are you going for this?” “Do you think it’s real?” The coral is too pink, but it looks real. All of us thought it was real, so I put a large snipe bid on it.

I thought to myself, I could write to this person, ask them to end the auction, play games, but I just am not in that space anymore. The grab, the manipulation of someone who doesn’t know as much as you, the seduction to get the coveted item at a low price.

The whole dance makes me vomit. I couldn’t do it, but I saw this seller’s vulnerability. I mean she was the kind of n00b, who lists a priceless piece and then makes sure people know they don’t get the pillow it’s pictured on as a part of the auction. I am going to value this at around $700. A similar pair of shell kanzashi went for $890 on Trocadero, recently. Comments welcome if you disagree.

In addition to listing it at $9.99 with no reserve, this seller stated she didn’t know what she was doing, that her father left this to her, which means he gave it to her with love, which means it’s real, which means… The (0) next to her name told us it was the first time she was listing on ebay. She was bait for the vultures. I put a snipe bid on it that reflected what I thought was its real value and said nothing.

One day before auction end, the item was gone. Someone wrote to her and convinced her to sell them the item off ebay. I don’t know what they said. I don’t know what kind of value she got. I hope she wasn’t a meal for some dealer, and we don’t see this piece on someone’s site going for full value in the near future. If we do, then I guess we’ll know who the vulture was.

And then the question for all collectors becomes, you either win the game or you don’t. You either get the coveted piece or you don’t. Do you want to do what it takes to win? What will it do to you as a human being? It’s not in me anymore. So ah well, the one that got away.

2 Responses to The One That Got Away

  1. Well, there’s no shortage of vultures. Check this out from a friend of a friend who collects Japanese swords. He bought one at a garage sale which had been given to the owner by her first husband for $40 USD. A well-known dealer offered him $600, but he just decided he didn’t want to go for it. Later he sold it to a Japanese gentleman for over $200,000! He says he tried to go back to give some more to the garage sale lady but she’d moved, hence the garage sale.

    • Dealers are vultures. I can’t tell you how many times on ebay bidders and sellers have written to me asking my advice because a dealer was trying to buy the piece for $100.

      And then I tell them. Well, of course they are. You are selling a 14K gold 1890’s English hair comb with tiny rubies in the eyes of griffins, hooked onto blonde tortoiseshell tines, for $9.99 with no reserve. They realize you don’t know what you have, and that you could probably get it appraised for $400+. Then they see the betrayal.

      Dealers are predatory. They get the unknowing seller’s trust and then go in for the kill. When the seller learns of the betrayal concerning a family heirloom, it hits them right in the stomach. You really have to research what you have before you sell, especially on ebay, where vulture dealers are fishing all the time.

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