The Bargain

Amidst the cacophony of egos, E-bay is a war game. To sell collectibles, you either have to organize in real life to limit supply, as in the paperweight market; throw a piece of junk on ebay with the goal of attracting a private buyer, as in the Tiffany Studios market; but sometimes the collector wins the war because the seller is blindingly stupid.

PCMalady listed this comb as plastic. It wasn’t plastic. It was a Chinese ivory comb made for export to the Victorian market, c. 1890.

I couldn’t believe it. For four days I had a kill snipe bid on this. I knew the people who noticed it would behave like stealth tigers looking to take advantage of the seller’s ignorance. I also knew no one who noticed would bid to draw attention to the comb, thereby jacking up the price. I deleted my snipe bid because I thought “What are you doing? You can’t buy combs now.” I watched.

A comb I’d value at around $300 because there was a slight discoloration to the ivory in the back, invisible to the front, went for $39.99.

Even if the seller did not know the detailed floral decoration was one of the most popular patterns in Chinese ivory export combs, she should have seen the individuality of the discoloration on the back and known the comb was not plastic.

There were only two bidders, feedback scores of 2078 and 3309, respectively. That tells you a lot about their knowledge. The comb was won by the Creative Museum. I am happy about this. It was a brilliant buy.

At the moment, sellers on Ruby Lane are trying to sell their combs for retail prices on E-bay. The listings will not succeed because the main product of E-bay is the war game of egos.

8 thoughts on “The Bargain

  1. peggy elliott

    Hey! Congratulations! I’m glad it was you – I was one of the “watchers,” but expected it to go billistic and backed off. Then, like an idiot, forgot!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one scratching my head over the prices on some of these combs on eBay. Broken, beat-up, plastic and a price tag of $100-$200??! Come on!

    Enjoy your beautiful bargain purchase!

  2. BEMiller

    Oh, that’s a lovely comb. I haven’t cruised eBay for haircombs for a while. (Fundsalow here.)

    I can tell if something is plastic or not by tasting it. (Yeah, I know that sounds gross.)

    I do that with unknown beads all the time. I know you really shouldn’t put things in your mouth if you don’t know where they’ve been, but it works without having to resort to the hot needle test. That at least could have told the seller it was a ‘natural’ material instead of plastic or celluloid. (To my tongue plastic and celluloid taste different.)

    So enjoy your purchase!

    And I’ll agree with peggy elliot…. I’ve seen crackle-y looking celluloid haircombs on eBay and wondered why they had that finish. Then I learned from another long hair that was a sign the poor celluloid comb had that ‘decay’ thing going. And they were trying to sell it for way too much.

  3. BarbaraAnne Post author

    Hi Peggy! No, I didn’t win it. Alain did. I have a feeling if I had kept my snipe bid the price would have been much higher.

    BE! Welcome to my blog! With hair combs, all rules are off. My guess is that antique combs have been in people’s hair or kept in boxes, so I don’t think turpentine poisoning is a problem. Keep tasting!

    1. peggy elliott

      Aw, too bad, Barbara. That’s what tends to happen with me, too. You put your “highest” snipe in, with a second to spare, and it’s too low!

      So then, instead of being a reasonable, calm-minded person (as I am by nature!??), I enter some absurdly high amount, feeling I’ll be safe and the price will only have been a bit higher than my “highest” price.

      The pit that erupts in my belly when it turns out I’ve just spent a fortune on a comb worth oh, maybe $24, because the other sniper was as insane as was I – and there’s one “doin’ the happy dance in amazement” seller!

      It’s people like me that have created those sellers who think the diseased and broken combs are worth a fortune.

      I apologize to everyone for having done this awful thing…. :o(

      1. BEMiller

        Hey, I have heard of a Peggy Elliot who is on The Long Hair Community. Are you the same Peggy Elliot?

        And sometimes it’s hard to tell much about those combs on eBay from the pictures.

  4. peggy elliott

    Guilty as charged, though it sounds sort of ominous! And the name has two “t’s” – it’s always being spelled with one, so I’m sort of used to it.


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