How much would you spend for this delightfully tacky piece of ceramic kitsch? 50 cents? $10?
Its subjective value may be the result of the materials, the craftsmanship, etc., but what is the source of its objective value? (In this case, it likely depends on your penchant for long, flowing peach-colored halter dresses, 70s glam, or Rachel Zoe.) Whether it’s a luxury-label logo bag or a discarded item on the side of the road, it’s tough to put a price tag on an individual’s connection to an item.
One thing is certain: Objects with a story, real or imagined, make us swoon. (See the bartender toy at the end of this post; I later found out he’s ubiquitous on Ebay, but I still love him.*) To test this theory, Rob Walker (Buying In) and Joshua Glenn (Taking Things Seriously) have devised a brilliant methodology–the Significant Objects Project. The concept is simple: The curators find the “junk”; a writer crafts a creative story about the junk; the junk is put up on Ebay with the story (and full disclosure that the story isn’t real); and the results are monitored.
Here’s an excerpt from Mimi Lipson’s Halston mug story:
Wednesday, June 13, 1979
Halston was having a birthday party for the Dupont twins, so I glued myself together and cabbed to the Pierre to pick up Bianca ($5). She’s still mad at Victor about the sweater, but I think it’s really because she found out that he went to Mick and Jerry’s black and white party at Mr. Chow’s. Bianca’s ass is really getting too wide to wear Halston. (Read the rest here.)
(I can’t help but think of J. Peterman when reading these.)
Would this description, even knowing it were fake, make you (consciously or subconsciously) want to buy the mug?
* Allegedly, steam comes out of the bartender’s ears (you know, if the toy were actually still functioning).