Alternate Histories Of Objects For Sale On eBay

Illustration for article titled Alternate Histories Of Objects For Sale On eBay

Would you pay more money for items on eBay if they had interesting stories behind them? A group of writers has determined to find out, by selling objects on eBay that come with fictional alternate histories.


Among the participating authors are Matthew Battles, whose article on space travel we linked to the other day, as well as Susanna Breslin, Michelle Tea, Luc Sante, many more. They call their project Significant Objects. Each author buys a cheap trinket at a thrift store, invents a backstory for it, and then posts it on eBay. The opening bid price is exactly what they paid for it - usually just a few dollars. Most of the objects seem to be strange nick nacks, like a cow statue covered in red peppers or a plastic hot dog.

The project, conceived by io9 pal Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, is only a few days old, so it's hard to say for sure whether these objects will acquire substantial value based on their invented alternate histories. Still, it's obvious that some stories appeal more than others. Lucinda Rosenfeld's backstory about a cow-shaped creamer has already gotten 10 bids that have increased the value of the object from $1 to nearly $10. Maybe it's because her story is all about how Norman Rockwell was secretly depressed and left this cow creamer behind at a sanitorium where he spent time? I'm excited about an alternate America where Rockwell was depressed all the time.


So far none of the stories have been explicitly science fictional, but taken together they represent an interesting kink in the alternative history genre. One thing is certain: If Rosenfeld's success is any indication, these authors may actually get paid more for short fiction on eBay than they would at most publications.

Check out Significant Objects and see Rosenfeld's Cow Creamer on eBay.

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"This Kevin Costner Waterworld action figure has a very interesting story behind it. An amber alert had notified the police to a description of my car so I pulled into a shopping mall parking lot with the police on my tail. I ran into the closest store which was Kay Bee's and hid behind the 99 cent clearance bin of toys. When the police had passed by I got up from behind the bin and noticed they were blowing out these great Kevin Costner action figures. Now I'm awaiting trial and need to sell these to pay for my defense. Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!"