I consider myself an eBay pioneer, with a seller account going back to the e-commerce Stone Age – or January 1997, to be precise. In the beginning, eBay was a fantastic place to sell genuine antiques with provenance and vintage collectibles like footless Pez. In the last decade or so, things have drastically changed as the massive marketplace has become flooded with fake designer purses, huge lots of genuine Gillette blades that fell off a truck (wink-wink), and countless other new merchandise. While vintage and antique merchandise still can sell, it is a spin of the roulette wheel compared to the early days – with more than 700 million items listed on any given day. I have experienced my share of non-paying bidders, kooks, and insults and so have family members – providing amusement and provoking more than a few f-bombs. I have often wondered if people are compulsive bidders in the same way others are compulsive gamblers. My faith in humanity was restored about 11 years ago when I heard from the sister of a buyer who never paid for an antique purse. I’ve heard every story in the book, but this one was heartwarming and true. The buyer had been hit by a car and was in intensive care for two months. She was slowly recovering, and finally cognizant enough to tell her sister about outstanding commitments. It astonished me that despite facing rehab and what had to be horrific hospital bills, she cared enough to tell her sister to pay off eBay sellers!
Revisiting my earliest memories, I have always loved antiques – but it is the hunt for that elusive piece that really rocks my boat. Actually, it is finding a treasure at a bargain price that keeps me hunting, although that has become increasingly challenging with the advent of the Antiques Road Show and American Pickers. My parents allowed me to gallivant alone at an enormous antique show at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago at the age of 6 or 7. I was transported to a magical place, imagining how people lived in the past surrounded by these beautiful objects. I only had pocket change and bought a small piece of natural turquoise. That following summer, I cannot remember where we went on our family vacation, but I do remember a cool coin and collectibles show at the motel where we were staying. Once again, my parents allowed me to roam alone at this show. I was drawn to the antique coins, but didn’t have money to buy anything. By the time I was 12, my mom would take me every summer to the Park West Antique Fair in Chicago. This venerable fair was an institution in Chicago for as long as I can remember, with dealers setting up shop in alley garages near Orchard Street. What I liked most about this fair was the European-like set-up – an upscale flea market where you could browse outside at leisure. We didn’t buy a lot, but this fair impacted me so greatly that I do remember exactly what my mom bought me over the years – a gorgeous ornate doll from Yugoslavia with a composition face and red leather boots; a Chartreuse Art Deco plastic department store butterfly display; a delicate Victorian gold ring with tiny opal; and a sterling silver brooch with a green art glass centerpiece.