$0.50 to $49 in 462 Words
Feature Image: Bowling Bag Salt Shaker by Lydia Millet. Original price: $0.50. Final price: $49.00.
I never REALLY understood the value of storytelling. This experiment (that ran over a decade ago by the way) put a dollar value to the abstract idea of the value of storytelling.
The idea for this experiment came from the minds of Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn. The experiment was simple, acquire insignificant objects (purchased for $1.25 a piece on average), write a short fictional story about the object, and list it on eBay. Spoiler; it worked.
Let’s take for example;
Ireland Cow Plate by Sarah Rainone ($1 to $41):
At first glance, this is just a plate with a drawing of some cows that seems to have originated in Ireland. The writer Sarah Rainone concludes her story:
This plate is about cowherds, about shamrocks, about Ireland, yes, but it is also about liberation, about preservation, about eternal life. And if you purchase it, my only wish is that you do not eat corned beef from it, without first thinking of Krishna.
A story about eternal life, yogic chanting, human incarnation, and transcendence; even I - knowing this was fictional - had a new appreciation for this plate.
This is one of the hundreds of objects that were listed, I will list a few more to drive the point home. You can click on the images to read the full stories.
Rhino Figurine by Nathaniel Rich ($1 to $57):
Russian Figure by Doug Dorst ($3 to $193.50):
Metal Boot by Bruce Sterling ($3 to $86):
Putting a dollar value on what seems like such an abstract idea really helped me frame the significance (pun intended) of creative writing. This project ended up selling these objects for nearly $8,000 combined. A decade-old experiment (first run in 2009) is all the more valuable in this day and age of over-sharing and information overload.
I highly recommend browsing SignificantObjects.com when you have some time and reading the incredible short stories over 200 writers contributed to producing.