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The Significant Objects Project, Or, How to Sell Stuff on eBay

What makes an object significant, and possibly valuable? Some writers wagered that it's the story behind the object, and they set out to test their theory.

The Significant Objects Project pairs writers with an object and asks them to write a fictional story about it, with the belief it will then become significant to someone. Significance, in this case, means that someone would be moved to buy the object on eBay.

If you'd like to read the description story that accompanied the smiley face mug's auction on eBay and to find out its final price (it started at one dollar),



The auction for this smiley face mug significant object started at $2 and ended at $32.08. Perhaps the price went up because of Ben Greenman's story, excerpted below?

"This object is best known from its appearance in the 1939 film No News From The Navy, a comedy starring James Wilton as a hapless midshipman who cannot set aside his seafaring ways, even when he is confined to dry land as a result of an injury. Wilton’s character (who is called, simply, “Sailor”) competes for the affection of a young woman named Evelyn (Mary Hannan) despite the opposition of her father (Gordon Howard) and a larger, determined suitor (Kenneth Lopp). The film is a second-tier comedy, but there is one classic scene. in which Sailor shaves before taking Evelyn out on a date. He is clearly accustomed to shaving aboard his ship, and as a result, he is constantly attempting to regain his balance, despite the fact the floor is level and stable. The critic Leonard Folsom has written that “The unheralded Wilton has a scene that combines the physical complexity of a Chaplin solo with close-ups of inexpressive expression that rival the finest moments of Keaton.” At the beginning of that scene, Wilton uses this smiling mug as his shaving mug, and while he sets it on the shelf above the washbasin midway through, it remains, as Folsom writes, 'an oddly compelling focus of the film so long as it is onscreen, enormous in its diminutive size, menacing in its cheer.' "

To find out how other significant objects fared on eBay, click here.


Join The Conversation
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 7 years
That's a good point, Pistil. It's OUR stories that accrue around objects more than an author's that are interesting. Also, I agree it would be a fun Spring cleaning project: round up your junk, tell a story about it, and make money! Everybody wins! :)
Pistil Pistil 7 years
I think collecting and hoarding and investment in objects is a really interesting human behavior. I have a lot of crap with no monetary value, but I can tell you a story about it. Though my attachment is more related to memories and personal connections to the object, so I don't know if someone else's story about an object would make it more significant to me. I guess it would depend on the object, like if I collected movie memorabilia. Might be a fun project to try on your own. Creative writing, spring cleaning, and a couple extra bucks.
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