The Significance of Significant Objects

From the 1939 film No News From The Navy

From the 1939 film No News From The Navy

Rob Walker, he of Consumed, Buying In and Murketing fame has a new project he just rolled out, along with collaborator Joshua Glenn, author of Taking Things Seriously, called Significant Objects. This is a really interesting project, and something right up my alley as it focuses on the importance of storytelling. Rob explains:

“The project is called Significant Objects. We have rounded up a rather astonishing group of creative writers as participants. Each writer has been assigned an object — an almost-meaningless object purchased for a few dollars (tops) at a thrift store.

Each writer then invents a story about that object.

More on the backstory here. Having participated in the Mad Men on Twitter experience, as well as my Foundtracks project, this idea of playing with reality and fiction sounded really cool to me.  But it also raises many questions.

  • Does adding a fictional narrative add to the price of the object, or just to its value?
  • Would the object be worth more if it had a compelling true story attached?
  • What if the fictional story was presented as true?
  • What effect does Rob & Joshua’s involvement have in the value of the object?
  • What is a less talented, but more generally famous person wrote the fake stories? Would that effect the value of the object?
  • How much can a compelling story add to the price of a ‘dud’ object?
  • Would these items sell for higher prices if sold by an Ebay ‘power seller’?

There are so many variables I think it will be difficult to isolate what element most affects the value of the object. Go here to bid on any of the Significant Objects. The stories attached are really fabulous and the variety of items is compelling.

One of the items is a Sanka-branded ashtray (which is fascinating in its own right, but that’s a different story). Currently, it’s going for $10.50 (from five bids). Someone else is selling a very similar Sanka ashtray with a starting bid of $10.99. This will be a good test to see what effect these stories will have in the marketplace.

It will be interesting to evaluate this project after a reasonable sample size of sold items is in. Right now all we can do is speculate and I look forward to checking back in with Rob and the Significant Objects down the road.