Out of curiosity, we recently went through our list of published stories so far to see which 10 objects have sold for the most money to date. We long ago proved that this experiment works — the stories we’ve published have increased the value of every insignificant object we’ve put up for sale. But perhaps our hypothesis could be refined if we carefully scrutinize this slice of the data.
Help us out, readers. We welcome your thoughts: Why did these objects/stories sell for more than the others?
1. Russian figure + Doug Dorst story. Talisman, Evidence. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $193.50
2. “4” Tile + Toni Schlesinger story. Fossil. Original price: $1.00. Final price: $88.00
3. Brass Boot + Bruce Sterling story. Evidence, Talisman. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $86.00
4. Porcelain shoe + Sheila Heti story. Fossil. Original price: $4.00. Final price: $77.51
5. Duck Tray + Stewart O’Nan story. Totem. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $71.00
6. Mallet + Colson Whitehead story. Talisman. Original price: 33 cents. Final price: $71.00
7. Cow Vase + Ed Park story. Fossil, Totem. Original price: $2.00. Final price: $62.00
8. Sand Animal + Sloane Crosley story. Totem, Evidence. Original price: 99 cents. Final price: $57.66
9. Rhino + Nathaniel Rich story. Talisman, Totem. Original price: $ 1.00. Final price: $57.00
10. Kneeling Man + Glen David Gold story. Talisman. Original price: $2.00. Final price: $56.50
It is perhaps noteworthy that although relatively few of our objects/stories have fallen into the TALISMAN and TOTEM categories (compared, that is, to the FOSSIL and EVIDENCE categories), the majority of our Top Ten list are talismans and totems.
A totem, of course, is an object from the natural world — animal, vegetable, or mineral — that is a tutelary spirit; all of our animal objects, for example, are totems, even if they also belong to another category. A talisman is an object that has magical power (e.g., Colson Whitehead’s story about the Mallet), is lucky (note that this is difficult to distinguish from magic), or is alive (e.g., Doug Dorst’s story about the Russian Figure).
Object-stories that fall into the FOSSIL and EVIDENCE categories are mementos — they serve to remind, or perhaps warn us of something. A fossil is an object that bears witness to a vanished era or way of life (including childhood); Sheila Heti’s story about the Cape Cod Shoe is an example. If an object played a role in a crime or memorable public event, we consider it evidence. Sloane Crosley’s story about the Sand Animal is a celebrity-oriented example of the latter.
Talismans and totems accomplish something for those who possess them; this might explain much about our Top Ten list. However, it’s important to note that Bruce Sterling’s story about the Brass Boot and Doug Dorst’s story about the Russian Figure make talismanic and evidentiary claims for the objects (nos. 3 and 1 on our Top Ten list, respectively). Hmm…