Top Ten Sales To Date

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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

Cape Cod porcelain shoe

5. Duck Tray + Stewart O’Nan story. Totem. Original price: $3.00. Final price: $71.00

Duck Tray

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

<em>Bid on this Significant Object, with story by Glen David Gold, here</em>

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…


Joshua Glenn is an editor, publisher, and a freelance writer and semiologist. He does business as KING MIXER, LLC. He's cofounder of the websites HiLobrow, Significant Objects, and Semionaut; and cofounder of HiLoBooks, which will reissue six Radium Age sci fi novels in 2012. In 2011, he produced and co-designed the iPhone app KER-PUNCH. He's coauthored and co-edited Taking Things Seriously, The Idler's Glossary, The Wage Slave's Glossary, the story collection Significant Objects (forthcoming from Fantagraphics), and Unbored, a kids' field guide to life forthcoming from Bloomsbury. In the '00s, Glenn was an associate editor and columnist at the Boston Globe's IDEAS section; he also started the IDEAS blog Brainiac. He has written for Slate, n+1, Cabinet, io9, The Baffler, Feed, and The Idler. In the '90s, Glenn published the seminal intellectual zine Hermenaut; served as editorial director and co-producer of the pioneering DIY and online social networking website; and was an editor at the magazine Utne Reader. Glenn manages the Hermenautic Circle, a secretive online community. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons. Click here for more info.

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Sales To Date

  1. …mementos, eh…perhaps they represent a tangible, playful nexus between reader and author…physical quirks from the silly hall of human nature…embodiments to remind us of that precious, unfailing spirit, if you build it, they will come…crutches four overcoming silence and distance…writing muses for mother’s sons in darkened basements…conversation pieces for conversations that best play out only in our minds…or maybe the buyer of that cow vase just needed a toothbrush holder really bad…and i wouldn’t give you two cents for a bald, old kneeling man ; )

  2. Mort — or should we call you Cape Cod Shoe? — thanks for the comments. We might have to quote you in our press materials.

    Anyone else have any theories?

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