The Data: Adjusted Final Price

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Some of you have speculated that the Significant Object experiment’s duration affected sales prices — that is, you’ve speculated that objects auctioned off in the experiment’s first weeks no doubt sold for less, on average, than did objects auctioned off in its final weeks. (The experiment lasted for 19 weeks.) As word of the project spread, opportunities to purchase one of only 100 total objects decreased, and competition thus grew fiercer.

Click here to view a single table containing all our experimental data, and links to every post in which analysis of this data has been offered.

A quick glance at the Final Price, Week by Week table suggests that there probably is a Duration Factor along the lines suggested above. For example, as you can see in the chart excerpt reproduced below, none of the objects sold in Weeks 1 and 2 were ranked above #35/100, and the majority of them ranked in the bottom quartile.


Objects sold in Weeks 18 and 19, on the other hand, tended to rank in the top half of the results, and a couple of the objects are in our Top Ten.


Therefore, before drawing conclusions about what sorts of stories tend to make objects more or less significant, we ought to control for the Duration Factor. But how to proceed?

I thought of a formula: A – (B/C) = D, wherein:

A = The average final price of objects sold in the project’s 19th and final week, $36.83.
B = A particular week’s final sales total
C = The number of items sold that week (so B/C =  the week’s average final price)
D = The amount to be added to any object sold that week, to correct for the Duration Factor.

For Week 1, for example, B = $247.30, and C = 13, so B/C = $19.02. Subtract that from A ($36.83) and you arrive at $17.81. Now add $17.81 to the final price of any object from Week 1. The Smiling Mug went for $32.08, for instance; now it would have adjusted final price of $49.89. Add $17.81 to each object from Week 1, add those adjusted totals together and divide by 13 again… and voila! Same average final price as Week 19. Duration Factor: neutralized.

Of course, we’d have to run these numbers on all our objects before determining whether the Smiley Mug’s ranking had increased or decreased relative to other objects as a result of this procedure. But before I started doing any of this math, I realized that some weeks might have an average final price that’s higher than Week 19’s $36.83. The answer for D in the equation above could be a negative number, meaning we might have to subtract some amount from every object sold during a certain week. But doing so doesn’t make sense, if we’re trying to control for the Duration Factor, which is predicated on the assumption that average final sales totals in general should rise, week by week.

So now what? Keep reading!

The fact that the difference between Week 1 and Week 19’s average final prices is almost exactly $18.00 (as noted above) struck me as propitious. What if we added $18.00 to the final sale price of each item in Week 1, $17.00 to the final sale price of each item in Week 2, and so forth through Week 18 ($1.00 added)? Week 19 sales prices, obviously, would not get adjusted. This would neutralize the Duration Factor without requiring us to subtract from the sale prices of any objects sold during weeks whose average total sales happen to be higher than Week 19’s. The Smiling Mug would go from $32.08 to $50.08, in this scenario. Compare that to, say the Ocean Scene Globe, whose unadjusted final ranking ($33.00) was slightly higher the Smiling Mug’s. After this Duration-adjustment, its price goes up, but only to $39.00, because it was sold much later, during Week 13. Under Duration-corrected figures, then, the Smiling Mug ranks higher than the Ocean Scene Globe — in fact, when you look at the new chart, you’ll see that the Smiling Mug is now 16 places above the Ocean Scene Globe. So correcting for Duration Factor can make quite a difference. But will it change our Top Ten list? Will it affect the Bottom Ten? Let’s find out.

Following the procedure outlined in the previous paragraph, I’ve gone ahead and adjusted final prices for our 100 objects. After the jump, you’ll find a table displaying the following: Week, Object, Final Price, and Adjusted Price. I’m eager to hear your analysis of this data. Please publish your comments at the end of this post.


1. Original and Final Price (plus Author & Sales Rank)
2. Final Price, Week by Week (plus Author & Sales Rank, minus Original Price)
3. Final and Adjusted Price, Week by Week (minus Author & Original Price)

Sales RankObjectFinal PriceAdjusted Price
Week 081Russian Figure$193.50$204.50
Week 152Indian Maiden$157.50$161.50
Week 173Wooden Animal$108.50$110.50
Week 184Pink Horse$104.50$105.50
Week 135"Hawk" Ashtray$101.00$107.00
Week 0864-Tile$88.00$99.00
Week 047Metal Boot$86.00$101.00
Week 048Cape Cod Shoe$77.51$92.51
Week 159Fish Spoons$76.00$80.00
Week 169Fake Banana$76.00$79.00
Week 199Missouri Shotglass$76.00$76.00
Week 0312Duck Tray$71.00$87.00
Week 0812Mallet$71.00$82.00
Week 0514Cow Vase$62.00$76.00
Week 1814Felt Mouse$62.00$63.00
Week 0916Sand Animal$57.66$67.66
Week 0617Rhino Figurine$57.00$70.00
Week 0518Kneeling Man Figurine$56.50$70.50
Week 1919Geisha Bobblehead$56.00$56.00
Week 1720BBQ Sauce Jar$54.00$56.00
Week 0921Bird Figurine$52.00$62.00
Week 1822Rooster Oven Mitt$51.99$52.99
Week 0523Meat Thermometer$51.00$65.00
Week 0523Idol$51.00$65.00
Week 0925Ziggy Heart$50.00$60.00
Week 1825Jar of Marbles$50.00$51.00
Week 1227Motel Room Key$45.01$52.01
Week 1328Statute Dish$42.00$48.00
Week 0529Ireland Cow Plate$41.00$55.00
Week 0629Rope/Wood Monkey Figurine$41.00$54.00
Week 1829Amoco Yo-Yo$41.00$42.00
Week 1432Mr. Pickwick Coat Hook$38.00$43.00
Week 0733Marines (Upside-Down) Logo Mug$37.00$49.00
Week 1633Alien Toy$37.00$40.00
Week 0135Necking Team Button$36.88$54.88
Week 1036Seahorse Lighter$36.00$45.00
Week 1136Hand-Held Bubble Blower$36.00$44.00
Week 1138Round Box$35.00$43.00
Week 1239Cigarette Case$33.77$40.77
Week 1340Ocean Scene Globe$33.00$39.00
Week 0141Smiley Mug$32.08$50.08
Week 0242Halston Mug$31.00$48.00
Week 0942Penguin Creamer$31.00$41.00
Week 1542Windsurfing Trophy/Statue$31.00$35.00
Week 1345Crumb Sweeper$30.99$36.99
Week 1946Blue Vase$30.00$30.00
Week 1947Lighter Shaped Like Small Pool Ball$27.00$27.00
Week 0148JFK Bust$26.00$44.00
Week 0148Creamer Cow$26.00$44.00
Week 0648Unicorn$26.00$39.00
Week 0948Praying Hands$26.00$36.00
Week 1648Dilbert Stress Toy$26.00$29.00
Week 1753Cracker Barrel Ornament$24.50$26.50
Week 0754Elvis Chocolate Tin$24.00$36.00
Week 0155Miniature Bottle$23.00$41.00
Week 0156Chili Cat Figurine$22.72$40.72
Week 1757Flip-Flop Frame$21.80$23.80
Week 1158Military Figure$21.50$29.50
Week 1258Choirboy Figurine$21.50$28.50
Week 1458Sea Captain Pipe Rest$21.50$26.50
Week 1958Umbrella Trinket$21.50$21.50
Week 0662PBR Opener$20.51$33.51
Week 0863Grain Thing$20.50$31.50
Week 1163Uncola Glass$20.50$28.50
Week 1363Ornamental Sphere$20.50$26.50
Week 1463Wave Box$20.50$25.50
Week 0367Tin Ark$19.50$35.50
Week 1567Thai Hooks$19.50$23.50
Week 0469Foppish Figurine$17.82$32.82
Week 0170Sanka Ashtray$17.79$35.79
Week 0371Spotted Dogs Figurine$17.50$33.50
Week 1072Cat Mug$17.00$26.00
Week 0473Dome Doll$16.49$31.49
Week 1774Swiss Medal$16.00$18.00
Week 1275Duck Vase$15.75$22.75
Week 0276Kitty Saucer$15.53$32.53
Week 0177Santa Nutcracker$15.50$33.50
Week 0277Piggy Bank$15.50$32.50
Week 0477Popsicle-Stick Construction$15.50$30.50
Week 0777Star of David Plate$15.50$27.50
Week 0877Device$15.50$26.50
Week 1477Toothbrush Holder$15.50$20.50
Week 1283Basketball Trophy$14.90$21.90
Week 0184Mule Figurine$14.50$32.50
Week 0284Nutcracker with Troll Hair (or something)$14.50$31.50
Week 0384Golf Ball Bank$14.50$30.50
Week 1487Clown Figurine$11.61$16.61
Week 0188Candyland Labyrinth Game$11.50$29.50
Week 0188Pen Stand$11.50$29.50
Week 0390"Hakuna Matata" Figurine$10.50$26.50
Week 0690Small Stapler$10.50$23.50
Week 1990Bar Mitzvah Bookends$10.50$10.50
Week 1093Coconut Cup$10.00$19.00
Week 1094Kentucky Dish$6.75$15.75
Week 0195Toy Toaster$6.25$24.25
Week 0296Fred Flintstone Pez Dispenser$5.50$22.50
Week 0796#1 Mom Hooks$5.50$17.50
Week 1198Hawaiian Utensils$4.24$12.24
Week 0199Toy Hot Dog$3.58$21.58
Week 07100Porcelain Scooter$2.38$14.38

PS: If you dig our mug-shaped Significant Objects logo, then you’ll want to check out the Significant Objects Mug Mug, for sale now from Zazzle.


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.

10 thoughts on “The Data: Adjusted Final Price

  1. I realize that “might have been” does not factor into your analysis, but I do think that the final auction amount for the Missouri Shot Glass, with story by Jonathan Lethem, should be adjusted, since its final price would have been higher had it not been for an event that caused me to change my ebay password in early September.

    I placed my bid for the shot glass in esnipe, and had forgotten to update the site with my new ebay password. They let me know that the password was not correct, and I updated it, but left out a number, so they were not able to enter my bid. My max bid was $105.50. There is no way to know the winning bidder’s max bid, but if I had not made that mistake, the shot glass would probably have gone for at least $86, if not more. Or maybe the other bidder’s max was even higher than mine, and it would have gone for $106 or more!

    The bottom line is, there was someone out there who was willing to pay $105.50 for the shot glass because she liked the story so much, but remote causes kept that from happening.

  2. Top Ten (actually Eleven, because of three-way tie for 9th place) objects, before adjustment: Russian Figure, Indian Maiden, Wooden Animal, Pink Horse, “Hawk” Ashtray, 4-Tile, Metal Boot, Cape Cod Shoe, Fish Spoons, Fake Banana, Missouri Shotglass.

    Top Ten objects after adjustment: Russian Figure, Indian Maiden, Wooden Animal, “Hawk” Ashtray, Pink Horse, Metal Boot, 4-Tile, Cape Cod Shoe, Duck Tray, Mallet.

    It’s striking how similar the Top Ten remains after adjustment. The top three objects remain the same in both scenarios, and they’re in the same order! After adjustment, “Hawk” Ashtray and Pink Horse swap places at #4 and #5. Metal Boot and 4-Tile swap places at #6 and #7. Cape Cod Shoe stays at #8. This suggests that our Top Eight objects truly deserve to be rated MOst Significant, regardless of Duration Factor.

    Duck Tray and Mallet, both from Week 12, are the newcomers, at #9 and #10, edging out Fish Spoons, Fake Banana, and Missouri Shotglass, all of which made it into the (unadjusted) Top Ten thanks to the Duration Factor — they’re from Weeks 15, 16, and 19.

    It’s also striking that adjustment for Duration Factor doesn’t change the overall results *that much*. Objects that ranked in the unadjusted Top Twenty, Thirty, Forty, and so forth tend to remain there, even if they’ve swapped places with similarly ranked objects.

    However, it looks to me as though a few objects did jump up quite a bit in the rankings: Necking Team Button, Smiley Mug, Halston Mug, JFK Bust, Creamer Cow, Miniature Bottle, Chili Cat Figurine, maybe Sanka Ashtray — all from Week One. And a few objects from late in the project — Flip-Flop Frame, Umbrella Trinket, maybe Toothbrush Holder and Swiss Medal — look like they’ve dropped quite a bit. But before we can say any of this with certainty, I need to add another column to this table: Adjusted Sales Rank.

    What is everybody else seeing? Any patterns I’m missing? Am I mistaken in my observations or analysis? Discuss!

  3. wow-that’s a lot of analyizing! It’s a complicated issue.
    There were several items I liked- the #58 Umbrella Trinket, the #47 Lighter and the #7 Metal Boot. They were very ‘male’ to me (I am one) and though I’m not much of a shopper, these were things I would consider purchasing. (Added to that was my perceived value of what I would top out at spending which was probably no more than $25)
    What really completed them as a ‘good purchase’ were the stories attached. This was not true for other objects. If I hated the object, no story was going to save it, no matter how good the story.
    Now if it were for a charity,that would probably change everything again.

  4. I have an admittedly unscientific theory, which I’ll call the Metal Boot Peak Effect. I believe that there was a tipping point in Week 4 after which some process of disinhibition caused the possible peak price to shoot up for those objects with a certain X-factor. I’d speculate that a few items from Weeks 1-3 suffered inasmuch as they would have gone for much higher prices after the Metal Book Peak Event (Luc Sante’s Sanka Ashtray comes to mind), but the final prices for most items weren’t much affected by the Duration Factor. That is, I think these post MBPE peaks may be skewing your week-to-week averages.


  5. We haven’t actually calculated week-to-week averages yet (we’ll do that and put the info in a bar chart soon) so that will be interesting, Mimi, to check out.

    We should also calculate the median price, stuff like that.

    This coming week we’re going to focus our attention on the narratives, not the objects. What sorts of moods, voices, themes, styles, are associated with the top-ranked objects? Wonder if any striking patterns will emerge?

  6. PS: Metal Boot Peak Effect, good moniker. I encourage readers offering theories to give their theories titles like this one!

  7. Pingback: Average price, week by week | Significant Objects

  8. Pingback: The Data: Adjusted Sales Rank | Significant Objects

  9. Paula raises an interesting issue, but I think we have to stick to our guns and just go with actual prices paid. I’ve had lots of people say to me, “Oh if I’d known about that one I definitely would have bid,” regarding some of our earlier stories. That said — I’m really sorry that esnipe failed!

  10. Pingback: immediate future. » Blog Archive » In search of the value of a story

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