Between October of last year and February of this one, the curators of Significant Objects parsed the data from the project’s first, experimental phase in the following thirteen ways.
- We classified the 100 object-stories in our experiment as talismans, totems, evidence, and fossils.
- We presented the raw original price/final price data.
- We listed the week in which each story was published, and its associated object listed for auction on eBay.
- We neutralized the Duration Factor by adding $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 of 19. The resulting Adjusted Final Prices have been used in our figuring ever since.
- We presented the experiment’s overall, week-to-week mean and median price data.
- We compared the Final Prices and Adjusted Final Prices, and made it possible to rank sales data by either factor.
- We presented the experiment’s Top 25 most significant object-stories (according to adjusted sales rank) in a visual manner, and invited readers to point out aesthetic considerations that might explain the objects’ popularity (i.e., independent of the associated narratives). We also invited readers to point out aesthetic considerations that might explain the unpopularity of some objects.
- We analyzed the effect of CATEGORY on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data. Result: inconclusive.
- We analyzed the effect of FUNCTION on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data. Result: inconclusive.
- We charted CATEGORY and FUNCTION on pie charts. (OK, we didn’t use the VISTA 1.0 for that.)
- Before leaving the question of FUNCTION behind, we asked readers to vote on whether particular objects were a novelty, or houseware.
- We started analyzing the effect of EXPOSITION STRATEGY on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data. Result: not in yet.
- We started analyzing the effect of HOT and COOL narrative modes on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data, and (what’s more) correlated with CATEGORY. Result: not in yet.
Then, in early March, our VISTA (Verifiable Insignificant-to-Significant Transubstantiation Analyzer) 1.0 threw a rod, and our parsing efforts ground to a halt.
Working around the clock, while also publishing our third volume of stories and holding down day jobs, we’ve finally managed to repair and upgrade the VISTA (now 2.0); on Monday, Rob Walker trotted out the first new analysis in fifteen weeks. Rob noted:
Object-stories sold in v1 were valued by the free market (meaning thrift store and yard sale sellers) at a total of $128.74. After our contributing writers converted these thingamabobs, via invented back stories, into Significant Objects, they sold through our eBay shop for a grand total of $3,612.51. The second 100 object-stories (v2 and v3 combined) were purchased for $134.89, and sold for $3,992.93
Despite the slightly higher cost-of-doodads, the Significance Premium also increased: v1 objects rose in value by a total of 2,706% thanks to our contributors’ stories. The second 100 object-stories sold in v2 and v3 combined jumped in value by 2,860%.
Rob’s finding prompted me to return to an adjustment I’d made to the v1 sales totals back in November. As I explained at the time, the Significant Object experiment’s duration affected sale prices. News about the project didn’t spread widely for the first week or three — so object-stories auctioned off early in the experiment sold for less, on average, than did object-stories auctioned off for the remainder of the experiment’s duration.
The first adjustment made to SO v1 sales totals — I added $18.00 to the sale price of each item in Week 1, $17.00 to the sale price of each item in Week 2, and so forth through Week 18 ($1.00 added) — helped neutralize the Duration Factor. However, the first Duration Factor adjustment didn’t change the overall results that much. A few object-stories from Week One (Necking Team Button, Smiley Mug, Halston Mug, JFK Bust, Creamer Cow, Miniature Bottle, Chili Cat Figurine, Sanka Ashtray) jumped in the rankings, while a few object-stories from late in the project (Flip-Flop Frame, Umbrella Trinket, Toothbrush Holder, Swiss Medal) dropped quite a bit. But object-stories that had ranked in the unadjusted Top Twenty, Thirty, Forty, and so forth, tended to remain in those brackets. In the Top Ten bracket, object-stories no. 1,2,3, and 8 remain the same, while the no. 4 and 5 object-stories, and no. 6 and 7 object-stories, respectively, merely swapped places. All of which suggests that SO v1’s intramural Duration Factor might not yet be entirely neutralized. Object-stories from the project’s earliest weeks (which weeks, exactly, will be analyzed below) didn’t have the fighting chance object-stories from subsequent weeks did to make it into the top quartile of sales rankings — or, at least, out of the bottom quartile.
At the same time, Rob’s findings suggest that the Duration Factor caused SO v1’s sales price total to be less than it otherwise might have been. Subtracting the SO v1 total from the So v2+v3 combined total, we get an exact figure: The project’s intermural Duration Factor robbed $380.42 from SO v1.
So — we’re trying a new adjustment method for SO v1 sale prices, one intended to neutralize the Duration Factor both inter- and intramurally. We’re adding $380.42 to the sale price of the 18 object-stories sold in SO v1’s first two weeks.
Why the first two weeks only, this time? Our decision was influenced by Mimi Lipson’s Metal Boot Peak Effect theory, which claims “there was a tipping point in Week 4 after which some process of disinhibition caused the possible peak price to shoot up for those [object-stories] with a certain X-factor.” (SO v1’s 24th object-story was Bruce Sterling’s Metal Boot.) However, according to our calculations, the upsurge in possible peak prices came with Stewart O’Nan’s Duck Tray. See the table below.
The Duck Tray, from SO v1’s third week, sold for $71. The highest sale price for any object-story from SO v1’s first and second weeks was a little more than half that amount: $36.88. Instead of the Metal Boot Peak Effect, we’re looking at a Duck Tray Peak Effect.
In order to give Week One object-stories the fighting chance they deserve, while still increasing the sale price of all pre-Duck Tray items, we’ve decided to assign $285.30 (3/4 of $380.34) to the sale price of our thirteen Week One items, and $95.10 (1/4 of $380.34) to the sale price of our five Week Two items. Each Week One object-story’s sale price will be adjusted upward by $21.95 (instead of $18.00); and each Week Two object-story’s sale price will be adjusted upward by $19.02 (instead of $17.00). The sale prices of object-stories from other weeks will remain unadjusted.
Here are the results of this second adjustment:
|Object||Final Price (orig.)||Final Price (2d adjust.)||Rank (orig.)||Rank (2d adjust.)||Week|
|Russian Figure||$193.50||$193.50||1||1||Week 08|
|Indian Maiden||$157.50||$157.50||2||2||Week 15|
|Wooden Animal||$108.50||$108.50||3||3||Week 17|
|Pink Horse||$104.50||$104.50||4||4||Week 18|
|"Hawk" Ashtray||$101.00||$101.00||5||5||Week 13|
|Metal Boot||$86.00||$86.00||7||7||Week 04|
|Cape Cod Shoe||$77.51||$77.51||8||8||Week 04|
|Missouri Shotglass||$76.00||$76.00||9||9||Week 19|
|Fish Spoons||$76.00||$76.00||9||9||Week 15|
|Fake Banana||$76.00||$76.00||9||9||Week 16|
|Wooden Mallet||$71.00||$71.00||12||12||Week 08|
|Duck Tray||$71.00||$71.00||12||12||Week 03|
|Cow Vase||$62.00||$62.00||14||14||Week 05|
|Felt Mouse||$62.00||$62.00||14||14||Week 18|
|Necking Team Button||$36.88||$58.83||35||16||Week 01|
|Rainbow Sand Animal||$57.66||$57.66||16||17||Week 09|
|Rhino Figurine||$57.00||$57.00||17||18||Week 06|
|Kneeling Man Figurine||$56.50||$56.50||18||19||Week 05|
|Geisha Bobblehead||$56.00||$56.00||19||20||Week 19|
|Smiling Mug||$32.08||$54.03||41||21||Week 01|
|BBQ Sauce Jar||$54.00||$54.00||20||22||Week 17|
|Bird Figurine||$52.00||$52.00||21||23||Week 09|
|Rooster Oven Mitt||$51.99||$51.99||22||24||Week 18|
|Meat Thermometer||$51.00||$51.00||23||25||Week 05|
|Halston Mug||$31.00||$50.02||42||27||Week 02|
|Ziggy Heart||$50.00||$50.00||25||28||Week 09|
|Jar of Marbles||$50.00||$50.00||25||28||Week 18|
|JFK Bust||$26.00||$47.95||48||30||Week 01|
|Creamer Cow||$26.00||$47.95||48||30||Week 01|
|Motel Room Key||$45.01||$45.01||27||32||Week 12|
|Miniature Bottle||$23.00||$44.95||55||33||Week 01|
|Chili Cat Figurine||$22.72||$44.67||56||34||Week 01|
|Maine Statutes Dish||$42.00||$42.00||28||35||Week 13|
|Rope/Wood Monkey Figurine||$41.00||$41.00||29||36||Week 06|
|Ireland Cow Plate||$41.00||$41.00||29||36||Week 05|
|Amoco Yo-Yo||$41.00||$41.00||29||36||Week 18|
|Sanka Ashtray||$17.79||$39.74||70||39||Week 01|
|Mr. Pickwick Coat Hook||$38.00||$38.00||32||40||Week 14|
|Santa Nutcracker||$15.50||$37.45||77||41||Week 01|
|Marines (Upside-Down) Logo Mug||$37.00||$37.00||33||42||Week 07|
|Alien Toy||$37.00||$37.00||33||42||Week 16|
|Mule Figurine||$14.50||$36.45||84||44||Week 01|
|Hand-Held Bubble Blower||$36.00||$36.00||36||45||Week 11|
|Seahorse Lighter||$36.00||$36.00||36||45||Week 10|
|Round Box||$35.00||$35.00||38||47||Week 11|
|Kitty Saucer||$15.53||$34.55||76||48||Week 02|
|Piggy Bank||$15.50||$34.52||77||49||Week 02|
|Cigarette Case||$33.77||$33.77||39||50||Week 12|
|Nutcracker With Troll Hair||$14.50||$33.52||84||51||Week 02|
|Candyland Labyrinth Game||$11.50||$33.45||88||52||Week 01|
|Pen Stand||$11.50||$33.45||88||52||Week 01|
|Ocean Scene Globe||$33.00||$33.00||40||54||Week 13|
|Windsurfing Trophy/Statue||$31.00||$31.00||42||55||Week 15|
|Penguin Creamer||$31.00||$31.00||42||55||Week 09|
|Crumb Sweeper||$30.99||$30.99||45||57||Week 13|
|Blue Vase||$30.00||$30.00||46||58||Week 19|
|Toy Toaster||$6.25||$28.20||95||59||Week 01|
|Lighter Shaped Like Small Pool Ball||$27.00||$27.00||47||60||Week 19|
|Praying Hands||$26.00||$26.00||48||61||Week 09|
|Dilbert Stress Toy||$26.00||$26.00||48||61||Week 16|
|Toy Hot Dog||$3.58||$25.53||99||64||Week 01|
|Fred Flintstone Pez Dispenser||$5.50||$24.52||96||65||Week 02|
|Cracker Barrel Ornament||$24.50||$24.50||53||66||Week 17|
|Elvis Chocolate Tin||$24.00||$24.00||54||67||Week 07|
|Flip-Flop Frame||$21.80||$21.80||57||68||Week 17|
|Military Figure||$21.50||$21.50||58||69||Week 11|
|Choirboy Figurine||$21.50||$21.50||58||69||Week 12|
|Umbrella Trinket||$21.50||$21.50||58||69||Week 19|
|Sea Captain Pipe Rest||$21.50||$21.50||58||69||Week 14|
|Pabst Bottle Opener||$20.51||$20.51||62||73||Week 06|
|Ornamental Sphere||$20.50||$20.50||63||74||Week 13|
|Uncola Glass||$20.50||$20.50||63||74||Week 11|
|Grain Thing||$20.50||$20.50||63||74||Week 08|
|Wave Box||$20.50||$20.50||63||74||Week 14|
|Tin Ark||$19.50||$19.50||67||78||Week 03|
|Thai Hooks||$19.50||$19.50||67||78||Week 15|
|Foppish Figurine||$17.82||$17.82||69||80||Week 04|
|Spotted Dogs Figurine||$17.50||$17.50||71||81||Week 03|
|Cat Mug||$17.00||$17.00||72||82||Week 10|
|Dome Doll||$16.49||$16.49||73||83||Week 04|
|Swiss Medal||$16.00||$16.00||74||84||Week 17|
|Duck Vase||$15.75||$15.75||75||85||Week 12|
|Star of David Plate||$15.50||$15.50||77||86||Week 07|
|Popsicle-Stick Construction||$15.50||$15.50||77||86||Week 04|
|Toothbrush Holder||$15.50||$15.50||77||86||Week 14|
|Basketball Trophy||$14.90||$14.90||83||90||Week 12|
|Golf Ball Bank||$14.50||$14.50||84||91||Week 03|
|Clown Figurine||$11.61||$11.61||87||92||Week 14|
|"Hakuna Matata" Figurine||$10.50||$10.50||90||93||Week 03|
|Bar Mitzvah Bookends||$10.50||$10.50||90||93||Week 19|
|Small Stapler||$10.50||$10.50||90||93||Week 06|
|Coconut Cup||$10.00||$10.00||93||96||Week 10|
|Kentucky Dish||$6.75||$6.75||94||97||Week 10|
|#1 Mom Hooks||$5.50||$5.50||96||98||Week 07|
|Hawaiian Utensils||$4.24||$4.24||98||99||Week 11|
|Porcelain Scooter||$2.38||$2.38||100||100||Week 07|
Have we neutralized both the intermural and intramural Duration Factors? Your comments are encouraged.