Experimental Data

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.

  1. We classified the 100 object-stories in our experiment as talismans, totems, evidence, and fossils.
  2. We presented the raw original price/final price data.
  3. We listed the week in which each story was published, and its associated object listed for auction on eBay.
  4. 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.
  5. We presented the experiment’s overall, week-to-week mean and median price data.
  6. We compared the Final Prices and Adjusted Final Prices, and made it possible to rank sales data by either factor.
  7. 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.
  8. We analyzed the effect of CATEGORY on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data. Result: inconclusive.
  9. We analyzed the effect of FUNCTION on the experiment’s 100 object-stories, ranked by adjusted final sales data. Result: inconclusive.
  10. We charted CATEGORY and FUNCTION on pie charts. (OK, we didn’t use the VISTA 1.0 for that.)
  11. Before leaving the question of FUNCTION behind, we asked readers to vote on whether particular objects were a novelty, or houseware.
  12. 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.
  13. 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:

ObjectFinal Price (orig.)Final Price (2d adjust.)Rank (orig.)Rank (2d adjust.)Week
Russian Figure$193.50$193.5011Week 08
Indian Maiden$157.50$157.5022Week 15
Wooden Animal$108.50$108.5033Week 17
Pink Horse$104.50$104.5044Week 18
"Hawk" Ashtray$101.00$101.0055Week 13
4-Tile$88.00$88.0066Week 08
Metal Boot$86.00$86.0077Week 04
Cape Cod Shoe$77.51$77.5188Week 04
Missouri Shotglass$76.00$76.0099Week 19
Fish Spoons$76.00$76.0099Week 15
Fake Banana$76.00$76.0099Week 16
Wooden Mallet$71.00$71.001212Week 08
Duck Tray$71.00$71.001212Week 03
Cow Vase$62.00$62.001414Week 05
Felt Mouse$62.00$62.001414Week 18
Necking Team Button$36.88$58.833516Week 01
Rainbow Sand Animal$57.66$57.661617Week 09
Rhino Figurine$57.00$57.001718Week 06
Kneeling Man Figurine$56.50$56.501819Week 05
Geisha Bobblehead$56.00$56.001920Week 19
Smiling Mug$32.08$54.034121Week 01
BBQ Sauce Jar$54.00$54.002022Week 17
Bird Figurine$52.00$52.002123Week 09
Rooster Oven Mitt$51.99$51.992224Week 18
Meat Thermometer$51.00$51.002325Week 05
Idol$51.00$51.002325Week 05
Halston Mug$31.00$50.024227Week 02
Ziggy Heart$50.00$50.002528Week 09
Jar of Marbles$50.00$50.002528Week 18
JFK Bust$26.00$47.954830Week 01
Creamer Cow$26.00$47.954830Week 01
Motel Room Key$45.01$45.012732Week 12
Miniature Bottle$23.00$44.955533Week 01
Chili Cat Figurine$22.72$44.675634Week 01
Maine Statutes Dish$42.00$42.002835Week 13
Rope/Wood Monkey Figurine$41.00$41.002936Week 06
Ireland Cow Plate$41.00$41.002936Week 05
Amoco Yo-Yo$41.00$41.002936Week 18
Sanka Ashtray$17.79$39.747039Week 01
Mr. Pickwick Coat Hook$38.00$38.003240Week 14
Santa Nutcracker$15.50$37.457741Week 01
Marines (Upside-Down) Logo Mug$37.00$37.003342Week 07
Alien Toy$37.00$37.003342Week 16
Mule Figurine$14.50$36.458444Week 01
Hand-Held Bubble Blower$36.00$36.003645Week 11
Seahorse Lighter$36.00$36.003645Week 10
Round Box$35.00$35.003847Week 11
Kitty Saucer$15.53$34.557648Week 02
Piggy Bank$15.50$34.527749Week 02
Cigarette Case$33.77$33.773950Week 12
Nutcracker With Troll Hair$14.50$33.528451Week 02
Candyland Labyrinth Game$11.50$33.458852Week 01
Pen Stand$11.50$33.458852Week 01
Ocean Scene Globe$33.00$33.004054Week 13
Windsurfing Trophy/Statue$31.00$31.004255Week 15
Penguin Creamer$31.00$31.004255Week 09
Crumb Sweeper$30.99$30.994557Week 13
Blue Vase$30.00$30.004658Week 19
Toy Toaster$6.25$28.209559Week 01
Lighter Shaped Like Small Pool Ball$27.00$27.004760Week 19
Praying Hands$26.00$26.004861Week 09
Dilbert Stress Toy$26.00$26.004861Week 16
Unicorn$26.00$26.004861Week 06
Toy Hot Dog$3.58$25.539964Week 01
Fred Flintstone Pez Dispenser$5.50$24.529665Week 02
Cracker Barrel Ornament$24.50$24.505366Week 17
Elvis Chocolate Tin$24.00$24.005467Week 07
Flip-Flop Frame$21.80$21.805768Week 17
Military Figure$21.50$21.505869Week 11
Choirboy Figurine$21.50$21.505869Week 12
Umbrella Trinket$21.50$21.505869Week 19
Sea Captain Pipe Rest$21.50$21.505869Week 14
Pabst Bottle Opener$20.51$20.516273Week 06
Ornamental Sphere$20.50$20.506374Week 13
Uncola Glass$20.50$20.506374Week 11
Grain Thing$20.50$20.506374Week 08
Wave Box$20.50$20.506374Week 14
Tin Ark$19.50$19.506778Week 03
Thai Hooks$19.50$19.506778Week 15
Foppish Figurine$17.82$17.826980Week 04
Spotted Dogs Figurine$17.50$17.507181Week 03
Cat Mug$17.00$17.007282Week 10
Dome Doll$16.49$16.497383Week 04
Swiss Medal$16.00$16.007484Week 17
Duck Vase$15.75$15.757585Week 12
Star of David Plate$15.50$15.507786Week 07
Popsicle-Stick Construction$15.50$15.507786Week 04
Device$15.50$15.507786Week 08
Toothbrush Holder$15.50$15.507786Week 14
Basketball Trophy$14.90$14.908390Week 12
Golf Ball Bank$14.50$14.508491Week 03
Clown Figurine$11.61$11.618792Week 14
"Hakuna Matata" Figurine$10.50$10.509093Week 03
Bar Mitzvah Bookends$10.50$10.509093Week 19
Small Stapler$10.50$10.509093Week 06
Coconut Cup$10.00$10.009396Week 10
Kentucky Dish$6.75$6.759497Week 10
#1 Mom Hooks$5.50$5.509698Week 07
Hawaiian Utensils$4.24$4.249899Week 11
Porcelain Scooter$2.38$2.38100100Week 07

Have we neutralized both the intermural and intramural Duration Factors? Your comments are encouraged.