I put a rare Magic: The Gathering card set on eBay about a week ago. It’s quite old and a collectible: generally, the set, Antiquities, goes on eBay for around $650. First I took it to the comic book store of my childhood, and they offered me $280 cash or $500 in store credit. A more Magic-centric store in Los Angeles advised me to just put it online myself: “It’s not worth it—I’d rather get a bunch of new boxes and sell those immediately than have to take your set and mark it up and make a few bucks.” I’d started playing again and wanted to fund my new cards without dipping into savings. So eBay it was.
I put the set up and within a few days, it had 18 watchers and four times as many hits. That number was up to 31 by Sunday morning. Until then, it had a single bid, at the reserve price of $500 that I’d set. Over the course of its final two hours, three people (including the original bidder) bid it up to over $600. I was nervous. Who watches the watchers, and reminds them they’re missing a bargain? With two minutes left, a fourth bidder entered. Then a fifth! Between 57 and 50 seconds to go, it jumped to $660. Then the automatic sniper bids, hiding behind the ramparts and rooftops of Gixen.com, fired their rifles. When the smoke cleared, 8 of the 31 watchers had bid, and the winner had earned the right to pay me $760.
At the same time, I had another auction going. In Portland last May, I found a beautiful Pendleton blazer during an otherwise fruitless day of thrifting and swigging fresh-brewed kombucha. It fit perfectly. The fabric was strange, oddly thick but without the expected firmness and structure around the shoulders, but I bought it anyway. I was on vacation and it cost less than the day’s drinking, after all. Back in the hotel room, it dawned on me, the one-time writer of an oral history of menswear blogs, that the jacket’s idiosyncrasies—the shoulders, the wrong-sided button, the size 10 label—had an obvious explanation. It was not meant for me.
The jacket was a few sizes too large for my wife and waited awkwardly in my closet for months. After a dry-cleaning, it looked ready for a Parks & Recreation episode or a classy winter cocktail party. Surely it’d at least break even. But women’s Pendleton blazers, despite the brand’s century-old pedigree, remarkably soft fabrics, and the certain appreciation of Leslie Knope, are not what you might call a “hot deal.” A triumphant email arrived moments after the Magic notice: Sold, for $.99.
David Greenwald is a Los Angeles journalist/Magic: The Gathering player.