Relative Worth

I don’t like to talk about money. Money depresses me.

I look at its flimsy, printed form and wonder at the power it has over our lives despite the fact I could easily set it alight. Or at least, with the Australian notes, melt it into a smouldering, carcinogenic puddle.

My disdain for money though, is a whole other blog post and I need to set that particular rant aside so I can discuss the money aspect of thrift shopping at flea markets.

Worth of the monetary kind is not a static thing. Buy a brand new car and its value instantly depreciates as you drive it out of the yard. Most other things are the same – items are unlikely to hold their value unless they’re exceedingly popular, rare and/or old and/or in exceptional condition and/or of supreme quality. Or you can prove Elvis licked it.

Even then, who knows.

What something is worth simply equates to what someone is willing to pay. The right buyer will pay more. While my husband would pay you to take my stuff away.

When browsing flea markets, I struggle to ask about items when they aren’t priced. Occasionally, you’ll get a seller who’ll look you up and down as they try to ascertain what they think you’ll be willing to pay. Then, of course, there’s The Haggle. I’m not good at haggling.

I like people to say what they mean, and I wish the same applied to pricing. I know from experience that some sellers price things expecting to be haggled down but I struggle to haggle, even on over-priced goods. Also, I don’t think it’s right to haggle with someone when the item is clearly worth what they’re asking – which I’ve observed people do, but then that’s also a matter of opinion. Gah! *sigh* The only time I ask for a better price is when I’m willing to walk away.

I have another strange level of perspective. I buy most things second hand, but one thing I love to buy – and buy new – are beautiful gift cards. In Australia, cards currently range from $5- to $7- and I willingly buy this little piece of art to give to someone. Why does this matter? As a regular market goer, it’s easy to lose perspective – sometimes it’s good to remind yourself you’re buying an oil painting for the price of a card, or a card for a nineteenth century book or a piece of handmade pottery.

If you’re a seller of second hand goods and you wish to sell them at a flea market, you need to let go of what you paid for it five years ago. If it’s old, you need to forget what you saw it for in an antique shop or its going rate on eBay. Although this information can offer perspective for the seller, buyers are still looking for a fair flea-market-price. Regular stall holders at flea markets tend to sell fewer items for more gain but if your aim is to move stuff on, cheaper is better – you’ll also have less to lug back home.

Having said that, it’s okay to stand your ground. When I’ve cleared some clutter and held a stall at a flea market, I’ve had things I’d rather not sell than sell them for a pittance. I find if these items do sell, they’re more likely go to someone who loves it as much as I do.

Any questions?

Happy marketeering, my friends.



It seems appropriate, after my last post that D will be for dogs, because I do have a few dogs of the non-living variety.

One day, I hope to own one of the living variety but currently, I work too much and we need fences. My parents have a gorgeous little Jack Russell Terrier mix who brings me joy in the meantime. As do these little ones…


The dogs I like tend to have a certain look. Top: Bought this one in an op-shop in the UK in 2013 – he’s quality but home-made. The others are market finds, usually a few dollars each, the middle dog is the tallest at 15cm tall (or 6 inches in old money).


The gruff bulldog on the left is painted plaster, circa 1920. The terrier at the bottom right is a nice quality Sylvac copy.

Also, you may notice, my dogs like living in amongst my books.

Ancestry Obsession

Sometimes, I toy with the notion that I would have been a great detective. You know, had the opportunity knocked. Had Sherlock Holmes needed a Wally instead of a Watson. Had Poirot been the sort to hire a sidekick. Had both those characters been real outside of my mind.

I love a mystery. I love a story. I love the stories of objects.

This bring me to the Bible of Jesse Wallis. I’ve mentioned before that I have a collection of old Bibles and prayer books. Not because I’m especially religious but because they are so tactile and so treasured. I think of the hands they have touched as they were passed through the generations.

Of course, I bought it at a market and although it’s not in the best condition, it’s dated 1847. Pleasingly, when I got it home I found it was full treasures – two receipts from a saddlers dating 1895, a bookmark and a love token probably dating from around 1915.


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The inscription on the inside cover tells me it was gifted to Jesse by a clergyman. The back of the book lists the date of his marriage and the births of his children.

How can I not ask more questions? How do I contain my curiosity when I possess enough information to know more?

[Insert timelapse of my computer-based research frenzy]

Like many colonial Australians, Jesse was a convict. More unusually, he could read and write. His records say he was 5’3” and was born in Berkshire. At the age of fifteen he was found guilty of arson and received fifteen years transportation. His convict record was exemplary – his report card is blank – instead Jesse states he’s innocent of his crime. He received his ticket of leave within five years (like parole) and was pardoned in ten.

Curiosity feeds curiosity.

What of his family? What happened to them after he was transported? The detail of his records allowed me to trace his family back to England and the 1841 UK Census. A search on his father revealed he too was convicted with his son and received transportation for life! I traced his mother to the 1851 Census and she listed herself as a pauper and a widower. I could not trace his brother.

The receipts contained with the Bible pertain to Jesse’s daughter, so the Bible remained within the direct family for at least two generations.

This is what happens. Whenever I have an object that peeks into another life – I must explore it. What happened? How long did they live? Often I struggle to stop.

Once, such research allowed me to reunite a photo album with its family. I once found a book belonging to a friend’s great grandfather. I observe the movement of objects. I recognise the history objects contain and I protect them until there’s (hopefully) another person who values that too.

This is weird, right?

Safety in Numbers

A list-post. One of my own invention.

“Things I have in unexpected quantities”

It’s not that I intend to collect things, but sometimes I find myself gravitating towards similar objects. They’re accidental collections. They are things I have many of and it’s, shall we say, unusual.

We’re not talking dinner sets here. Or napkins. Or chairs. Or bowls. Or cushions. Or socks. We are talking normal things at crazy, random levels.

Like these:

  • A bowl of billiard balls. Several sets of them, all together. I do not own a billiard table.
  • Dice. Many, many dice.
  • I lost count at 50+ dog ornaments. Keeping in mind, some of these are in miniature.
  • I also have similar levels of cat ornaments (some of these in miniature).
  • Ornaments (often animals, sometimes figures, sometimes vases).
  • Things in miniature (often animals, sometimes figures).
  • Pictures. My walls are covered in pictures. And I have places where many lean against walls where they hope to be placed. I am hopeful of this myself. I also have a staggering number of frames I intend to restore,  an equal number that require pictures and some that need glass.
  • String lights. I have four sets now. I seem to buy a set a year from a market as people clear their Christmas clutter and I make it.
  • Candle holders, like those you may associate with ol’ nimble Jack. I find their form aesthetic and who knows why. I don’t use them, but if there’s a blackout, I’m sorted.
  • 4 Bibles, 4 prayer books, 2 hymn books, 2 sets of rosary beads. It’s not that I’m especially religious, but I love objects with meaning. Those that are touched and loved and used.
  • Book ends. I love books, so perhaps this isn’t that strange.
  • Doll’s heads. I’ve never been into dolls, but seem to want to ‘help’ those missing pieces of themselves.
  • Salt and pepper shakers. Often kitsch in style. My aunt helped me to appreciate these quirky objects.
  • Old stationary objects like typewriters, inkwells, rubber stamps and propelling pencils. [Now, who thought for a moment, I was talking about things that don’t move?]
  • Things that are green. Seriously. My liking of objects can be entirely dependent upon this. I often have a conversation with my mum that goes along the lines of  ‘Oooh, I like that.”  and Mum’s all unsurprised, ‘Well, it’s green, isn’t it’.
  • I hoard sewing stuff and stationary and fabric. Because you just never know when it will come in handy. Some of it may be useful when I’m aged 93.
  • Glass domes.
  • Hour glasses.

Better stop. I keep thinking of things to add. I’ll probably think of another five more as I drop to sleep tonight.

Anything you have in crazy quantities?

nanopoblano2015darkDay 29 of Nano Poblano!

[That’s Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo]

One day left!


Tainted Goods

I haven’t watched the news for a couple of days now. It quite honestly makes me want to vomit, so to actually experience or live near or to  know people experiencing these current horrors  – I’m sure I cannot even comprehend. My thoughts are with you all.

And in my normal, thankfully mundane Sunday morning – I went to the market and I bought a badly battered picture. I love pictures, especially if they’re original works by a no-name hobbyist who was just making do with what they had at hand. This was a watercolour, a naively drawn picture of what was perhaps the artist’s family home. Given the title of the picture and the European look of the building, it appeared to be German or Austrian in origin.

The glass was broken, the picture itself looked to be mounted in recycled cardboard while the frame was much older, its contents secured with handmade nails. This frame was over 100 years old, its wooden core decorated in gold painted plaster. A chunk of the plaster finish was missing and I intended to replace it.

I’ve spoken before about the history of objects. That I love the little hints an object offers of its past life. I think that’s why I have a particular affinity for these old pictures. Often they are dated and signed, they often have a personal touch, there are sometimes pictures behind the pictures as the frames are reused over time.

I’ve been saving old objects for years and uncovering their secrets. It’s part of the joy.

Today’s discovery was this: A print of Hitler.

The previous owner had recycled a print of Hitler, flipped it over and used it to mount their art. So, while it was a print of Hitler, it was cut-up print. They had to cut it in half to fit into this frame. The lower half was clearly used as a cutting board to create the window in the top half – and in doing so, removing his eyes.

The whole thing left me feeling cold. And with more questions than answers.

Did the artist once worship Hitler and own a life size portrait in their house? Did they simply hang it to appease those who would otherwise question their loyalty. Did they intentionally deface his picture and hide it behind another? How did it get to Australia?

And there are other questions. Do I put the cut-up print back? Do I preserve this picture’s past like I would any other?

It’s an uncomfortable discovery at any time. Right now, while the world seems more at odds with itself than ever, I look at this print, and look at the news and I wonder if we’re learning.


Click on the link to visit the team of Tiny Peppers. It’s Rarasaur’s version of NaBloPoMo and it’s called Nano Poblano.  Or, as I’ve been calling it lately Nano Problano.

We’re blogging every day in the month of November!

Free* Conditions Apply


It’s such a strange and complex word for something so small and oddly similar to Fee.

Banker: Let’s talk about fees…

Client: How about I give you an ‘R’.

It looks weird too, especially if you stare at it for ten minutes while you  try to write a blog post but your brain has gone off track with random bank scenarios.


I wonder sometimes, if we use the term ‘free‘ too freely. I wonder if we forget what it means.

To be clear, I’m not really talking about the free that is freedom. That is far too deep for Day 7 of Nano Poblano.

*deletes extensive brain tangent about the price some people pay for freedom*

This world offers us heaps of awesome, wondrous stuff that is free. Air is free, nature is free, clouds are free, the sky, water, rivers and wildlife are free, but only while we care for our surroundings.

Catalogues are not free. They cost money to print and the fancier they are, the more they cost to print. Consumers pay for this. We pay for gimmicks and any kind marketing when we buy the company’s products. We pay for ‘free gifts’ in the things we purchase to acquire them because businesses have to cover their costs.  Buying two brocolli to get another free is only free is you can eat three brocolli before you need to compost them.

Maybe I’m just cynical.

Free gifts are called presents, or donations or charity. If you love the ‘free gift’ or bonus thingywhatsit you get when you buy and you’re there for the ride – that’s great.

But it not free – it’s free*

*Conditions apply

Lobster On The Menu

195f91259df81f563c308c1231d9da65It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Like ‘the elephant in the room’ or ‘the cat’s out of the bag’. But what does it mean?

Well, this post began with an Australian television program called The Checkout. It’s essentially about sales, marketing gimmicks, advertising and consumer rights. And I find it really interesting…

Hello? Oh, sorry, I thought you’d fallen asleep. I promise I won’t talk about statistics or market analysis, but I do want to talk about sales and the techniques used to entice you to buy something.

I’ve worked in the retail industry for a fair portion of my life but I’ve never had any formal training and I probably don’t sell properly. Not in an official sense. There are specially researched techniques spruiked by those at the top of the sales pyramid, and I’m sure markets are researched and customers are placed into categories. Arguably, the best sales people will convince you to buy something you didn’t intend to. For example, you go into a store to buy a pair of black trousers, but you end up trying on the navy while the sales assistant checks to see if they’re available in black. They’re not, but you buy the navy. You still need a black pair though, don’t you?

They will also try to convince you to buy something in addition to your intended purchase, ‘just try this jacket on’ or ‘this belt will look lovely with that’ because once you’ve already decided to spend some money, apparently it is then easier to get you to spend more. Ye olde add-on sale.

So what about the lobster on the menu? Well, everything is relative and the lobster makes everything else on the menu appear more affordable. If you’d like to see how The Checkout discusses this topic with a little light-hearted humour, you can (hopefully) take a look here. This doesn’t just apply to restaurants. If you ask a sales person for the price of the jacket in the front window and they first give you the price of the whole suit, they are playing a similar game.

I hate being overtly sold to. A pushy sales assistant is an instant deal breaker for me. It’s probably why I switch off when someone’s twitter header consists of one massive sales pitch. ‘Buy my book’, ‘view my website’, ‘I’m awesome’, ‘I can make you awesome’… at which point I don’t care. What might entice me to learn more or click on your link or read your book is a little bit of honesty and heart and something that reveals a little bit of you.

So, what do I like to see in a sales person? Welcoming, polite and pleasant to make the customer feel at ease. It’s really important be able to read people. Some customers have a back-off vibe, others want you to accost them as they enter and sales people need to know the difference. It’s also advisable to recognise personal space and when someone is bristling at your very presence. The best people in sales (in my opinion) offer their clients a happy experience – even if they walk out with nothing they would happily shop with you again.

Please share your retail experiences.

Name your lobster.