In a fascinating and successful series of experiments the Significant Object Project has explored the power of connecting a story with an everyday item. In the first experiment 95 writers (including Nicholson Baker and Jonathan lethem) each made up stories about thrift-store objects. The objects were then posted on EBay to see what their value might be. After the five month experiment concluded the project had managed to turn $128 of thrift-store items into $3,600 dollars. Quite a testament to the power of story but more so to the importance we all place on people, places and things once they have meaning for us. Your Grandfather’s pocket-watch versus the same watch found at a thrift store.
Before you swear off of buying things with stories attached you should know that the project isn’t trying to find new ways to pull one over on us. Each of the postings were clear that the object’s story was not true but generated by the writer who’s short bio was also posted. This knowledge didn’t prevent bidders from driving up the price. It would seem that even attaching a known fictitious story to an object (a printed version of the story was included in the purchase) added enough meaning to the object to warrant the added price.
Their next experiment concludes this month and instead of raising money for the writers has decided to use this power for good. The proceeds from the sales of the objects (new ones with a new set of 45 writers) looks to raise in the neighborhood of $2000 for the non-profit tutoring, writing and publishing organization 828 National. We love this.
Follow the project here.