eBay has made treasure hunting easy. Not only is the platform open 24/7 but it is global, so it connects you with merchants in far-flung corners of the world, and offers you security in knowing you are not throwing your money away thanks to eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee. First introduced in 2020, professional authenticators verify thousands of designer handbags, sneakers and high-end watches, plus fine jewelry for consumers. Just this year, eBay launched a collaboration with Gemological Institute of America (GIA) where new and pre-owned fine jewelry + engagement & wedding jewelry is eligible for listings retailing $500+. You can’t get that from a random vendor in a stall at a flea market.
To prove that anything can be found on eBay, Future Heirloom spoke to 5 (make that 8, if you count our virtual program, The Joy of Collecting which debuted during NYC Jewelry Week) serial hunters- designers, collectors, gallerists, and just people who love other people’s stuff! Read on, get inspired, and happy hunting!
- What is the most surprising item that you’ve ever found on eBay? I have to say I’m not very surprised by anything I find on eBay because if you cannot find something on eBay, it doesn’t exist.
- Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole and discovered something you weren’t looking for? Yes, every time I log onto eBay. I’m fully aware that this will be my experience each time. I recently launched a line of leather wrap bracelets that incorporate gold charms, so each bracelet is unique and tells a different story based on its charms. Whilst charm hunting I fell in love with a vintage Rolex Cellini in 18K yellow gold. I didn’t know one could want something (so badly) that you hadn’t previously been looking for.
- What is one thing you have purchased that is uncharacteristic of your typical hunt? I fully support mixing metals but I don’t wear a lot of silver. A year ago I got really into Brutalist silver rings, specifically from the 60s and 70s with a focus on Danish design. This resulted in me buying more vintage silver rings than I’d care to admit. It’s all out of my system now and I do love the pieces I acquired.
- The one that got away: tell us about a time or a piece that you did not get but wanted really badly and it still keeps you up at night. I know a thing or two about auction strategy having worked at a major auction house for several years. One afternoon, again whilst hunting vintage gold charms, I stumbled upon a very very very preloved 1970s black Hermes Kelly Retourne. I won her for $1800 but she was flagged in eBay’s very thorough Authentication Guarantee process. She wasn’t flagged for being counterfeit though. She was flagged because the seller had not been completely honest about how damaged the bag actually was. The seller was advised to either make repairs and relist OR relist with complete transparency. I reached out to the seller proposing a lower price after sending photos to my leather guy and receiving his guesstimate on restoration. The seller was OK with knocking a few hundred bucks off but I started to panic. I couldn’t find restoration “before and after” images that made me comfortable believing it could actually be accomplished. So I abandoned the deal. It was an emotional roller coaster and I often think about how I could have had my dream Kelly bag for a great price. Maybe I shouldn’t have panicked? Maybe everything would have worked out? I do LOVE items with character! Who knows! But that’s auction, it is very emotional!
- Name an item you’ve purchased or bid on that has played a pivotal role in your jewelry line? This was a very recent purchase, so I don’t yet know how impactful it will end up being. But, I’m currently very inspired by a Victorian bookchain necklace. The design construction is so simple yet so rich and fulfilling. I also love layering retro box chains with my Don’t Let Disco beaded pieces, so it will be interesting to see how that aesthetic influences my work over time.
- What is your hunting strategy? Do you obsessively “stalk” your item or play it cool? As you can probably tell by now, I don’t have much of a strategy. I buy what I like and I try to educate myself on what I’m looking for. How cool I play it really depends on how badly I want something.
Danny Santiago and Molly Rogers
Costume Designers, Currently shooting season 2 of HBO Max’s And Just Like That @andjustlikethatcostumes
- What is the most surprising item that you’ve ever found on eBay? I found a 70’s halston Andy Warhol poppy print tunic and pants.
- Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole and discovered something you weren’t looking for? Always. Into the wee hours of the night! I love it!
- What is one thing you have purchased that is uncharacteristic of your typical hunt? I ordered 2 outdoor chaise lounges.
- The one that got away: tell us about a time or a piece that you did not get but wanted really badly and it still keeps you up at night. A Thierry Mugler 80’s mermaid gown with finns.
- Name an item you’ve purchased or bid on that has played a pivotal role in your project (film, stage, photo, costuming)? A madras Norma Kamali jacket that went with a madras balloon jumpsuit. (Worn by SJP on Season 1 of AJLT!! SEE PHOTO)
- What is your hunting strategy? Do you obsessively “stalk” your item or play it cool? Always looking, I have at least a dozen searches on different designers.
- What is the most surprising item that you’ve ever found on eBay? I bought a vintage Benrus watch in 2016 from the 50s which has the owner’s name engraved. This is common on a lot of vintage watches. But the icing on the cake is it has the social security number as well. I have so many unanswered questions like was the original owner in the military? My theory is he must have been in the military, probably a pilot so it would make sense the social security number would be there for identification in case he crashed or had some sort of accident.
- Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole and discovered something you weren’t looking for? Unfortunately always because I check eBay frequently. I sometimes come across certain items that I forget about. I recently acquired an Avirex leather jacket from the 90s that has been on my grail list for years. However, finding a size small is very rare. These jackets were very popular in the 90s and 2000s when people wore clothes much baggier. Shout outs to Professor Avirex for helping me acquire this item.
- What is one thing you have purchased that is uncharacteristic of your typical hunt? Vintage porcelain jewelry trinkets. Also flatware designed by Swedish Jewelry designer Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe for Dansk. I think it’s so kool to have an item that’s jewelry related in an unexpected place like a kitchen. I always tell people when they come over about the flatware.
- The one that got away: tell us about a time or a piece that you did not get but wanted really badly and it still keeps you up at night. A few years ago there was this belted shearling jacket by Sawyer of Napa in collaboration with J.Press that I had never seen before. Sawyer of Napa is a brand that’s discontinued. They made the best shearling coats back in the day. Then adding that this was a collaboration with J.Press makes it rarer. I already had purchased a shearling very recently when I saw that one so I didn’t commit. But definitely still think about it.
- Name an item you’ve purchased or bid on that has played a pivotal role in your collection? Salvador Dali watches. I have picked up a few ones over the years. The watch is out of production and they’re going up in value. The watch is a bit controversial because it reminds people of the Cartier Crash when they see it for the first time. However, the watch is modeled after a Salvador Dali “Persistence of Time” painting. People might see the watch on social media but I’m usually the first person they see in real life [wearing it], usually at a watch or jewelry event. I let them try it on.
- What is your hunting strategy? Do you obsessively “stalk” your item or play it cool? I do both, I have a never ending list of grail items. I check eBay everyday, morning and evening before I go to sleep. But before I jump the trigger on an item I do my due diligence. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the item you’re going to buy.
- What is the most surprising item that you’ve ever found on eBay? I found a very beautiful antique reliquary, adorned with stunning details, all well preserved. I wear it as a pendant. It hangs from a vintage ribbon which was part of a holy vestment. It’s my personal lucky charm.
- Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole and discovered something you weren’t looking for? This is something that doesn’t happen to me that rarely. The fève de Rois is my biggest discovery. The Galette de Rois is a very French tradition. It’s a cake shared at Epiphany. It celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. The fève, a porcelain figurine, (bean) is hidden inside the cake, who finds it becomes the Rois of the day. I bought the first set of five, and when I received it, I literally fell in love with them. I spent the following night looking for beautiful and precious fèves de Rois, I ended up buying almost all the available ones on the platform. After a month my studio was overwhelmed by little parcels containing these tiny beauties. I love them so much. I incorporated just 3 or 4 of them in my jewelry. I keep all the others hidden in my drawers, they are so precious.
- What is one thing you have purchased that is uncharacteristic of your typical hunt? I bought a set of vintage glass bottles, all in different sizes. I created a wonderful composition in my studio and during Spring I adorn it with the flowers of my garden. Another uncharacteristic purchase is a box filled with antique fabrics from different eras and countries. I found them so incredibly inspiring that I create a capsule collection called Stracci, lacci, memorie: a combination between vintage objects, fabrics and laces.
- The one that got away: tell us about a time or a piece that you did not get but wanted really badly and it still keeps you up at night. A set of rare vintage lenticular vari-vue, I placed a bid, I forgot to check my email, someone placed a higher bid, and I lost it. What a nightmare!!
- Name an item you’ve purchased or bid on that has played a pivotal role in your work? I can’t actually mention one single item. In 2020 in Italy, we had to face very long and strict months of lockdown. eBay gave me the chance to stay open to the world, searching and finding new inspirational objets trouvés. This creative activity is literally vital for me, I continuously feel the need to fill my drawers with antique and vintage little objects.
- What is your hunting strategy? Do you obsessively “stalk” your item or play it cool? I apply both strategies in a non-strategical way. Collecting is, first of all, a creative act. I start my hunt with a specific goal in my mind but very often my curiosity leads me to unknown fields through a surprising journey full of new treasures.
- What is the most surprising item that you’ve ever found on eBay? I’m usually very focused in my searching, so if anything is surprising it’s because it’s inexpensive, or it’s smaller than I thought (which is disappointing and happens a lot) or surprisingly larger than I thought (which is usually wonderful).
- Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole and discovered something you weren’t looking for? If I find something I like, or that I’m buying, I will look at that dealer’s “other” things. On occasion, I’ll find something else I want to purchase. And sometimes I’ll end up loving everything a dealer has for sale, their eye, their taste–and I’ll follow that dealer, or get alerts when they have new things. I’ve found terrific pieces that way…
- What is one thing you have purchased that is uncharacteristic of your typical hunt? I used to collect work by the Peruvian silver artist Graciela Laffi. One day, I found a rosewood box trimmed in silver. The transparent top of it held a piece of pre-Columbian fabric and there was a card inside from the Graciela Laffi shop in Lima. In those days, payment was direct to the seller and when we exchanged information, the seller told me that his parents were school teachers who traveled each summer to various places in Central and South America. They had bought the box in the late 1940’s on their trip to Peru. I showed the box and the card to a friend who was also interested in Laffi’s work and he thought that she probably sold the boxes in her shop, though he wasn’t sure she made them. It didn’t matter, I started collecting those little boxes from that moment on, and also began to learn about pre-Columbian textiles.
- The one that got away: tell us about a time or a piece that you did not get but wanted really badly and it still keeps you up at night. There is not one but many that got away! Most often it’s because I was doing something else when the item came up at auction. Sometimes I miss things by minutes. One thing that keeps me up is a Schiaparelli piece designed by Verdura called “The Scamp”, it was a Schiap perfume/brooch piece. I’d seen it once and then it was on Ebay a few years later, I was bidding on it and I had a number in mind and it was going higher than I thought and I hesitated and the clock was ticking and suddenly it was over and I didn’t get it. I’m a little better at it these days. Years ago, a dealer named Norman Crider who specialized in costume jewelry and owned The Ballet Shop in NYC, told me you never regret the things you buy, you always regret the things you didn’t buy. That rings true on eBay!
- Name an item you’ve purchased or bid on that has played a pivotal role in your collection? I think that the books and magazines I’ve purchased have played an important role in my collection. For example, I’ve bought vintage issues of American Crafts magazine to document a particular jewelry artist of the 1960’s say and then have found other interesting artists whose work I am now aware of and actively look for.
- What is your hunting strategy? Do you obsessively “stalk” your item or play it cool? I try to play it cool, especially at auction. But I’ve also missed items that way, thinking that the price will go way up closer to the auction end time. The other day there was a rare bakelite necklace I was “watching” and it had 30 or so bids but wasn’t that expensive a few hours before the auction ended. I didn’t put a bid in, thinking I’d go in later, but I was busy with something and it went for the price it had been a few hours before. Next time, I’ll put on an alarm!
Written by Bella Neyman; Image credits as noted, provided by interviewees. Feature edited, compiled, and formatted by JB Jones. Learn more about eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee and get to treasure hunting!