Take a deep breath, good people. I am, I’m afraid, going to be writing about Justin Bieber again. Sorry.
To tell the truth, I’m not going to be writing about him at all. I’m going to be writing about his sweaty vest.
I wrote about hobbies yesterday, and how I’m not really into them. One of the hobbies that I’m not really into is collecting things. This is probably a mistake, albeit one I am comfortable with. It’s a mistake because sometimes, in the hands of an astute collector, a cheap and cheerful little knickknack can end up being worth a great deal of money.
Coke memorabilia. Baseball cards. Superman comics. There’s a whole world of tat out there that can end up being vastly, if curiously, valuable. There’s a GI Joe action figure out there worth $200 000, and a matchbox car worth $500 000. Which pale to insignificance next to the Lady Di beanie baby, a steal at $2 000 000.
This is not, by any measure, easy money. Firstly, you need to go out and buy a random cheap toy. Then you have to put it away. Forever. You can’t even take it out of the packaging. Just take it home, lock it in a safe, and take it out again thirty years later. You’ll need quite a big safe, though, because for every $500 000 Matchbox car, there must be tens of thousands of toys worth nothing.
And it’s not just toys. You can do this with collectible spoons, porcelain, stamps, and a hundred other things. What you cannot do it with, I would venture to guess, is Justin Bieber’s sweaty vest. The incomparable young man was out here recently. He sweated. And he left his vest behind.
Some worthy soul just spent R32 600 on it. That’s about $3 200. But well worth the price, because there was a pair of drumsticks thrown in. And a picture. And the wonderful part of all of this is that it was bought on auction. There is, it would seem, more than one person out there willing to pay top dollar for a teenage boy’s soiled undergarments. Which is not worrying at all.
These people are doing things the wrong way round. To score big in the world of collecting, you look around and try to predict which pieces of popular culture are going to catch hold of the public’s imagination. Then you buy it cheap, preserve it, and wait for the price to go up.
I can’t help but think that the opposite is going to happen here. The poor sausage who bought this one-of-a kind masterpiece is now going to sit back and watch its value plummet. Bieber has already started to unravel. The cracks are starting to show. He’s abandoning pet monkeys in international airports and turning up late for shows. He’s not the next Elvis.
In ten years’ time, the man who bought this (yes, it was a man. Nothing dodgy there. I’m sure he just admires his dance moves) is going to be shuffling uncomfortably and looking down at his shoes when he invites his mates round for a drink and they ask about the yellowing wife-beater vest in the frame behind his bar. Or, more likely, he will pop down to his Bieber-dungeon for the first time in years, stop at the bottom of the stairs, look around, and think “What the hell was this all about?”
What he will not do is look up at the wall of his bedroom, heart racing as he relives the adrenalin rush of that magical auction-winning day, clench his hands into fists and say “Yes. Yes! YES! IT’S MINE! IT’S STILL MINE!”
When I was about ten years old, my mother sent me off to school with ten Rand to spend in the tuck-shop. For a ten-year-old back then, ten Rand was a lot of money. I came home with a pet leech. I was beside myself with joy. A leech! And it was all mine! I’d beaten out a bunch of other kids and taken home the prize!
The next day I had to feed it. As I sat there watching it pulse greedily as it sucked the blood from my arm, I had my first experience of buyer’s remorse. I can’t really tell you exactly what I felt that day. I just knew that the magic was gone, just like my ten rand, and having a leech was kinda sucky.
Someone can tell you exactly how I felt that day. Somewhere in Johannesburg, a man is sitting alone in a brightly lit room, staring forlornly up at a dirty vest and some drumsticks hanging up on his wall. He knows. And he’ll know for a very long time. He can’t go and set the vest free in his garden pond, now can he?