Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Hunt

Rozelle markets in Sydney Australia is an inner city weekend flea market located in an upwardly mobile suburb.  It is one of the very few true flea markets in Sydney and attracts high end dealers with equally upwardly mobile prices.  Amongst the overpriced dealers who can see their prey a mile away, there are a smattering of casual garage salers and a handful of old school, somewhat scruffy dealers who throw everything in boxes (which they have bought at auction) and allow customers to rummage through their chaos to find treasures and buy them for a reasonable price.

Last week, I was rummaging under such a seller's table in a large box of stuff and I found a tattered blue cardboard box at the bottom.  Inside was this exquisite gypsy necklace nestled on an old pink silk scarf. Now, this is not my usual style, but there was something about the opulence and complexity of it that took me aback. I extracted myself from under the table, and presented it to him wordlessly. There was a momentary expression of genuine surprise on his face before he turned away to serve another customer. And then the haggling began. The more he waxed lyrical about its value and virtues, the more I wanted it, of course. 

It was if the necklace has taken hold of me and wrapped its beautiful bejewelled coils around my neck. I can usually walk away once my limit is reached, but the the fine faux pearls kept me there. We finally agreed on a price and clutching my little blue box, I walked away feeling flush with triumph. 

We get attached to things before we even buy them, psychologists have found, and that emotional attachment increases once we own an object. We have all experienced the "I have to have it" feeling when we shop. Presenting goods as if they have no value is a neat psychological trick. It makes us feel as if we are true explorers looking for a treasure. The act of searching is a primeval biological urge - it is tied to our very survival -the gathering bit of hunting and gathering. 

There is a sense of achievement when we find something and this is a kind of ego investment which is hard to turn away from. I look forward to auctions and markets because I delight in those processes of looking, and can do it for many hours. Had the gypsy necklace been presented on a mannequin in a carefully designed stall, I would not have looked at it twice. 

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