Drawing from the Hoard

In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, there is a leprechaun who teaches the main character how to pull gold coins out of the air. He explains that there exists a Hoard, from which you can merely pluck what you need. And when you are done with it, it vanishes, returning to the hoard from which it came.

When I made the decision last year to sell off most of my physical belongings to fund my job search, I kept this metaphor close to my chest. Yes, I was getting rid of every movie I owned, almost all of the collectibles I had gathered over the years, and even a good deal of the books that I had had for so long. But I was merely returning them to the Hoard, and would be able to retrieve them again when the time came. And now, as I get back on my feet financially and start to rebuild my collections, I do so knowing that anything I buy is merely snatched from the Hoard, and will eventually vanish back to its origin.

The other day, I was poking through CraigsList at work, and ran across a listing that caught my eye. It was a list of about 100 DVDs, priced at $8 each. The titles were largely high quality, and it was apparent that this was someone's personal collection. But the note at the bottom that read "will sell all for $300" confirmed my hunch that the man who posted it was doing the same thing I had done - returning his prized collection to the hoard, to cover his short term needs and retrieve it again later, when fortune permitted. I felt obliged to help him in his quest, as so many of you helped me by buying bits from my own collection when the need was great.

After doing the math, I determined that I could even turn enough of a profit to snatch back a few of my own lost items from the hoard while I'm at it. I stopped by his place after work, let him haggle me up to $360, and felt good when I saw the same sense of "oh good, that covers this month's rent" relief in his eyes that I experienced when my own collection was liquidated. I pulled out the 20 titles that I wanted for my own collection, and the result is a list of 80 DVDs that are ready to return to the Hoard.

On the practical side, I'll leave the list as is for the next few days so my friends can take dibs on whatever they want. Then I'll push the lot to half.com (the Hoard incarnate, you could say) and let the free market redistribute this gentleman's collection to appreciative hands.

On the philosophical side, I think that many of us can learn a lesson from the Hoard. Which of your possessions are truly valuable to you, and could never be replaced? Which could you easily return to the Hoard for a few years and retrieve again later (or not at all) without really losing anything. How much would you even notice if it were to suddenly vanish from your bookshelf or closet?

And now that I think of it, I suppose the metaphor goes beyond physical goods as well. How much money can you afford to return to the Hoard, so those who have lost everything at the hands of nature's wrath can snatch it back in their time of need? How much time and thought can you spare to bring a smile to the face of someone who is in need of one? How much of your riches are really your own, and not just borrowed from the greater Hoard? And how much more valuable would that collective wealth be if everyone recognized its sacred status as a shared, liquid resource?

So, in the name of putting my money where my mouth is, I make this pledge. Any proceeds I get from selling this gentleman's collection (after recouping my initial investment) will be donated to the Red Cross. At the prices I have listed currently, that would come to a little over $150 (in addition to the $50 I had already ear-marked for the purpose).

What do you own that you wouldn't miss if you auctioned it off and put the proceeds to a worthy cause? It's an interesting question to ponder.

11 Comments:

  1. i would like to help you reach your goal…. could i get the following DVD’s from you?
    we were soldiers, princess bride, ronin, matrix revolutions, men of honor, logan’s run, full metal jacket and hamburger hill

    thanks!

    and i have already started returning things to the hoard… four huge bags of clothes are finding their way to the homeless in san fransisco in a few days! along with some jackets and shoes….

    how does half.com work?

    • I’ve gotten a few lists from people in email. I’ll compile them all tonight and let everyone know what on their lists is still available. Priority goes to whomever asks first.

      Also, I should point out that Logan’s Run is on VHS. Did you still want it? (Just making sure.)

    • Oh, and I almost missed the question about Half.com.

      Basically, you look yo your books, movies, music or games (aka, BMMG) by title, author, UPC, or however else you like. On each item page, it shows you all of the people who are selling that item, sorted first by condition (Brand New, Like New, Very Good, etc) and then by price.

      When you see one you want, you just add it to your shopping card and go through a normal checkout process. Half.com charges the amount to your credit card (using your existing eBay account) and sends the seller an email to let them know to ship the item to you. Then, every other week, they direct deposit that period’s sales into the seller’s bank account.

      If you want to sell an item, just click on “sell your now” on an item page, choose the condition from a drop-down menu, add a short note if necessary (ie, “name written on inside cover” or the like), and set your price. It takes just a few seconds to post something that way, as opposed to the pages and pages of obscure options that you have to wade through on eBay.

      This makes it really easy to find what you’re looking for or selling, removes the massive variability in shipping fees that is rampant on eBay (Half charges a flat shipping fee based on what the product is), and gives you one extra level of protection against fraud, since the seller doesn’t get paid until two weeks after the sale, so you have time to report problems to Half and get a refund if something goes wrong (which, in my experience, is fairly rare). And for the seller it’s nice because you don’t have to wait for a bunch of individuals to mail you checks or send you PayPal payments. Once you get the confirmation email, you just drop the item in the mail and you’re done.

      They also have a really cool pre-order feature that makes it easy to get better than expected deals. For example, if the lowest price for Alias: Season 1 is $36, but you’re not willing to pay that much, you can click on “pre-order this product,” enter in what price you *are* willing to pay, and in what condition, and submit your pre-order. The next time someone goes to sell that item, they will see an extra note on the page where they select their price that says “…or, if you want to sell it right now, this person will give you $x for it.” So if your pre-order if for $25 and they were planning on selling it for $35, they might decide that it’s better to have $25 instantly than wait for who knows how long to maybe get a bit more for it. You’d be surprised at how many of my TV series box sets I’ve gotten this way!

      The only drawback to pre-orders is that there have been a lot of people lately who post asian import versions of some DVDs (usually the box sets). But these folks are very rarely doing it maliciously (they just don’t realize that when you do a pre-order you don’t get to see the comments in the Notes field first), and are generally prompt at issuing refunds. I think I’ve only had to complain to Half.com maybe once about a seller refusing to give a refund, and in that case I got refunded by Half.com.

      Anyway, if you’re buying and selling BMMG, Half.com is a great place to do it. You’ve got a simple, easy to use interface, and all the trust and security of eBay behind you. Plus, it’s a good way to build up your eBay feedback rating so people will be more likely to trust you when you’re selling things on the main eBay site.

      I could go on for hours, of course. Half.com is one of my passions. :)

  2. I’ve been pondering this question about the relative importance of personal belongings as I’ve been packing for the move back to California. (We’ll be moving most of our stuff long before we move ourselves.)

    It’s interesting taking a look at everything as it goes back into the boxes. There are a few boxes that I wouldn’t mind selling back into the world, but most of my stuff has a purpose… books, more books, music, movies, my writing, papers, old toys, costuming, painting, photography, the quilt my great-grandmother made for me when I was born, things my kids have made for me – well, those last two don’t exactly have a purpose.

    I will admit that I probably don’t need my box of clothes from junior high & high school. I may talk myself out of that someday. I wouldn’t mind selling my couple of boxes of old Fisher Price toys bought on e-bay a few years ago, my growing stack of vhs tapes replaced on dvd, some of my sillier books, but most of my stuff is going to continue to be dragged around with me.

    I guess I don’t figure my financial situation is going to improve much, so I don’t figure I’ll be able to replace these things anytime soon. I started out poor, I’ve struggled financially all along – in spite of college & some fantastic skills – & I’m beginning to think that I’m, for some reason, supposed to be poor.

    So the things that I have have to last, can’t always be replaced & I am happy to find that they are mostly things that I can do things with – like sewing, painting, photography, reading, writing, etc.

    I plan to take a closer look at these things as I unpack them back in CA, when I’m able to feel a little more settled & less homesick, & I have some time to really look at things. I’m hoping to only take part time work when I come back, slow down for a while & do some writing.

    • thanks for reminding me.
      I am looking at my bookshelves as we speak and there are a nuber of these that I could lose and not be the poorer for it… most of the Anne McCaffreys, some of the history, more of the SF stuff… not, of course, the Sandman collection *grin* as I still haven’t made my way thru it all the way…

      Love you, boyo. I have to check my bank balance but between you and Northbard there is a good motivation… or good reminder, of being thankful for what I have and being generous when I can afford to be.

      (((hugs)))

      when’s your next party??

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