Editor, TC Puppet Monitor
We all have our vices. Some of us spend too much time slouched in front of the television, box of Bugles in hand. Some drop a few too many nickels in the slot machines at Mystic Lake. Some even eat too much chocolate (hypothetically speaking.) I have one or two vices myself, but until recently I've always felt that my love of puppets was 100% virtuous - for the art, for the people, for the common good of moveable dolls everywhere. Oh, how I deluded myself.
Lately I have seen my face reflected in my brutally honest computer monitor, and I have seen the ugly truth: I'm a puppet addict. When it comes to puppets, I have a lifetime membership in Greed R Us. You see, I've discovered eBay.
Well, okay, I didn't discover it; Kurt Hunter actually is the Christopher Columbus of eBay. It's only because he kept bringing his fantastic winnings (mainly cool old puppet books) to guild meetings that I decided to give online auctions a try. For those blissfully unfamiliar with the concept, an online auction takes place on the Internet. People put up pictures and descriptions of stuff they want to auction. Other people bid on the stuff through their computers. The highest bidder gets to buy the stuff.
So one fateful day, I steered my browser to www.eBay.com, and - Zing !- it was love at first sight.
Now I'm really hooked. I check eBay three times a day and have to take St. John's Wort if no great puppets appear. When something wonderful does show up, my lust for ownership is like a fever. I make a bid, and woebetide anyone who opposes it. It's like I'm playing poker, convinced that every hand is a royal flush. I bid $25 on a Balinese shadow puppet. I check back in an hour. What?! Someone has upped the bid to $45. Hah! I'll see your 45 and raise you 60! How do you like them apples?
Okay, sometimes I end up paying more than I should. But I've gotten some great stuff: six Asian shadow puppets, three 19th century Punch and Judy plates, some Punch and Judy sheet music, etc. Of course, every once in awhile a puppet gets away.
There was that exquisite professional antique bunraku puppet. I really sweated the bidding on that one: $200, $450, $600... then I had to drop out. The puppet eventually sold for $3000. Sigh.
If nothing else, eBay is always good for a laugh, because there is always some ignorant person selling a puppet about which he or she knows absolutely zip. The descriptions can be quite entertaining:
"3 Poor Dejected Meandering Minstrel Puppets";
"Shaddow Puppet I dont know much about them would probably look pretty cool in a plant of some sort";
"Beautifully ugly, if you like folk art";
"Puppet Walong from China: This is a old puppet not one of a few years ago. Also this is a girl. Witch is very hard to find. Most are Men."
And my favorite eBay description of all time: "Malay Tranditional Puppeton's Puppet." I suppose the seller meant "traditional," or maybe "transitional," as in "I'm just doing this puppet thing until I can find a real job." Perhaps he was describing a trendy food service employee: "Hello, may name is Jason. I'll be your puppeton this evening." Probably the term really refers to some fearful robotic hyperspace invader: "I am Puppeton. I will manipulate your inanimate objects. Resistance is futile."
Take me, eBay, I'm yours. I won't resist at all.
Copyright 1999 Freshwater Pearls Puppetry