Would you buy a celebrity's old phone?

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

In 1961, Italian performance artist, Piero Manzoni, produced and sold 90 tins of his own poop. Merda d'artista (the artist's shit), contained 30g of faeces, dried naturally and tinned "with no added preservatives".

Many of these tins sold for tens of thousands of pounds; worth far more than their weight in gold. I found one auction for tin number 54, which sold for £182,500.

In a letter to another artist, Manzoni wrote "if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there's the artist's own shit, that is really his."

Some of the tins weren't properly sealed and eventually exploded. Imagine that...

In his book, How Pleasure Works, Paul Bloom describes how an object is special “because of its history, either through its relation to admired people or significant events or its connection to someone of personal significance."

I found many examples of this on the internet, including a story of one man who paid $48,875 for a tape measure that was previously owned by John F. Kennedy, seemingly motivated by a sense that it contained some sort of presidential “essence.”

Wild idea - but perhaps not that different to the value that you or I would place on a wedding ring or a child's stick figure drawing - as though a person's essence exists to some degree within that object. Would you trade such an object for an identical copy, or would doing so drain all feelings of awe and reverence that it had previously inspired in you?

Bloom says that "this history is invisible and intangible, and in most cases, there is no test that can ever distinguish the special object from one that looks the same. But still, it gives us pleasure, and the duplicate would leave us cold.”

Whether it's Conor McGregor's championship-winning glove, Steve McQueen's Porsche, or Jimi Hendrix's guitar, people are willing to pay extortionate sums for memorabilia which does not provide any additional utility to the off-the-shelf version. It's actually very unusual for a used product to be sold for significantly more than an equivalent new product, yet some people make a very comfortable living by selling their used underwear on OnlyFans, apparently.

If anything contains an essence, it would surely be our most important, frequently used possession: our mobile phone. So you would think that a Kardashian's old iPhone could fetch quite a high price. Yet I can only find one case where someone paid above retail price for a used mobile phone...

At a basketball game in 2014, Rihanna was taking a selfie with the L.A. Police Commission president when she dropped and broke his iPhone. She signed the back of the case and donated $25,000 to the L.A Police Foundation. The president then sold the broken phone on eBay and raised an additional $65,000.

But this isn't a case of someone buying a phone for its essence. It wasn't Rhianna's phone, and it was sold to raise money for a foundation.

Needless to say, the data inside a phone could be extremely fascinating, insightful and valuable. To gain access to the inner world of your favourite athlete, artist or entrepreneur; from their business deals to their shopping lists to their spending habits; would give you a deep insight into their life.

But if you were to buy a celebrity's phone at auction, it would certainly be reset to factory settings. You'd only have its essence, and whatever value that brings you, if any.

Alternatively, you might see it as an investment - something that will gain value over time and could later be sold for a profit. Given that the market for such a thing clearly doesn't exist, this does not sound like a wise investment - though I'm sure there's at least one filthy-rich creepy collector out there somewhere...

If you've bought or sold your phone through us, then chances are it's been on a unique journey of its own.

My phone belonged to a good customer of ours, who conducts advertising deals via his phone. It has sailed across the Mediterranean and was dropped and broken on a golf course in Spain before I replaced the screen.

For the past 18 months of my life, that same phone has been my sidekick. It's helped me navigate through the Alps, and has fed me thousands of hours of content. It's covered in my DNA, and still has traces of Glastonbury toilets baked into it. It has delivered both fantastic and devastating news, made me laugh and cry, generated income, answered my questions, and held onto my memories and secrets.

In a way, my phone lived a whole life before me, has been through a hell of a lot with me, and will go through a lot with its next owner.

To everyone else, it's just a phone. To me, it has personal significance. Parting with it - for a newer and better model - will be bittersweet.

Is it possible that our phones contain our essence? I don't think so. The stories we tell ourselves about things, influence how we feel about them and consequently shape the essence that we sense in them. Things can grow to become incredibly meaningful to us.

The feelings experienced when walking through Auschwitz, The Colosseum, Wembley Stadium, or London Museum are difficult to comprehend and impossible to explain. Is there an aura, or some kind of intangible energy that encapsulates the past? Perhaps it's all just a story and a feeling.
Thanks for reading!

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