I stared at my computer screen in disbelief.
That's what it said. The item had gone unsold.
|Photo Credit: Thomas (creative commons)|
Back up a bit and I'll explain. Between my dad and my father-in-law I had become hooked on classic rock music. On Saturdays I used to navigate for my father-in-law in his big black pickup truck as we traveled through town looking for vinyl records and stereo equipment at garage sales.
With my meager budget, I usually came home with just two or three records which I would promptly unsleeve and place carefully on my turntable.
One day I saw an album I didn't recognize, but I had a feeling about it. It had the Atlantic imprint and looked pre-rock 'n' roll so I took a chance and paid the unshaven owner the seventy-five cents.
My instinct paid off.
The artist was Kansas City bluesman Big Joe Turner. The record had that musty yet delicious smell that many old things acquire with age. I gave it a spin or two, and I enjoyed the sound. It had an old-time feel, but you could tell Big Joe was on the verge of something new with the up tempo bass lines and his booming voice. It was like I had heard it before just in a more evolved state--foreign yet familiar at the same time.
But I didn't buy this one for myself. I eased the record back in the sleeve, snapped a few photos, and posted it on eBay. It sold for about $20, almost thirty-fold what I had paid for it.
If I could do it once, I could do it again.
Negotiating with Nostalgia
I began going to more garage sales, buying more albums I cared nothing about in hopes of turning a profit. I didn't much care if I made any money; I just wanted to fund my addiction to vintage music.
On a devilish summer day, the kind where you'd drip with sweat just opening the car door, I came across a rack of vinyls. The couple's story was the same as all of them: they loved the music, but their turntable was long since broken. They hadn't listened in years.
It was sad really, because they all told the same story. And I know why they told it. Just thinking about parting with the records harked them back to a bygone age, a world I would only know through brown photographs and through the music.
You should see their eyes light up: "I used to listen to that record every day my junior year of high school." It was downright romantic.
And here I was talking them down from their nostalgia to ten for $5.
What could they say? The records would never mean to me what they did to their original owners. But they knew it was time to move on, so they'd usually just nod their gray heads and say, "O.K." I tried never to look them in the eye when handing over the cash.
Of the ten there was one I was particularly excited about: Prince and the Revolution's Purple Rain. I was sure I'd get some scratch out of that.
Which takes us back to the beginning.
No one bid on it. Not a single soul. I priced it low, starting at just a dollar. I spelled the name correctly. I listed it in the proper categories. But nothing.
It was on that day, sitting at my CRT, that I learned a lesson I hope I never forget. I learned the value of scarcity.
All Too Common
Since its debut in 1984, Purple Rain has sold over 20 million copies. Because of its best-selling status, I made the mistake of assuming it would be in high demand. Quite the contrary. Though the album is multiple decades old, the market was saturated. Every musty basement, every sweltering attic in America had a pressing of that record. At least everyone who wanted one.
And those who didn't have one?
There were plenty of copies available at garage sales, thrift stores, and on the internet.
Big Joe Turner? Not so common.
Your Works Are Wonderful
This is where I thrust the trite snowflake cliché upon you, and you die a little inside. Just kidding. If you've stuck with me this long, you deserve better. And as an aside, I'm calling B.S. How do we know no two snowflakes are alike? I'm pretty sure that's made up.
But the fact of the matter is, the world doesn't need another Purple Rain. We've got plenty of those. What the world needs is more of you.
The greatest artist of all time carefully crafted you inside and out:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
So to deny who you are by trying to be someone else is to disregard the meticulousness with which God designed you. The sooner you embrace that, the sooner the world can benefit from your unique gifts and the higher in demand you will become.
The paradox is that we try to obtain value by emulating others. In doing so, we devalue ourselves.
Your value lies in your uniqueness.
It's when we embrace that uniqueness that we honor God. Don't sell out to what this world wants you to be. If you do you'll end up forgotten in the attic instead of in the record player where you belong.
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