Republic of Moreland

January 15, 2007

Can’t have it both ways

Behold the cup and saucer, from St Vinnies, nine bucks.

This photo really, really doesn’t do them justice. They’re oversized ones; the kind you have to hold with both hands. They hold three regular teacups’ worth. I imagine they were some kind of bowling trophy.

I longed for a very similar set in an antique warehouse in the mid-90s: it was $65 back then, too much for someone (then) living on toast and peanut butter. (Remember the days? When you went to every art opening just to drink some plonk and eat something that isn’t toast?)

So I’m over the moon. For Pete’s sake, just look at the artwork. Those bodies are so, so anatomically incorrect.

Didn’t get this treasure in Moreland, but in Warburton. For good reason. Has anyone else noticed the dramatic rise in our op-shop prices of late? (With the exceptions of Don Bosco’s in Brunswick, St Augustine’s in Coburg, and perhaps the op-shop in North Coburg down that street that runs alongside Bunnings.)

Apart from St Kilda, this isn’t happening in posh suburbs. You can still pick up brilliant cheap things in Camberwell. Of course, in rural towns, you can still find astoundingly cheap treasures. Even in trendy Healesville a couple of weeks ago I picked up a gorgeous 40s butter dish for $2.50. Last time I was there I got these 1957 glasses for 50c each.

You’d never find them in Moreland for that price. They’d be sold or sent to shops that sell op-shop stuff for 12 times the price, like this overpriced cake tin, from that wonderful cranky junk shop in Westgarth: twelve bucks, without a lid! (Still bought it, dammit.)

Now, Moreland op-shops are selling things at retro-store prices. A couple of years I got these at Savers for 50c each. The ones on the right, that is; the green ones were overpriced ones from the little 2nd-hand shop near the corner of Lygon & Glenlyon.

That’s three bucks for the set. I subsequently saw exactly the same set at Brunswick’s Brotherhood for $25. Likewise this:

It was from the same Brotherhood a few years ago for twelve bucks (after they marked it down for me, bless them). Now, with religious kitsch more popular than ever, you couldn’t pick up anything like this for under $40.

It’s not just inflation and it’s not just the growth market for retro junk. Ebay is also to blame: everyone knows, now, there’s a market for anything. A third of last year’s Christmas spending was on ebay, or so the ABC told me. (Another bit of trivia: one of the most searched-for items on ebay is water tanks.) Op-shops are also getting more corporatised, and there are specialist sites listing them, and sites with tips on where to find the best op-shop bargain.

The cheats! I know, I know. I’m sucked into some nostalgic falsehood about ‘authentic’ op-shopping. Marketers have got my sort figured. There’s surely an acronym for us. This is precisely why Moreland pricing — what the local market will bear — is so unjust. Not for employed materialists like me who want to buy dinky little bourgeois trinkets that we can show off and chat about on our blogs. It’s unjust for impoverished people —particularly new Australians — who rely on op-shops for clothing, toys and furniture.

Of course, op-shops are entitled to raise as much money as possible: but cash-strapped folk, too, should be able to get decent furniture and treasures as cheaply in the northern suburbs as those in the west or south. Only a few years ago these chairs were around $20 each from the Brotherhood. Now the store doesn’t carry this type of armchair under $50 or $60, sometimes $100. (Still, the Brotherhood remains the best and cheapest for good furniture, I reckon.) Likewise Savers. Toys are ridiculously priced there now.

I can’t have it both ways. Can’t expect beautification of Sydney Road and districts without these kinds of consequences. Yet Camberwell managed to be leafy AND harbour cheap op-shops, so I guess it’s just a Northern suburbs phenomenon. It’s because the brand of yuppie round here prefers St Vinnie’s to IKEA. Part of the values package, I guess. You can probably gauge the retro op-shopping market in your electorate by the number of Greens & SA voters. But how does this affect those in real need?
I guess junk yards (there are fantastic ones in North Coburg), skips and hard rubbish day are the way to go now: but even these are over-regulated these days, and you need a car to scout them. (And if you work full-time, they’re difficult to keep an eye on.) When hard rubbish finally happens (how long has it been?), you’re not allowed to scavenge stuff. People still do, of course. (And I love peeping out the window to see folk delight in my hard rubbish. They took everything last year, except for the ghastly tea-set my mother-in-law gave me.) Now, the ‘authentic’ thing is not to get caught nicking. Look what I found last hard rubbish day:

Incredible, isn’t it? (Soudan Street, North Coburg)

And this little cabinet (same place):

They’re now selling these for about 90 bucks at that place in East Brunswick, the little one on Lygon, nestled between restaurants, cafés and ice-creamery.

Update: Savers is accused of profiteering from people donating to charity.


  1. Hi,
    Great treasures! You know, we have the same problem in the U.S.
    Thrift stores have gotten wise to the mid-century collectors, and the vintage clothes people. You can still get a great deal on little things – like china and glass, but furniture has gone up, and they’ll stick a $60 tag on a ratty fur coat.


    Comment by eujenia — January 15, 2007 @ 3:09 am | Reply

  2. You’ve definitely got some treasures there Girl, especially the Soudan Street painting and the bowler’s cup and saucer – and I’m an Art Expert so I should know. I reckon the Bowler’s anatomy is not too bad really; you get some pretty hefty bowlers these days. And they do drink a hell of a lot of tea, hence the big cup.

    Comment by leonaaardo — January 15, 2007 @ 11:13 am | Reply

  3. Some interesting questions raised here Girl.

    1. Your concern about impoverished locals might be unneccessary. It’s true that op-shops have become more expensive for treasures like these, and for vintage clothing, but they’re probably more or less the same for tea-towels and general clothing and unfashionable furniture.

    2. You write: “Not for employed materialists like me who want to buy dinky little bourgeois trinkets that we can show off and chat about on our blogs.” Heavens, will you shed your middle class guilt, Girl? It’s apparent in every post on this site. If you have good fortune and good taste, then why not just celebrate them without this evident agony?

    3. The cup is special.

    Comment by Chloe — January 15, 2007 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

  4. “Remember the days? When you went to every art opening just to drink some plonk and eat something that isn’t toast?”

    Is there any other reason to go to an art opening?

    Comment by Neighbourhood Pervert — January 15, 2007 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  5. Now NP I take offence at your comment, if I had a glove I’d smite you twice. Art openings are to enhance your public profile, everyone knows that.

    Comment by leonaaardo — January 15, 2007 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  6. Can you smite someone with a glove, naaardi?

    You might be right, Chloe, but there are some basic areas they’ve become more pricey. Printed fabric at Savers & Salvos (curtains, bedspreads, tea-towels), kids’ clothes & toys.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — January 15, 2007 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  7. Clearly Girl, you never lived in the 16th C when a smite with a glove meant a sworded duel at dawn. Touche!

    Comment by Leonaardo — January 16, 2007 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  8. With the 70s and 80s back in style, I just loving vintage clothing from the thrift shops. You can find designers like Chanel and Armani for cheap there.

    Comment by vintage dress — January 4, 2008 @ 4:03 am | Reply

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