Have you been wondering what to do with that statue made from fingernails sitting in your attic? Well, now you have your answer.
The Bizarre Buying Bazaar comes to Times Square this weekend in search of new strange items to add to the showrooms of worldwide locations of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
That’s correct: You bring your crazy collectibles to 234 W. 42nd St. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Ripley’s may offer you some cash to take it off your hands. If you don’t walk away with a purchase, you might still be given a complimentary “oddpraisal” — telling you just how unique your item is, rather than its monetary value — from Vice President of Exhibits and Archives Edward Meyer.
We spoke to Meyer about his unusual job, and what he’s looking for this weekend:
What's important in an unusual item?
It needs first and foremost to be real — authentic, genuine, not a replica. We like to be able to say you can’t see it anywhere else but at Ripley’s; "one-of-a-kind" is a significant selling point. As for visual appeal, this can be a consideration, but it is only a major concern if we are talking about a potential “lobby” piece. The items that we put in our lobbies have to help sell a ticket. If they look visually wonderful, weird, colorful and exotic from the street and cause you to walk in to the lobby for a closer look, they have done their job. The backstory for all items is important, but not as important with things that are visually top-grade. It is more important for what I would typically call a showcase display: You see it and maybe wonder why it is in our museum, but then when you read the story you say, “Wow, that’s cool/gross/weird/unbelievable!”
What's the weirdest thing you've ever discovered?
I get asked this question almost daily. The “weirdest” thing by far is a two-trunked full size African elephant — but it’s not my favorite, or the thing I am most proud of. The answer changes if you change the adjective in the question.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
Well the best thing is definitely meeting the individuals that create the oddities we buy, and the people who tell us their unbelievable stories — which we use on our website, in our books, or in our newspaper cartoon feature. The backstory is very often as interesting as what they did or what they made. The worst thing is much harder to pinpoint, but it probably is the not being able to acquire something because of size alone. For example,I have been offered the iconic Hollywood Hills original sign, a space capsule, a whole house made from newspapers, a hand-made roller coaster — all things I would have loved to acquire but had no place big enough to display the (or even store them, for that matter).
How do you decorate your own home?
The truthful answer is “early clutter.” I am a hoarder and an avid reader. I have books everywhere, and I don’t like to throw anything away. "Well-lived-in organized chaos" might be a good description of both my home and my office. I do, of course, have some out-of-the-ordinary art pieces.
What's in it for the seller?
I often tell people I can make them famous, but not necessarily rich. The money of course depends totally on the uniqueness of the item being sold. And supply and demand plays a part too: If I have a “need” the price may go up, but if I have 10 of something, no matter how good it is, I am going to pay less for the 11th one. I certainly haven’t made anyone fabulously wealthy, but people who have become return/repeat customers — sometimes dozens of times over several years — have done pretty good financially, and even better “fame”–wise. Everyone gets credit, unless they don’t want it. Creators and sellers are listed in all verbiage wherever the item is displayed or published. Being able to tie a name and a place to an object gives it credibility in the eye of the beholder, verifying that Ripley’s didn’t make it up, it is associated with a real person unrelated to our company. We also have lifetime odditorium passes and frameable “Certificates of Recognition” that we give to our contributors.
Why are people all over the world so fascinated by weird items at Ripley's?
The short answer: “Curiosity.” The longer answer: “Curiosity killed the cat — but satisfaction brought him back.” The longest answer: People are fascinated by what they don’t know, or don’t understand, and once they do understand it, and have witnessed it in person, they can’t wait to tell someone else about it. People everywhere always want to prove their skill/cool level/intelligence by being able to say “Did you know?” — or, even better, “Believe it or not!”