“Moving the goalposts,” yet again !


Over at the FromPyrgos blog, there is a new post that screams out, “that’s the exception that proves the rule.” The claim is that if a “jerk” on ebay is asking $100 for a used bottle of Max Factor Signature for Men, then something, something, la, la, la… Seriously, you try to figure it out! The other day I noticed that someone was trying to sell a four ounce bottle of Aventus for about $1500. In the title it said “collectors pricing,” suggesting that at least some who view themselves as collectors are very stupid or very particular (and well off financially, presumably). What does that mean in the grand scheme of things (and does that mean we should stop buying Creed scents)? I’ve seen all kinds of apparent stupidity just on ebay alone (I’ve been buying and selling from that site since the late 1990s) – does that mean that any time there is an apparently ridiculous listing the entire market to which that item belongs is bogus? Yet that is what the FromPyrgos author is suggesting, whether he realizes it or not.

Something seems highly suspect in his way of thinking, and to be honest I fear for his mental health. First, as any collector knows, you look at actual sales, not asking prices, and you want to get a sense that the sales are “real.” Anyone can do completed or sold listing searches on ebay and see for themselves, yet the FromPyrgos author seems entirely unaware of this possibility. Secondly, no market is “rational,” and we saw where “irrational exuberance” can lead a world economy not that long ago, and that was directed by the “great economic minds” of our age. And as anyone who has watched CNBC once in a while, it appears that fear and greed are the major motivators of major market swings, leaving the author’s claims about greed irrelevant, or perhaps even supportive of the opposite conclusion !

But what really made me worry about this author’s grasp on reality is the following statement from his post:

…perfume is not a design product that becomes more valuable with time. Perfume is “perishable.” It goes bad, it goes stale. It doesn’t last forever. Even if it does last, it changes. It becomes distorted. Time is usually not very kind to it.

Here he is making assumptions that are contrary to just about everything one can read online! First, vintage aficionados don’t seem to care about or don’t share his views involving “spoilage,” so that is irrelevant, and again may be supportive of the opposite possibility. That is, these aficionados seem to be so willing to overlook what he considers spoilage that the market will continue to rise as the stock diminishes. Yet somehow this author is trying to claim what? Again, it seems like “something, something, la, la, la…” How can he not see that if there are as many vintage aficionados as all evidence points towards (that includes ebay sales and what one can read on the major fragrance sites) prices are going to rise, no matter how much this displeases him? Moreover, the rise of retail prices on the “department store” designer scents might be another element that is contributing to the rise in vintage prices. And let’s not forget that some niche fans also desire at least certain vintage, and compared to niche prices vintage ones are usually an incredible bargain (especially to those who are patient!).

I just did a sold item search on ebay for the scent in question and saw that a 3.1 ounce bottle sold for $29.99 total. That seems more than reasonable, and if I were given $30 and told that I could buy that bottle or use it towards a new designer scent, I would buy Signature, even if the designer scent was on sale. Now if I could sample all the scents I was interested in, that might change things, but blind buying is something that many of us do because so many scents have been released over the years that no store could offer even 50% of those released in the last thirty years (or perhaps could do so for a while before most likely going out of business). So, where are the proverbial goalposts here? Are there ebay sellers who appear to be greedy or unrealistic? I’d say yes to that, but who would disagree? Why is this even worth mentioning?

Thus, one is led to ask, what is this author’s argument, exactly? Are vintage aficionados a bunch of fools? That may be his conclusion, but we do not care one bit! Does he think that vintage aficionados are walking around in public smelling like skunks (wouldn’t the Muscs Kulai Khan fan have more to fear in this context, for example)? That claim seems so ridiculous I really hope he has never entertained that notion. Is he angered that the “original intent” of the perfumer is being “violated?” First, he doesn’t know if that’s the case for any particular bottle, but even if it was for all bottles of a particular scent, I would be the happiest person in the world if that was the worst thing that existed on this planet! It’s clearly not something more than perhaps a few hundred people in the entire world occupy their time pondering. Perhaps one day this author can regain his composure and make a cogent argument on a specific and relevant subject. I would have liked to have read a review of Signature, along with getting a sense of availability and pricing, but instead it’s just a muddled diatribe that is somewhat frightening in its disorganization – have the goalposts left the field at this point?

NOTE: The FromPyrgos post in question is titled “Perfume Econ 101 (The Not-For-Dummies Version): Max Factor Signature for Men – And It Doesn’t Even Have Your Name On It.”

NOTE #2: More on claims, if there are any, about vintage scents smelling “bad.” Here is a passage from a Fragrantica review on Muscs Kublai Khan:

Oooo!!!! What have we here??? What a dirty and naughty thing this is. I have never blushed like this when smelling a perfume. Like the previous reviewer said in small doses can be erotic but in large doses you will smell like a hobo sprayed down with rose perfume. I love it. This is one of the dirtiest anamalics around…

This one received a bunch of approval balloons and there are other, similar opinions. The FromPyrgos author seems to be incapable of imagining that a non-perfect (at least in his opinion) vintage scent might be preferable to recent releases for a whole lot of people. Why he refuses to address this point is puzzling, but it would make sense if there is some sort of mental health issue involved, it would seem.

One vintage scent that might get similar reviews to MKK is Kouros, but vintage fans seek out that formulation for just that reason! They want that “skank!” Moreover, even if about 75% of the vintage scents I purchased on ebay had “spoiled” horribly, I would still think that my money was well spent, relative to buying niche or designer (most of which I would hardly ever wear or just return or sell for whatever I could get). But no, I would not seek out the dumbest vintage listing and buy those – I have patience and wait for excellent deals to materialize.

UPDATE: I just noticed an ebay Aventus listing, about 425 ml for $5000 (item # 141570189637)! Why doesn’t the FromPyrgos author talk about these kinds of listings? Why is he fixated on how “bad” vintage is (though it’s no longer clear to me what his point is), and why are his vintage “horror stories” (my characterization) usually about bottles that sell for perhaps $20 or $30 more than he thinks is appropriate (such as past posts about Kouros and Joint Pour Homme)? Even his example is about $70 too much, at most. Compare that to the Aventus listing!

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