You’ve done this. You’ve searched eBay for something from your childhood – maybe Spangles, if they wouldn’t have gone off by now, maybe that particular blue-and-white-striped Cornishware teapot that your mother has asked you to find and by God you’ve searched every antique shop there is in existence and still there’s no sign of the bloody thing.
(There is, by the way. Look at TG Green’s website for genuine Cornishware stuff. I’d have found that several years sooner if I’d know that blue and white stripes are a Cornish thing. Who knew?)
But if I hadn’t found the real thing, there’s a good chance I would eventually have found the fake.
If enough people search for something on eBay, they will find it because it will be made for them.
“We send [manufacturers] data about what people are looking for on eBay and they respond and turn it around incredibly quickly,” president of eBay Marketplaces Devin Wenig told me. “We have a really big China export business to Europe and the United States. And they respond very, very quickly to consumer taste, whatever it might be. It’s really remarkable to see how quickly the manufacturing base adapts to the demand signals they get.”
In other words, that red wool-blend Cross Colours hat on eBay might not be the relic from 1989 it appears to be, but instead a newly manufactured replica. (It is, of course, against eBay’s policy to sell counterfeit items.) Yes, there’s a huge and thriving “new vintage” manufacturing sector built around—and tailored to— your online searches. It’s why, for instance, you can find something like an original 1960s-era Pan Am tote bag, and its new “vintage style” counterpart.
Let’s do it. Let’s make up some fictitious 1980s craze and see if we can’t get it made for eBay. It’ll just be like a convoluted form of 3D printing.