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Mesquita, CordobaFriday, 1.28.05: The Cosmopolitan

Yesterday was the moment of truth for my new selling strategy -- the one about starting the bidding at rock bottom and not putting on a reserve -- "going naked." Last Thursday I posted 4 very ordinary 19th-century photographs -- public buildings in Belgium, Berlin, Cordoba, and Milan. Jim had them in a folder marked with the name of a famous Italian photographer Alinari, but there was no way to tell from the photos. In the 1980s Jim had wanted to sell them for $10 each. I started the bidding at $2.

Hotel de Ville, YpresWhen I looked at the bidding yesterday morning it was disheartening. Three of them had single bids for $2 and the last one had no bids at all.

I braved the 10-degree weather to walk 2 packages down to the post office. One to Switzerland. One to Italy. My Italian had purchased a tiny album of Swiss aquatints and I looked up her town on the map. Sondrio. Ah, tucked way up in the Italian Alps near the border with Switzerland.

Berlin ArsenalThe day wore on. The 4 test auctions were all ending about 3 o'clock. At 1:30 the bids hadn't changed. As we left for our 2 o'clock appointment, I began to start rationalizing that the photos were miserable dross and maybe I should have experimented with something better.

But when I checked again around 4 o'clock, I was stunned: 3 had sold for $20 each and 1 had sold for $37. What?! Holy cosmopolitan! A Berliner had won the photo of the Berlin Arsenal. Someone in Canchy, France won the picture of the Hotel de Ville in Ypres (Belgium). Someone in Granada won the view of the Great Mosque in Cordoba. The Milan monument was won by a guy in Tennessee, wherever that is.

I danced around and poured myself a Pinot Grigio. I felt so worldly, so desirable. Queen of the Double Sawbucks.