A Tale of eBay Alerts and Wishes Fulfilled

Friday, August 12, 2016

A couple years back, I wrote about my search for a Rand McNally star chart similar to designer Thomas O’Brien’s. At the time, my search had lead me to a company that makes reproductions of the Rand McNally charts and sells them for $175. Eventually, I bought one, but it remained unframed (a 36”x36” print is not cheap to frame, I discovered).

All the while, I had an eBay alert set to notify me if a Rand McNally chart should ever come up on eBay. I had the alert set for nearly ten years before the magical day when the email arrived in my inbox. There it was: A genuine Rand McNally star chart—and it had a “buy it now” option. I nearly fainted when I saw it.

Unfortunately, my husband and I were on vacation at the time, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with spotty cell service. I had to wait a desperate 30 minutes before we were in an area with reliable enough service for me to purchase the chart on my phone. (I was certain some other star-chart-obsessed person like myself had simultaneously gotten the same notification from eBay. Thankfully, this was not the case.) For a mere $50, plus shipping, the chart was mine.

Once again, the cost of framing prohibited me from getting the chart out of its mailing tube and onto our walls. It languished for nearly 2 ½ years before I decided to take action. An attempt to DIY a hanging system similar to one I’d seen on Pinterest turned out to be a complete failure. Fortunately, I came across a square frame that was big enough to hold the chart on PotteryBarn.com and it cost just under $100—an incredible deal.

After my failed DIY framing, I didn’t even want to attempt to mat or mount the chart myself, especially since it is in rough condition (and I have a toddler at home). On the recommendation of my parents, we used a local framer who worked out of his basement in our neighborhood. The matting and mounting of the map into the frame cost double what the frame and four times as much as the chart itself, but it was well worth it. The star chart looks amazing. It has become the focal point of our living room—even of our whole apartment.

I tell you all this to say: never give up on your second-hand dreams! And set up eBay alerts for those hard-to-find vintage items that have captured your imagination. You never know, they might just turn up one day.

Also, the eBay alert pinged again today: Apparently someone else has gotten into the reproduction game and started hawking their prints on eBay. I've never seen these in person, but unlike the Municipal Prints Company reproductions that I wrote about before, these are full-scale at just over 4-feet square, and the extra foot really does make a difference in scale.

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