What can your MYR100-00 can get for you from the web ?
A month ago, a very good friend of mine came round to my office and asked a very thoughtful question - how safe is to buy amulets via online auction sales ? His term of the word "safe" is not referring to security in financial transaction through a potential sale but rather, will he possibly be getting a faked or less desirable item from public auction. He came back few days later told me that he has given it a try and found himself as the highest bidder at an Ebay auction (later, I checked and found he was the only who bids...hehe.. ). The image shown below was what caught his attention from the auction and hence prompted him to go ahead with the bid (the copyright info on the image has been intentionally covered to avoid raising other unnecessary issue with the seller).
You may ask - how much was his winning bid for this amulet ? Reluctantly, he told me he paid USD19-90 + USD12-00 postage for it (which came to approx. MYR100-00). Two weeks later he got the shipment via concealed envelope, seemed not too happy with the physical delivery, he brought along the purchased and asked what do I think of it ? Well, an amulet is an amulet is always my philosophy, as long as it was made by a temple, why bothers too much with other details ? I guess it was more like a psychological thought he must have got one hell of a bargain but I told him I will try to check for him, but from initial observation, it can't be a fake but neither it was an aged collectible "master piece" as he thought it was for a bargain price tag of RM100-00. Well, he does understand what he was doing, we had a good laugh and thought this was funny ..
I admit web-3-amulets is indeed an alternative channel that I have never thought about before.. I will also give it a try too and hunt for one with a budget less than RM100-00. So, instead of jamming into Ebay as what he did, I used a slightly different approach to use keyword search for odds and unusual returned results type onto an entry field with "unidentified Buddhist amulet" - I had a combination of 60-70 returned results from Google and Alta Vista search services;
Among the multiples, one that I spotted was a seasons sale put up by an antique artifacts merchant locates in the U.S (The web host also operates a secondary web store at Ebay); learnt from my friend's earlier episode where my buddy never did what he supposed to i.e. asked if I can be shown with some large, detailed images; the owner responded positively and mailed me with two photos of front and rear section of the said item, they are not very well exposed; but I was satisfied. I put up the lowest bid at USD9-95 as per his suggestive retailed price, surprisingly, he agreed (primarily I think partly due to his business is concentrating on selling pricey antique Buddhist heads and figures of larger scales and this unattended piece from nowhere, virtually has been laying there for ages & was not given too much attention to it).
Actual item received
168k Jpeg on enlargement
Actual item received
148k Jpeg on enlargement
Treat it as a Case Study: - This first episode of on-line transaction was not exactly a bitter one as we can use our experience to determine from the details shown above on what we got (front and rear section). I did a quick check since the gentleman who sold him stated in his sales description that it was originated from Chiangmai (that was not too difficult to find out this either).So, I checked. Yes. According to "unofficial" source, it was an original produce of Wat Phra Suthep. Genuine. But it wasn't as aged as the "demo-showcased" picture put up by the seller by claiming it was a produce during the Rattanakosin Period. . How about mine ?... errr. not bad, not bad...I provide few explosive views for some of you to share our web hunt. You can evaluate and judge and present your own findings.
108k & 148k Jpeg on enlargements
So, for RM100 & RM68-00, a bargain or a joke ?
Well, what does all these tell you ? First. Getting reasonably good images is not entirely to be an expensive affair, I know most of you must have yours through hands of friends, monks or temples rather than acquiring from private merchant(s) - the latter could be the most costly entry. Next, I was also trying to alert some of you who intends to acquire votive pieces from open forum can or may experience varying degree of excitement as well as disappointment. The better way (not appropriate to use the word "smart" .. as with my friend's approach (Hey, that is my buddy. ..he is beside me now while I type this) is always try to ASK plenty of questions and availability of any enlarged photos of the sale item(s) that can help to determine the sale - if he gets agitated, then go elsewhere or stop the correspondence immediately. You don't have to feel sorry as long as someone treats and defines trade of Buddhist imageries as a form of a commodity; besides, if he reacts negatively, he is not acting as a good sales assistant either, right ? Lastly, If you are inexperience into verifying something, always ask the seller for more info if you think he is experienced one and if possible, ask some Guru friends of yours for a second opinion (But - please don't mail me..thanks in advance).
Does it end here ? Not exactly. My ever enthusiast friend returned last week and shown me another of his harvest via the web. This time around, possible he has picked up some skills from earlier deal. This was what he got (later he admitted it was exceeded the capped limit of RM100-00 because due to the bundled gold casing - we do know recently, Gold Prices have soured through USD500-00 per ounce right ?); the foreign seller asked for USD29.90 + USD12-00 delivery charges for the package, which comes to about RM150-00. Well, I would think it was not bad, not a bad deal after all...
Will this kind of deals hurt businesses of our friends like Purt (http://www.thailandamulets.com) or Morgan Bonsse (http://www.holybuddha.com) or even someone that has not go to the Internet before in his life
Not quite. First, getting images via the web involves with some risk factors. Although some sellers at popular hot spots like Ebay may provide $$-returned policy but the time, expenses incurred for possible return item may spike up your cost and could even make many miserable days out of you, not to mention possible inter-human conflicts on a failed deal between seller/buyer - all because both don't know each other. I put up a cap of MYR100-00 was because it is all at the expense of whether you are prepare to flush the amount to the toilet before you do or if you have gotten a bad deal. Next, more importantly - I think for continuous presence on the web, it does call for some logical thinking of what is good business practice even on online web business for this kind of trade. In comparison between trading with a stranger, at least both of our friends can still be located somewhere via our links and I would assume they will treat their sales items with utmost honesty and transparency. In fact, I do hope what we have tried can also inspire both of them in rethinking a new business strategy in how to get another new source for their mechandize. Personally (Frankly), I don't mind paying a little extra premium by trading through a known source in exchange for a bare level of comfort. Trust me, dealing with a stranger is not entirely a good experience after all.
Lastly, what do I do with my purchase ? OUT. Actually, I don't mind to confess to all of you here that I don't keep too many amulets for myself. Uncle Wichien has given me 30-40 pieces (lost count) for the last 15 years and I have distributed to all my family members, business partners, friends and even to many of my Buddhist staffs. I do know they are good imageries, but I couldn't possibly be "using" so many of them as it defies definition of the basic theory of possession and/or collection.
Those that I am still keeping (5-6 pieces) are mostly tied with a deep sense of sentimental element with them (like the Kescahiyo whom Madam Wanne offered me with a very good reason (she has converted as a Christian and many of her Church friends are questioning the coexistence of this beliefs). In fact, I returned another back to Uncle Wichian few weeks after he gave me one of that when I realized his health was deteriorating after he part with the amulet (he has been using it for the last 40 years and his late wife insisted passing it to me due to a a small episode, that was her last wish before she left ... sad.). As for the one that I have gotten from this deal has been framed with a gold casing and given to a niece of mine as she has just joined Malaysian Airlines as an air hostess; that was the reason why I followed and did. If it is not usable, I will seek for another one for her, that is all.
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