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The one that got away

We are all, like it or not, consumers — short of going off to live in a hut in the wilderness, it's hard to cut yourself off completely from using services or goods made by other people. And for most of us, the majority of our purchases come from complex supply chains operated by and for large corporate entities that specialize in supplying what most of us are willing to buy, most of the time. (This isn't automatically the same as what we want, but neither is it automatically undesirable rubbish ...)

But some purchases are different because they're unique.

Of course, we can commission bespoke work, if we have the money: it's usually more expensive than buying off-the-shelf, though, because bespoke items don't have a lengthy production run over which the design costs can be amortized.

We can buy antiques: if a piece of furniture has survived a century of heavy use, then it's probably not going to fall apart as fast as a £15 IKEA table.

And then there's the odd item that defies categorization: an artefact that fits a unique and valuable niche in one's life, but which is unheard-of in the world of mass production and which you see only once and regret failing to buy on the spot for ever after.

In my case, it was a chair, about 15 years ago. It was sitting outside a local antique shop on a bright summer day. I was walking down the street, saw it, and did a double-take. Then I saw the price, and swore. Later that day I told my partner; we went back to the shop and examined it, and went home and discussed it and decided to leave it until tomorrow, because the asking price was equal to 90% of my savings. I screwed up my nerves to the point of returning, willing to buy the thing (or at least to haggle) ... only to find it had already been sold. At the time I was philosophical about it (I missed the chance to blow all my savings on a chair?) but it's come to mind ever since for two reasons: firstly, as an example of the opportunistic find that got away, and secondly, as an example of a market failure.

What was so special about a chair that failing to buy it (even at an outrageous price) has haunted me ever since?

Well, this was no ordinary chair: it had clearly been made to order, probably during the Arts and Crafts period, for an eccentric Victorian Scottish gentleman who wanted a reading machine. I don't have any photographs of it, alas (this predated cameraphones: in fact, it predated both my first mobile phone and my first digital camera) but it was at heart a wood-framed armchair, with brocade seat and back padding (badly in need of restoration).

But that's not all. It was a recliner, with a deck-chair like prop behind the back (which was hinged), and a leg-rest (also padded) that could be pulled out from a drawer hidden under the seat, then angled to the user's desire. Being rather more inflexible than a modern recliner, the right arm-rest was cunningly hinged to open sideways, like a rear-hinged car door, to allow entry and egress. The left arm-rest supported an elaborate adjustable wood-and-brass book reading stand, clearly modelled on a music stand, with a small circular side-table on an arm (for the wee dram of single malt) and an oil lamp holder. My memory may be playing tricks, but I'm also fairly sure there was a magnifier. Oh, and did I mention the bookshelves built into the armrests and lower back (below the reclining section)?

Yes, it's a market failure. While you can buy reading chairs with built-in bookshelves today, they constitute a tiny market niche: most people simply don't read that much, and among those who do, specialized seating is a secondary consideration. Also, the sheer amount of detail on this antique far exceeds anything I've seen in contemporary designs (possibly because the wealth distribution was wider, making labour proportionately cheaper: we're looking at a bespoke creation for the Victorian 1% — the equivalent of a waterproof 80" flatscreen TV built into a hot tub for two with en suite cocktail bar, only rather more durable and elegant). So, being older and less impecunious, I keep my eyes open for a similar piece ... with no expectation of ever finding one.

(And it's not the only "one that got away" that I'll never now be able to buy. Back when it was still flying, both my wife and I had a yen to fly on Concorde, just once: a more affordable alternative to Richard Branson's sub-orbital hops, I suppose. And we were, had we known it, in with a chance — in the early noughties her brother worked for British Airways, and there was a friends and family discount scheme. But we kept putting it off, because it was expensive (even with a staff discount) and would involve pestering him, and it would be available next year ... until, alas, Concorde's retirement was announced at short notice and we couldn't enrol in the discount scheme in time and we couldn't afford the undiscounted fare. (Two full fare returns from Heathrow to JFK would have eaten 90% of my after-tax income for the year. Even the F&F fare with Concorde one-way and a regular economy 747 seat coming back would have caused serious belt-tightening.) And that's one that's probably never coming back, because the chances of a fare-paying passenger-carrying SST flying again in my lifetime aren't high.(I don't count the supersonic bizjets of the 0.1%.))

Anyway, here's a question: what's your "one that got away" failed purchase? Excluding anything that was or is in mass production at the time, or that you really couldn't afford. (So: antique cars are okay, current models are not; and you don't get an exception for a Bugatti Veyron unless you could genuinely afford it at the time.)



Before my Mum died (as in a few weeks before) she got my Dad a present. A Nissan Skyline Coupe that had been tooled up for racing. Apparently the car who imported it, took it out round Silverstone once got out and vowed never to drive it again.

I got to ride in it once when I came down for Mum's last days. But Dad sold it after a year before I ever got a chance to drive it. Your line about the Veyron made me think of that.

Hmmm. Also various special edition books I never got I guess. Though that chair does sound awesome. Ah well.


That’s easy: a first edition of The Lord of the Rings in fine condition with dustjackets in a bookshop in Hay on Wye in about 1980. It would have set me back £700 and wiped out my entire savings.


Well.. that one time in Turkey, the exotic alluring beauty of a local Erzurum tribal leader (warlord at times) daughter. But alas I had only a single Camel to my name, he required two.



Owwww ...!

You know? If you'd kept them in good nick, those three volumes would have out-performed £700 invested in the stock market for 25 years very handily. (I think they'd have been up to £30K or more by 2005, if they were truly first printing. Allen and Unwin kept reprinting the hardcovers throughout the 1960s, but even an assorted batch of twenty-something'th printings would have been worth upwards of £1000 by then.)


Oho, so in that case, you were the one that got away.


I really really wanted the Atari jaguar to play aliens vs predator when it came out. That probably counts more as a dodged bullet, considering it's failure. Pretty sure the salesman who I asked regarding the price knew it, from the look on his face. Funny how some products seem to come out pre-condemned.


Easy...a '72 USA Fender Jaguar, for around 1000€ (an absolute steal - that model routinely goes for double that). Cash-flow problems prevented me from buying it, and by the time these were solved, it was of course already gone.

Also, that's funny: my great-uncle (literary critic and SF buff, wrote in praise of K. Dick in Le Monde back when it was first translated into French) had a similar kind of chair...although it wasn't an antique (probably a repurposed dentist's chair), it had the bookstand, the cup-holder, and a flexible reading-lamp mounted on the chair's right shoulder. Best reading throne I ever did see...weights half a ton, though, so it's probably still gathering dust in his massive library (old manor-house in the French countryside, no one goes there anymore).


Art, for sure. My income's changed rapidly over the last ten years as I went back to school and changed careers. There are two artists whose work I fell in love with during that time, both of whom have been successful enough that, as my income has grown, their prices have outpaced my income. At any given time I've been able to afford what their work cost 1-2 years earlier.


Disqualified by reason of being in mass production at the time.

(Now, if you'd run across a Jaguar at a car boot sale last year and failed to get it, that would qualify.)


Charlie, you might be interested in this illustration of Regency reading chairs which I think is by Rudolph Ackermann who documented these things at the time. Might be a starting point for more research?


A matching set of carved mahogany chairs, dated from 1570 or so...for $ Australia (where anything from before 1850 is considered a fabulously rare ancient artifact). They were in very bad condition, but still solid, and the damage was nothing a decent restorer couldn't have improved. Alas, I was but a starving uni student, and the urge to eat overcame my historical passion


I actually had nearly enough BA miles for my wife and I to get a free trip to NYC on Concorde.

Nearly. Like I was a couple of thousand short.

And I knew that my then business flight milage would see me easily hit that target some time in the next 3 months.

And then Paris happened.

C'est la vie


One share of Microsoft stock upon inital public offering in the 80s. I almost bought it for $35 U.S., but was a poor graduate student at the time and needed the money for other things (like food ;-). I read a few years back that because of splits and value appreciate (especially in the 90s) that one share would be worth around $1 million today. Sigh.


In 2000, some superduper PDA or other came out, and I just had to have it. I was, at the time unemployed and W.U. was only marginally employed.

I went to the website, did all the ordering pre-flight routine, which involved creating an account. I finally clicked the "buy" button, and… nothing. Perhaps their credit card servers were thrashing at all the load of people wanting to buy their shiny.

At any rate, I tried the next day. Having meticulously recorded my account information, I was understandably surprised when I could not log back in. But I was nevertheless half-assedly in the system as it would not let me create a new account my name, which was needed for the credit card info, reporting that they already had such a person. Two days later I was extremely relieved (I actually had no legitimate use for such a device). I had lived the emotional roller-coaster of what it is to be a Loyal USAian Consumer, without it actually costing me anything, and returned to my shabby bohemian lassitude feeling well-fulfilled.

I still don't have a smart phone or a PDA, although I will in about a week!

I'm envious about Charlie's chair. I also regret, rather frequently as it turns out, not getting a particularly nice signed print of a "Pacific Northwest Indian Art" image of the sun, at some gallery or other in Vancouver or Victoria BC. At the time, I had never bought art that cost upwards of US $250, although now we have some original oils and watercolors worth far more.


A classical guitar by a certain niche maker, available on ebay a few years ago for 400 quid - there were no other bidders and I just forgot to bid.

These days he's rather better known, and the same model goes for about 4/5 times the price.


Shoot. I forgot about the mass production rule for my first one. The art print still stands.


Some original sketches possibly by Mervyn Peake turned up on eBay about ten years ago and were going ridiculously cheaply. At the time I wasn't aware of the full range of his pictorial work and thought they weren't his. Wrong.


An Atari falcon 030, most of it's advances should've been on the 1040STE, but still a very nice, last example of Atari's TOS computers. Half the price of a comparable Mac, and still out of reach.


The last time I was in New York City, I was wandering around lower Manhattan, just looking at stuff.

I thought about going a few more blocks to visit the World Trade Center, but I was getting tired. I figured I'd do it next trip, because hey, it wasn't going anywhere...


I'm not good with "stuff", so I don't really have things that got away that I dwell on. I've passed up opportunities to buy vintage clothing that I'll never get back, but I've found other vintage clothing that I like just as much. I'm wearing this great 70s shirt made out of plastic and wallpaper patterns right now, actually.

There was also a chair that I did pass up- it was this exotic designer chair that was almost a home version of what Captain Kirk might use. It was $5K, and the clerk assured us, "But this is a limited edition, signed by the designer, so you know you're not getting a knock-off."

My wife and I looked at each other, and said, "Knock offs, huh?" We never got around to looking for a knock off. It wouldn't really fit with the house we bought. But it was a cool chair.


Didn't look like mass production compared to the SONY & Nintendo floods, but my bad also. But there was this $5 Mac IIFX I walked away from at a thrift store...


Charlie, for the price of that ancient super-chair, do you think you can find a master to build you a similar one?


Not my own, but one that I remind my mother of all the time.

My mother had been picking up some band supplies for me from the local music store. While she was there, he was looking at the used French Horns to see if there was a reasonably priced one there. There was one particular double horn that caught her eye. I can't remember who the manufacturer was, but the horn was not gold or silver colored. This one was rose gold. And the price wasn't much higher than the other common horns next to it.

To this day, she can't believe that she never bought that horn. I still have not seen a reasonably priced rose gold French Horn.


Easy. A 1964 1/2 Mustang Convertible with < 15,000 miles, literally driven by a little old lady, kept in near-mint condition. A friend's grandmother was selling it, but I had graduated and was flat broke. Thanks for reminding me, Charlie.


Thin Lizzy "Live and Dangerous" Japanese import - double vinyl LP + belly band, from a basement record shop in St Anne's Court, Soho.

It was, I think, about £8-9 but normal LPs cost something like £2.50 or less at the time, and I was quite young (pocket money of about 20p a week). Although I was with my big brother, he didn't have enough money on him to sub me, or any other means of paying!


Based on what I know about getting bespoke furniture made, no: I reckon it'd cost quite a bit more. This was an elaborate piece made out of antique oak; you're probably talking the cost of a cheap car.


This sounds like a problem for the matter compilers -- at some point, something like a Thing-O-Matic will be able to produce items like this, or the parts used to build it. I do mean functionally, not aesthetically (no antique oak), but, you know, I'd take that. Wish I knew enough about those things to try and help write the inputs to produce one of these.


But do you need it to be an elaborate piece made of ancient oak? I'm talking about the same functionality.


You're missing the point here. (Functionality can be bought wholesale from IKEA -- one reclining armchair, a BILLY bookcase, and a goosenecked LED reading lamp.)


To the original question, the closest I can come to "one that got away" is probably an autograph.

So, there's this concept of the autograph book, in which one collects autographs of famous people. I've got one, but it's an Autograph Book of Thoth.

I've got a Book of Thoth tarot deck, and I get famous people to sign individual cards that I associate with them. So I've got Graham Chapman on "The Fool" (he spoke at my university before his death, and this deck was in my pockets at the time, and that's how my tradition started). I've got Robert Anton Wilson on "The Wheel of Fortune", I've got Alton Brown on the "Art" (as in "artisan") card (covered with alchemical symbols), and I've got Neil Gaiman on "The Moon".

(Interesting story behind that last one, too. Presented him with three cards I thought might fit him, and explained that unlike many of the other people who've signed, he understood Tarot well enough to pick for himself. He loved that, but then further suggested that we let the cards pick by shuffling and drawing. "The Moon" came up, and then we both geeked for a moment about how well it fit. And by the way, Alton Brown similarly geeked about how appropriate the art card was, and recognized at least some of the alchemical symbols before I pointed them out to him.)

But I've missed chances to get many more signatures. I don't carry the whole deck around with me anymore.


The sort of in-house band at my old school in Northampton was named "Dark". I once recorded one of their gigs after hauling a gigantic tape deck across town. Anyway, they cut a single, which I did not buy (having no record player). Last I heard, a copy of that single recently sold for £4000.


I probably do miss the point here. What was so special about the chair if you think 3 items from IKEA can replicate its functionality completely? The beauty? The uniqueness?

I mean, you are talking about market failure. So, would you buy the same chair if it was produced today in a Chinese factory out of aluminum and plastic and cost 100£?


I had a factory sealed Star Wars trilogy on VHS--the remastered version from 1994, NOT the Special Edition--that I found at Half Price Books for $1.

But then my roommate opened it. Sometimes I wonder if that would have been worth something some day; they already go for around $20 on ebay.


I remember sometime in the very early '90s glancing at the stock exchange listings in the paper (this was back when any 'serious' paper published the full LSE and AIM closing prices each day) and noticing that ARM Holdings were priced at 6p per share. I've never been into investing, but called my bank's stock trading department for a quote for buying GBP100 worth but was put off by the fee the bank wanted. A couple of weeks later the price had bounced up to 36p per share, and I cursed myself for missing the opportunity and forgot all about.

Just googled, and ARM's price today is 552p per share...


A book of telegraph codes for saving money when sending telegrams; an early form of data compression. I convinced myself it wasn't useful unless I could get at least two of them. I guess that really I have far to many books already, so you just have to stop buying don't you ....


I haven't thought of an example of stuff I missed out on. But I regret that I didn't go to work at Netscape (then called Mosaic Communications) in 1994. I knew people there, and with a little persistence I could have gotten myself hired. But I wasn't sure if that worldwide web thing had any legs.

You can have your reading chair. Edinburgh has to have several talented but starving woodworkers who would make one to your specification. And it would increase the world's stock of unique and peculiar items by one.

I commissioned a bespoke computer desk three years ago. It was a great experience, and I have a uniquely cool place to work now. (Pics and brief writeup here. )

My wife and I are in the early stages of commissioning the same artist for a headboard. I can't wait.


I was on the friends and family list for RedHat pre-IPO stock. I had money and could have bought a stack, but the various machinations with the people managing the IPO stock (the brokers, not RedHat. It made the news and everything. A nerds vs. brokers thing!) turned me off to the point of saying "forget this".

Kinda wish I had persevered.

But stock (especially pre-IPO options) isn't really a thing.

There was an old union hall in my town that was up for sale about the time I was looking for a house. It's an unreasonable amount of space, but also rather unstructured and neighborless, so various amounts of mayhem would have ensued. It was about $100k beyond my budget.

I found out much later my Dad would have helped me buy it as an investment. Nuts.


Edinburgh has to have several talented but starving woodworkers who would make one to your specification.


Edinburgh has to have several talented and very expensive woodworkers who would make one to your specification.

There, I fixed it for you.


That desk is about the size of my office!


Not quite a "thing" but it definitely got away: I was in Philly for a conference speaking gig around 2000 or 2001, and walked past a small theater on South Street where Warren Zevon was playing -- tix were available and the show started within the hour.

But I said to myself, "No, I'm speaking tomorrow, and I'll end up red-eyed and hoarse of voice." (okay, I'm paraphrasing)

As it turned out, being the last speaker at a small conference, all but two attendees had already vacated to catch early flights.

Now he's gone, there's no getting that again.


I wouldn't put all that much money on supersonic bizjets actually existing any time soon. AFAIK there's only Aerion seriously looking at it, and they're at the really, really early stages (a sheet of metal in a supersonic windtunnel). They have 50 on the order-book, at $80M apiece, but there's no way they'll fly before (say) 2018.

Ones that got away? Houses, mostly. Houses are great for what-if.


Last year I just missed (literally by two minutes) bidding on a no-longer-made stack loading CD / DVD printer; the auction ended without any bids and I would have got it for £9.99 + postage if I'd remembered in time. The nearest equivalent now sells for around £500.

Lots of other things over the years that seemed really cool, got postponed because I didn't have the money, and went out of production pretty soon thereafter - e.g., at one point someone was selling a 100-CD USB carousel disk reader for about £50, it would have been amazingly cool to have but I suspect sod all use in the long term - it's months since I've needed to use a CD-ROM other than an install disk.


For me, the purchase I missed was a handcrafted wooden chess set, set with pieces done from a peasant-class inspiration, that I saw in 1977 in a tourist-only store in St. Petersburg (which was still Leningrad at the time).

I would have blown my entire souvenir money for the trip, but, foolishly, I followed the advice of our KGBtour guide who said I'd find better and cheaper sets in Moscow, our next step.

Of course, I never found any set like it. And I still regret my moment of weakness, 25 years later...


Not necessarily true. Over the years I have heard wood workers say that the furniture they make is quite cheap (for what it is). It's when the middlemen marks it in the showroom up by 300% (at least) that it starts to look unaffordable.


A B-52 ejection seat. I was in what you could call a collector's shop of recycled aircraft parts while on a fairly brief visit in Tucson Arizona. I was thinking of buying it as a gift for a friend.

You know, your story about that chair prompted me to do a new Google search for "armchair bookcase". I do one every now and then, like I do other related searches for antique or modern library-related furniture.

Since my last search the number of armchair bookcases has greatly multiplied. It's not so much that designers have been working more on such objects but that people have been placing their old designs on the Web more. But not a single one of them is as interesting or comfy - looking as that reading chair you just described. Things like the Kosha chair or the Jack Rogers Hopkins chair look stunning but they are too inflexible.

I think you should consider having that arts and crafts dream chair made in those parts of Europe where custom furniture is still affordable. Or have it made in South Africa.

Personally I'd prefer to have something a bit like a Ransa book sofa, which I would make for myself if I weren't busy making my own "perfect" desk.


Hm, well if we include people, I missed a chance to see Will Eisner when he came to speak to Dublin at an arthouse cinema in Temple Bar I used to go to. I can't remember why exactly I didn't go, possibly travel related.


Back in 2007, I gather a whole bunch of folks were working on them -- people like Dassault and Sukhoi. And NetJets said they'd buy 300 if a vendor could meet a certain minimum spec.

I suspect your "not before 2018" is correct, due to macroeconomic effects not anticipated by many people in 2007 ...


Hi Charlie I'm not offering my services here (I live t'other end of the country) but I'm fairly certain that if you avoid high profile cabinet makers (who, like artists make you pay for the BS and are expensive) and approach joinery firms that specialise in restoration/conservation work (such as I have worked for) you may find it considerably less than you might think for the same degree of quality. Construction going the way it is at the moment you could probably get a good deal, but timber prices are increasing drastically and good oak is getting scarce. On things that got away, I helped my friend and boss make a desk for John Brunner (him being local) but my friend didn't tell me who it was for 'til after he had delivered it. He didn't feel it was important


A particular violin.

As a hobby and side gig, I play violin. Have for almost 30 years now, and I'm good enough to get paid sometimes. Anyway, a few years back, my apartment got broken into. I came home to freaked out cats and a lot of stuff missing. After I placed calls to the cops and my insurance company, I ended up on the phone with my dad. That's when I noticed my violin was gone. That actually affected me, compared to everything else, which was just "stuff".

This was the middle of summer, so I didn't have an immediate need for the violin. I could wait for the insurance money to show up and then explore my options.

Over a month or so, I whittled my choices down to two violins - one from a local shop, one from a shop in St. Louis my ex-teacher put me in touch with. I wanted to get the one from St. Louis, but it was 60% more than the local one and I couldn't really discern 60% difference between the two. After a lot of thought and talking with friends and family, I bought the local one and used the savings to pay off some debt instead.

Don't get me wrong, I like my violin. Especially once I figured out the right strings to put on it and got a better bow. It wasn't a "bad" or "wrong" choice. But I've come to believe that I should've spent the extra money. That violin spoke to me, and I didn't realize it. The best allegory I can come up with is that it's like in the first Harry Potter book when he finds his wand - that's what that violin was like for me the first time I played it.

Ah well - if I ever win the lottery, I'll have to call that shop in St. Louis and see if they can put me in touch with the person they sold it to.


Oddly for someone who makes no secret of being a consumer I really had to wrack my brains for one of these. There have been plenty of things I wanted and haven't been able to afford at the time, but none of them linger in my mind. Probably because many of them are electronic goods, and so I've had later, better stuff.

After much wracking of brains though, I do remember one thing. There was a book a friend of mine borrowed from the library to do with art inspired by Revelations. Very fancy, very expensive, and some wrangling with family members I managed to get enough of them to contribute birthday presents as money to the "Buy Eloise this book fund" to afford it. Sadly by the time this actually happened, the publisher had gone bust.

Also, even more sadly, some years later (about 10 I guess), I ended up buying a lab manual that cost 4 times more than this book that I'd desperately saved up for. I still have it, but it's far less impressive to show friends and loved ones.


I look forward to the day sometime in the future, when a wealthy Charles Stross revisits this story, only the acquisition loss is one of the last Vulcan bombers... (or are they considered "mass production" items).


My wife and I honeymooned in Victoria, British Columbia, a city with many lovely antique stores. It was on the third floor of one of these that I found The Desk. It was the size -- and price -- and probably mass -- of a used car. It had drawers and shelves and compartments and a gorgeous roll-top. It was so large and broad that once you sat down it filled almost your entire field of view. It was beautiful. It was unique. It was perfect.

But we'd just spent mumble thousand dollars on a wedding and another mumble grand on our trip. Shipping it home would have cost another fortune, and it probably wouldn't have fitted in our little apartment anyway.

It was either oak or maple, but nevertheless... I still pine for it. (I'm sorry.)


My one that got away was a dumb valet. It’s not that dumb valets are particularly rare but this particular item suited the way I live, the layout of my bedroom and crucially the way I dress and undress.

Before the recent birth of my son and the resultant increase in the amount of snot etc that gets smeared on my clothing when I return home from work I used to wear suits every day. I like wearing suits. They suit me and provide me with the same self-confidence that a good suit of armour provided a medaevil knight.

This dumb valet was arranged so that the trousers and the jacket and the shirt (if you were going to wear it two days in a row) all went on different hangers but so cunning laid out that they didn’t take up any more room than any other dumb valet and so that they didn’t trail over each other.

(I can’t be the only person in the world who takes my jacket off before my trousers and my shirt off after my jacket and who also can’t see the point of taking off my clothes, putting them on the bed for a moment in order to hang them up in the right order when I could just put then straight on a hanger.)

It had a rack for shoes and drawer for cuff links and so on.

Having a dumb valet would help me keep my clothes neat and tidy, keep my bedroom neat and tidy (thus removing a source of marital conflict) and leave the chair in the bedroom free to use a chair.

Crucially, this dumb valet had a tall mirror, facing the other way i.e. if you were facing the mirror the hanger bits were at the back of the mirror.

This meant that I could have had replaced the existing bedroom mirror with the dumb valet with no extra furniture in bedroom.

I saw it in a bespoke or rare furniture shop in the Cotswolds. It was not cheap but I could have afforded it but I couldn’t quite work out how I was going to get it back to Edinburgh. When I went back a few months later determined to buy it and then ship it North it was gone.

What marks it out as a market failure for me is that people design dumb valets so that they are laid out to wear the clothes in the same order as people; forgetting that dumb valets are used inside out.

I may have to make my own.


I think that the mass-production qualification is relevant iff they are in production at the time. And then, I don't think Vulcans were ever mass production, not the way that, say, Lancasters or Spitfires were in their day.


I cannot recall any products that I have intended to buy, however in the same spirit:

In 2001 (when I was 10) I was on holiday in Florida, and had the opportunity to watch a real live night-time shuttle launch (from admittedly a long long long way away). However it was at something like 2am and despite me asking them my parents failed to wake me up. They claim it was just an orange blur rising into the clouds, but I don't think I'll ever be able to entirely forgive them.


The original painting of Donato's "Cartographer." Link

It was for sale at a convention in Canada--I'm pretty sure it was WFC 2001 in Montreal--and the convention was sparsely attended. (Post-9/11 travel issues, bad weather.)

When I rounded the corner in the art show and saw it, my knees when out from under me. Literally. I hit the floor and couldn't get up--that's how wonderful this painting was to me.

At the time I stupidly said, "Oh, no, I cannot possibly afford this" and didn't bid. It eventually sold for a price that, converted from Canada dollars, would not actually have been so horrible for me to pay off over a couple of years. It went for a good deal less than it probably should have, likely because of the low attendance at the con.

I have a print of it (generously sent to me by Donato when I gushed to him about it at the SFWA mill-n-swill a couple of years later). The print doesn't do the original justice; the colors in the print are somewhat greener and lose the depth of the original. I wish I knew who owned it so perhaps I could at least see it again.


Rolex Explorer II, the ugly one. $750.00 from a reputable jeweler 20 years ago. Now worth more that I make in 6 months. I should have grabbed it but I already had a Submariner and the Explorer was UGLY.


A blackface Arp Odyssey synthesizer, which showed up at a garage sale in Mill City, Oregon that we went to for no obvious reason when I was 14. I knew what it was, and it was something ridiculous like $20 (in 1986) which was outside my price-range since I was broke at the time. (I'd probably bought comics the day before or something. Either way, I was penniless.)

I begged my parents, but the people at the sale said they hadn't been able to get any sound out of it which is why it was so cheap. Well, yeah. No speakers built in, no amp, and it's kind of complicated to get sound out of an old Arp anyway. Set the sliders wrong and you don't get any noise at all...

So yeah. We walked away from it.

These days, that synthesizer is worth $2000+, if you can find them. I would have just like to have had it to play with.


As an avant-weird music fanatic, I am currently mourning the unavailability of Time-Lag Records' reissue of "Out Of The Bachs," a 1968 private press psychedelic rock album that has become one of the most sought-after records in collectors' circles.

Here's what the label said (and the guy has cred with me):

"one of the most legendary & valuable garage / psychedelic lps ever, this ones been seeing massive hype and huge price tags for decades now, all with good reason. for a 60s private press lp it’s got a truly remarkable number of things going for it that set it apart from literally every other lp in this bag. an album of all original material that amazingly combines the best elements of garage, psychedelia, and teenage self release realness without hitting any of their many pitfalls along the way...."

And the label also explains why this reissue is so special:

"...locally pressed as an edition of only 150 copies, the few remaining original lps are true artifacts… which makes it totally confounding that all past reissues have sadly not even come close to capturing the crystalline, biting fidelity of the original album. we’ve fixed that once and for all with total top-notch mastering from a pristine original copy, to bring you just as close to the soul-piercing experience of spinning the real thing as possible… pressed on highest quality 180gm virgin vinyl. packaged in an exact reproduction heavy weight reverse tip-on cover, made just like the original, plus exact repro metallic printed labels. one time vinyl only pressing of 500 copies."

As you can see, half of the appeal in collectors' circles is the ability to write the come-hither pitch and Nemo, proprietor of Time-Lag, is one of the best in the business. But this sold out in a flash, first because many of the albums went to the Kickstarters who helped fund the reissue and second because it IS really in demand.

So it looks like I'm out of luck unless I want to expose myself to the tender mercies of resellers. (I think not).


Once, when I was a student, I was accosted by a random street-lunatic near the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He was waving a sheaf of papers and apparently trying to sell copies of a "Lady and Child poem" that he'd written himself. I shut down the conversation and backed away as quickly as I could, nearly tripping over a bollard in my confusion.

A few years later I learned that it was Seamus Heaney, making a symbolic point about his role as Oxford Professor of Poetry. I could have had an original manuscript, but my regret is that I flubbed the whole encounter so badly. I try to me more sympathetic to street-lunatics now.


How about one that didn't get away but I didn't think was a big deal at the time? Stationed at Norfolk VA naval base in the 80's and went to a kind of rummage sale at Hampton VA with a friend and picked up a couple of books for my father (who collects antiquarian books). I found Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass at a book seller. They were old and I knew they were valuable (I had no idea at the time how much) and winced at the price, $30 US each at the time and being a poor sailor that was a lot of beer money I could have used otherwise. I bought them anyway and they've been locked in Dad's glass book nook ever since...


Mine's Concorde-related. A couple of times a year British Airways would make an Arctic jaunt out of Toronto International Airport; something like 3 hours flight time, North Pole and back to YYZ. The last time they did one I could've barely afforded it if I'd wiped out my savings... now I'll never get the chance.

-- Steve


Travelling home from London to Glasgow one December, British Rail were trialing their new ATP (Advanced Passenger Train). It was high speed and tilted round corners. They had an offer that if you got to Euston early you could volunteer to travel on the ATP. Un- fortunately it a tendnency to make people sick on the corners and sometimes the coaches forgot to un-tilt. The trial was cancelled from that day and I pulled out of Euston able to see on sitting forlornly at another platform. Not quite the first trip on the "Rocket" but still wish I had been travelling a day earlier.


I'm not sure if this entirely counts, but when I had the opportunity to go to the one and only Star Trek convention that has hit the Twin Cities in my time, I could have paid $80 to get my picture with Shatner, $80 to get my picture with Nimoy, or $160 to get one picture with the BOTH of them. Considering my finances at the time (I was a college student working at a bar on weekends) and the prices of entrance alone, I opted for the $30 shot with the wonderful John de Lancie, which I'm very happy with (and whom everyone thinks is my father when they see the picture). I've since realized that I'll likely never have another chance to sit between Kirk and Spock, something that saddens me not only because of my own lost photo opportunity, but because of the implications.


(I don't count the supersonic bizjets of the 0.1%.)

These exist?

OK I did some Googling. Maybe near future for $80 million each. With an estimated market of maybe 200 to 300 total in the world. And the airframe industry has always been way overly optimistic as to demand and deliveries for the "latest toys".

That seems to put it into the .001% or less.

I wonder how many citizens have surplus military supersonic jets other than what's his name who runs Oracle?


A 1960 Gibson SG, first year of issue, when it still had the "Les Paul" logo. (Les hated the design, which is why they took his name off it after the first year.) It had a really clunky "sideways" tremolo bar, which most players took off once they'd tried it. It was in the local newspaper for $300, an utter steal. I called the number, got the owners's mother, who didn't know anything about it. She said to call back later -- and I got distracted and didn't get back until the next day. When I did, it'd been sold.

I saw the guitar a week later; I was working in a music store at the time, and they guy who bought it brought it in to have the repairman look it over. It was fucking MINT; everybody in the place was drooling over it. That was 25+ years ago, and I've regretted losing that guitar ever since.


I've just realised most of the times I thought "well, better leave that" I actually didn't have the money.

I do miss the Fred Perry x Raf Simons jacket though. Also, I'm trying hard not to care about the Stone Roses reunion, which I skipped on because the tickets went on sale at the thin end of the month.


The Pink Floyd Division Bell tour gig at Earl's Court, back in '94

I had even paid for the ticket. But I felt totally knackered, and cried off. That was their last concert on their last tour to date, and almost certainly the last ever (a set at Live 8 doesn't really count the same).

I've seen the bassist from that tour, Guy Pratt, playing since - a few months back in the basement of the Phoenix in London. But Floyd themselves (a band I'd loved from my teenage years), no.


I happened to chance a fantastic exhibition at the V&A. I really wanted to buy the book, but it was £35 or so, much more than I would normally spend on a book, and I wasn't flush at the time.

The pictures still haunted me, so I went back to try to buy it online. Yes, it is available, but for over £200.

It's the same dilemma all over again, but with an order of magnitude more cost! Should I buy it?

[note to self: always preview comments when you can!]


Not one that got away, but there's a chair fairly similar to the one Charlie described, currently on exhibit at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. It was made (if I recall) in the 1950s. It's an abstract arts and crafts design (yes, I didn't think that was possible either. There's some good pieces there). The thing is, it's made from wood, it appears to be quite comfortable, and it has an integral bureau, instead of the simple slab desk. I'd guess it could hold about 20 books. It was built as a rather whimsical writing desk by a local artist. Unfortunately, since it's one of a kind, it's now in the museum instead of for sale, and I think the man who made it passed away some time ago.


Found a picture. Probably not as comfortable as the reading machine that Charlie described, but I thought it was cool.


How many blog readers WANT that chair - enough for a reasonable production run?


The Ramones last came to Helsinki in 1994. The warm-up band was a Finnish band, Ne Luumäet, which started by translating Ramones songs into Finnish but soon after started composing their own songs, still in the same style.

I liked Ne Luumäet and listened a lot to Ramones, but for some reason I thought "not this time, I'll go see them next time they're around".

And the next time obviously never came, and never will.

For some reason there still are multiple bands playing ramo punk here, so I listen to them nowadays.


A Michael Jackson lapel pin.

Back in 1995, I deployed to Bosnia as part of the mission to enforce the Dayton peace accords. My duties included carting my colonel around to visit local officials. I had to wait outside with the truck, which meant I got to interact and trade with the locals, especially children.

A lot of them collected znacki -- little lapel pins from various Communist youth groups, or sporting clubs, or factories, or party meetings. Some of them even had celebrities, like Saddam Hussein! I had hard currency, they had souvenirs -- it was a good trade. There was this one kid who had Michael Jackson znacki. I have never any object, before or since, with so much concentrated celebrity kitsch mojo!

I begged and pleaded, offered him dollars and deutschmarks, but he wouldn't budge. The other kids in the village started mocking him for being such a fool. I could have easily leveraged their peer pressure into getting that pin.

But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I told the kid that I admired the piece, and that I respected his decision to hold on to it. I told the other kids to lay off him. Then the colonel got out of his meeting, and we drove away. But somewhere out there is that pin....


The only one that my pack-rat mind can recall hasn't gotten away, it's I'm just not prepared to spend $200+ on a second hand paperback copy of Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward sight unseen. If it's was for sale at my preferred local Second-hand bookseller that would be another story.


Wow! Could you tell us more about that? Was that symbolic point written up or described anywhere?


I once happened by a small shop in Seattle which had a beautiful solid wood coffee table in the window. A slightly trapezoidal top, edges rounded in two stages. Glowing medium tone stain. Tapering slightly slanted legs. Just the size I wanted. It was lovely. $250 or so I think. Made by some local craftsman. I peered at it. I had the money. Maybe 10% of my savings, and I had just started a job paying double what I had been making before so really it was affordable. I thought it was a bit expensive for a small table.

Then a couple weeks later I got more serious about buying and found that $250 was actually a very good deal for such a thing. It was gone, of course.

Made due with veneered particle board hand-me-down's instead. Years later I bought an unpainted table for $200 and painted it myself. It's ok.


Do paper stock certificates count as things that were in mass production?

Thanks to some overzealous scraping of the CPAN user list¹, I got invited to purchase “friends and family” pre-IPO shares of VA Linux. On the day of the IPO, as soon as I saw that the shares were trading at about 10x the price I had committed to buy them² for, I was on the phone to the broker, DB Alex Brown: “SELL! SELL! SELL!” But I kept ten shares in the account, mostly for sentimental value.

I contemplated calling the brokerage again and asking them to send me the shares as a paper stock certificate, because I had heard that those certificates had pictures of Tux (the Linux penguin) on them, and I thought that would be a cool thing to frame and put on my wall. I kept putting off that decision, the stock kept tanking, VA Linux became VA Software, and finally DB Alex Brown announced that I would have to pay an annual fee if I wanted to keep my account open with them. At that point I called to find out about getting paper certificates, but of course by that point I wouldn’t be able to get one with Tux. So I just cashed them in.

¹I assume that’s how they found me; the irony was, while I had created an account on CPAN, I hadn’t actually uploaded any files to it. I got credit for being An Open-Source Software Developer without, ahem, actually releasing any open-source software.

²I knew the dot-com economy was bubbling, but I figured that VA Linux was a good bet, partly because they were making actual stuff (computers optimized to run Linux) rather than, you know, pet food over the Internet. Of course, one of the reasons the stock tanked was that once Linux became hot, established computer manufacturers were just as happy to make Linux-compatible hardware....


A small house, any small house, sometime in the mid to late 1990s. As it was we bought a 2-bedroom flat in 1989 - which we had trouble affording - and the prices crashed to less than we paid for it and by the late 90s when we could have sold it and moved up we were getting divorced and no longer co-operating on such things.

So now I am back in the little flat, which is poky, damp, and in very poor condition and I will probably never get to live in an ordinary house again because despite being paid more than the average wage there is no actual house - or even well-constructed flat with decent plumbing and wiring and no damp problems - that I could concievably afford. So I will likely be there for the rest of my life.

This might fail the rules of the OP because of course 19th century terraced houses were in a sense mass-produced.


Right around the time of the release of the first Star Wars prequel, I spent about one hour sitting right next to the marketing director of Lucasfilm, and never slapped him across the face. Now the chance will never come again. :(

(Joking aside, I'm sure he's a delightful person who doesn't deserve slapping. But the PREQUEL, guys.)


I used to work at a small, independent bookstore in central Illinois. We had gorgeous, ~8 ft. tall bookshelves with adjustable racks that had been built for the owners by a carpenter who had lost the feeling in his left hand at Iwo Jima (he told me that he had nailed his hand to a board once and didn't realize it until he tried to walk away). When the store went out of business, they were selling them for a few hundred dollars each. Since I had just lost my minimum-wage job, and we lived in a small apartment, and we didn't have credit cards, and we had no way to get them to our apartment, I didn't buy them.


@ 2 @ 4 LotR My "First Edition" is "11th Impression, 1965"

AN original Frank Hampson oil-painting, of DD's head against a star-background ~£55, some years ago ... Not going to the Isle of Man in 1966, when ALL the 3ft-gauge steam railway was open ..... Not keeping my Reid III (Leica IIIf-equivalent) camera!


Okay, I think you're winning this round!


The thing I got rid of and kind of regret was an Optigan

I had got it free from a friend when his parents moved to retire (suspect he got it free or cheap under similar circumstance), then it lived at my Dad's house and when he moved to a sheltered flat I had it got rid of along with his surplus furniture.

The trouble was, as per Wikipedia article, that in some important respects it Wasn't Very Good (TM) but on balance I wish I had kept it, any maybe a friend in a band would have made good use of it.

There was also a book of test questions for some local government officer exams including questions that were essentially 'you want person x to do y, they have no legal obligation to do so, write a letter which strongly implies that they do have an obligation for doing so, but is worded so as you could claim you meant something else if it went to court'. I kick myself for not buying it because I suspect people don't really believe me that it existed.


Thanks to some overzealous scraping of the CPAN user list¹, I got invited to purchase “friends and family” pre-IPO shares of VA Linux.

You too, eh?

(Unlike you, I rode 'em all the way down. This is why I do not play the stock market. But hey, I have shares in slashdot!)


I thought of the other one as soon as I posted.

When I was in graduate school (~1992) I passed up going to a Pearl Jam/Smashing Pumpkins/Red Hot Chili Peppers show because I had to study for a biochem test that would have been two days later.

I listen one or the other of those bands almost everyday, but protein chemistry, well...


Also... my late father worked in the City Of London, essentially adding up columns of numbers on adding machines (his final salary in 1979 was, adjusted for inflation, more or less what I was earning after 6 months as a graduate programmer in 1986). I am 49% convinced that when I was taken up by my Mum to see him in his office when I was somewhere in the 6 or 7 years old range he showed me he was adding numbers on a Kurta. When I saw them described in Bill Gibson's Pattern Recognition and saw one in a museum I felt a shock of recognition which wasn't quite powerful enough to convince me that this isn't a false memory. [Even now, looking at the Wikipedia page makes me want to adjust that percentage upwards] But presumably if so, he could have had it, it was probably thrown away.


s/Kurta/Curta, obviously


I almost bought a hardcover copy of Wireless to replace my beat-up MMPB. I could have had you sign it on your last book tour. But at the time I was a student and very, very broke.


The original cover art for one of my novels. (Not my first, but my second.) Would have cost me a significant percentage of the advance to buy the original, so I didn't. The artist made me a lovely poster of the art that I have framed on the wall, but... not quite the same.


After Michael Bay's adaptation of The Jennifer Morgue grosses a billion worldwide, you can hire people to hunt down the chair and extract it from its current owner.


To answer the question, my one that got away was a t-shirt in a Jakarta market that had a cyclist with "∞ mpg" [that's supposed to be the infinity symbol]. I'd come there to shop, then realized I'd left my rupiah behind. I was too irked with myself to fork out the massive fees an ATM would charge to get more, so I passed on the shirt and have never seen it since. I could probably find it online, but it wouldn't be the same.


In the mid eightie's, through lucky timing, I had a chance to buy an Archie Comics #1 in near mint condition for $400. I could afford it and I did buy it, brilliant me! A few years later, I was feeling poor and sold it along with a very nice Batman #6 comic for $1,100. I see where a similar copy sold at auction recently for $167,000, stupid me! A few words of advice. Anything I've really wanted and not gotten, I've regretted later. Anything I've had and really liked but gotten rid of, I've regretted later. Guess that's why my basement is full.


Not over the top, but it was a large bar of silver I purchased before Y2K, thinking the world would come to a dead end (malaise de fin de siècle). What was I thinking, the world is ending next year! In any event, my regret is twofold, in that I not only ended up selling my slab of silver a few years after 2k, as I needed the dinero, but in hindsight looking at how well silver is performing these days, I should have invested in a few more of those juicy silver bars when I had the resources, which I had back then. Enfin, c'est la vie!


Back in the late '80s there was a bicycle builder from MIT who came up with a design for a really fast rear-wheel-steered tricycle. They actually made some for sale, and there was a shop in Palo Alto that had one for sale for about $2500. I was sorely tempted, but couldn't really afford it, so I passed it up—it wasn't very practical because it was so low to the ground, and it took a lot of practice to learn to control it properly.

It's something that I remember to this day, and that probably wouldn't have been a very smart purchase, but I still sometimes regret not going for it when I had the chance. I've never seen anything like it since.


There used to be an antique/junk shop next door to the Barony Bar.

In there I saw an old school slide rule - the sort that teachers used to hang on hooks over the top of the blackboard and use to demonstrate use of the various scales. It was about 18 inches by 5 feet.

I've been fascinated by slide rules since I was at school and I really wanted this one to hang on the wall at home. Left it a couple of days to see if I could gather the spare cash together. By the time I went back it had gone.

Every time I pass that shop (now a florist) I wonder where 'MY' slide rule is now. Hope it found a good home.


Oh, I want that chair...

For me, it's not quite a purchase I missed - my stepdad had a gorgeous set of office furniture - solid oak desk with green leather, and a wonderfully comfortable matching chair - despite being a desk chair, I could curl up in that chair and read for hours. But for reasons beyond my comprehension, he decided to get rid of it and install a fitted MDF office. Which subsequently disintegrated.

If I'd had anywhere to store it, I would have taken it off his hands like a shot. Didn't even get a chance to find anywhere.


There have been several items which 'got away' But that's because I make and restore furniture and there are many tools which are either no longer available or at best pale shadows of their former efficacy. Many of my more specialised hand tools are older than I am.

The item I remember most was the chest of carving tools which belonged to the master who's final three years were spent carving the panels of the grand salon for the Titanic. Two hundred or so superbly cared for, eminently usable gouges stored by the family through two wars until it surfaced in the eighties. Complete with provenance the price equalled over six months profit (I was then the 'starving woodworker' though it's never been a particularly lucrative life). Even so I was tempted. In the end though I believe it was sold to a museum rather than to any private individual.

I have, as need and opportunity afford gradually accumulated my own carving tools but I still couldn't afford to create a set from the great Sheffield firms. Addis, Henry Taylor and others.


Yes, that's the precise shop I saw the Victorian reading machine in. It's now a florist.



And I am pretty sure that answer will hold for the rest of my life. I simply do not have a desire for unique/signed/handmade/whatever objects. To me, an "antique" car is simply obsolete junk -- or at best, a "greater fool" investment. There are art pieces I wish I could afford, but they do not meet Charlie's qualifications precisely because I could never possibly afford them.


In 1991 I taught a summer class in Computer Science at Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY). The class involved PASCAL programming on a VAX 11/780, and I was told I would be the last instructor to use that computer -- at the end of summer Skidmore was throwing it away. They said that if I came up with a truck I could have it, for free. Briefly I was tempted, as at the time having your own computer with 4 megabytes of RAM was a big deal.

Then I thought about electricity bill.

No, I do not regret it.


I've got a furniture one: this puzzle-box table. I could (just barely) afford to spend US$8000 on a table, but only 20 of them were made and they'd all already been sold when I saw it.

I also regret having missed seeing the Counting Crows live in San Francisco in 2002 (plus or minus a year), but I've seen enough other live music that it's not a big deal for me. (My real personal regret is not moving to Montreal in 2005, when I had a gold-plated excuse to do so that will never come again.)


The Dealers' Room at Readercon 2006. I came across a copy of this.

Priced at US$800.

Because it was signed by both authors.

One of the few occasions I've regretted making my saving roll vs Must Have.


My “one that got away” was a flower-shaped glass bottle. My wife loved it, but we had three weeks of trip ahead of us and I was afraid it would break (and break her heart). We never saw anything like it again.


I never keep books in collectable shape. I read them too much. They end up with creases, and even the occasional tooth-marked page where I had to hold too many things at once.

If I had bought that "first edition", it would be because I couldn't find a second edition at a more reasonable price. (Unlike, e.g., E.E.Smith's "Skylark of Space", where the second (third? fourth?) edition was retro-fitted with TVs replacing newspapers, etc. Tolkien didn't seem to have that kind of problem. And an added appendix doesn't bother me. (Did they? Don't even know. When I read them, I read whatever was there, and didn't re-read them, as they were background, not story.)


Tangible item:

A 12 pounder 16 hundredweight gun (with limber) from 1899. I decided discretion was the better part of valour as I had nowhere to keep it.

Intangible Item:

The Tubular Bells III performance in St James Park. I was on the night shift that ended that day, didn't fancy the look of the weather forecast or the trip to London.


The one that got away was a plant, in about 1995: a very large, very old specimen of Fockea crispa being sold by a University botanical garden to make space for new specimens. It was a bit too expensive for a poor grad student, so I thought I'd wait and buy a seedling sometime.

I have never seen another one. Over the years, I have purchased five or six small plants labeled "Fockea crispa," but they always turn out to be a closely related and much more common species. That monster must have been at least 20-30 years old and today would probably retail for several hundred dollars on ebay. The botanical garden was asking for 25 bucks.


I am 49% convinced that when I was taken up by my Mum to see him in his office when I was somewhere in the 6 or 7 years old range he showed me he was adding numbers on a Kurta. When I saw them described in Bill Gibson's Pattern Recognition and saw one in a museum I felt a shock of recognition which wasn't quite powerful enough to convince me that this isn't a false memory.

That's weird, because I have a similar story about one of the ones that got away. Back in the day when my Dad was young he was really into the car scene (which probably explains why he was a self-employed auto mechanic for 30 years.) When he got married he brought his pride and joy along with him of course, a highly modified '35 Ford.[1] But show pieces like that are high maintenance gals and while I have vivid memories of riding around in it with him, my mom - his wife - made him choose between his fancy mistress and her right about the time I started kindergarten. So my memories of that machine may have made it larger than life. I'd post photos and let you decide, but they're hundreds of miles away under the watchful eyes of the Guardian, by which I mean the black and white shots from my Mom's first few inexpert photo albums and which I should really get around to digitizing one of these days. However - at least in memory - it looked something like this. No, no, the guy in the car and the mooks slouching around are something like what my Dad in his cronies look like now. To get the full flavor of the scene, you'd have to imagine them as my Dad an his cronies the way they were in their early 20's, half of them shirtless to show off their rippling Charles Atlas physiques. And half of them in some really goofy tough guy pose as was their want whenever a young lady attempted to photograph the gang in all it's pump house glory. Ah, those were the days, back when I worshiped the ground my Dad walked on and when I knew other kids were jealous because he was my Dad :-)

[1] I don't know if this entry qualifies (doing some research for a story about our very Elvish future?) since strictly speaking it's actually a mass produced item that was only later modified. But dammit, to guys of my Dad's generation those cars were symbols of their individuality and their belief in personal freedom. And if you have the eye for it, you can see how much of themselves went into making their machines something of a personal statement, what they believed in, what they thought was important, what was proper, right, and just to their clear American eyes. You maybe can't see that part of course, being an outsider from far away. But at the time those mods really did perform double duty as a code fully understood only by the elite and every bit as elaborate and stylized and exclusive as the old Victorian flower codes I assure you. And every bit as grand and silly. That goes without saying ;-)


A hardcover edition of Terry Nation's wonderful kids book "Rebecca's World". Perfect condition, dust jacket intact and wonderful. Spotted it in a small bookstore in rural Ireland. My wife had just discovered she was pregnant with our first child, and I desperately wanted to get this for him/her. Sadly, I was running late, so I went off, intending to go back. The Court ran late, so the shop was closed. By time I got back there, it had closed permanently. The cost of the book now is hideously beyond my ability to afford.


The glue on my 8-tracks gave up and I dumped about 55 gallons of them. A few months later a Time magazine said a WHO one sold for $1,500. Way back I had a chance to buy a 67 Shelby Mustang and a 66 race one for $1500 a piece. I had the cash and more, but was fearful of the money I would have next year. The street one sells for over $75,000 and last race one I read about I went for over $1,000,00. I win! I would have had a high speed ball. But I would have put it into tree. And those grapes were no good.


Unlike, e.g., E.E.Smith's "Skylark of Space", where the second (third? fourth?) edition was retro-fitted with TVs replacing newspapers, etc. Tolkien didn't seem to have that kind of problem.

You haven't read the sixty-page foreward to the current edition of LoTR, then, which discusses all the errata, copy edits, corrections, re-edits and author checks, etc. in mind-numbing detail! The current edition is about as close to JRRT's intended text as current scholars and editors can make it, but that's not saying much ...


a Francesca Woodman print. It would have taken every penny I had--and all of my overdraft. I agonised over it, and decided I couldn't be foolish enough to buy it. When I changed my mind it was too late; it was gone. And I've regretted that ever since. The fact that it would now be worth about 15, 20 times as much is not relevant. Instead it's that I've not had the pleasure of looking at it on my wall every day for the past years.


When I was 16, on a local Ford dealer's lot, a 1965 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 350, for $1600 US. That was a lot at that time (1973,) but I had a job in addition to school, some savings, and could have borrowed the balance.

I didn't know what it was -- I was a math geek, not a motorhead. It looked like a race car inside, with the roll cage and racing seats and no carpet. Very utilitarian. And I already had a VW Beetle, which worked acceptably well if you didn't mind having no heat in the winter (in a clime which routinely went well below freezing during the day.) I passed.

When I told my wife about it, many years later, she kicked me. She was likely justified.


How 'bout one that I have mounted on my wall? Limited edition Barry Hughart The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox with Kaja Foglio art. For $10 in a used book store. I knew that one was worth buying even though it over drew the checking account.


A Pinkham & Smith Visual Quality No. 3, Series IV. It's an old brass lens. Some old brass lenses are rarer than others - this one is pretty rare. It was in a car boot sale, for fifty quid, and I thought I'll nip home and look that up, having no real idea what it was. When I got back, breathless, having run all the way, it had just been sold. I even wandered around a bit in case I spotted the purchaser, with the idea I might offer them a couple of hundred for it. Of course, with mobile internet access, I wouldn't have lost it. They go for three or four thousand dollars on Ebay now. Ah well.


The missed: About twenty years back, before anime had really caught on, some of the folks on rec.arts.anime got together and made up custom-embroidered Dirty Pair jackets, at a time I was temporarily poverty-stricken and couldn't cut loose the $80. The final product was indeed worth every penny.

The lost: My late grandfather loved to collect stuff (would it be disrespectful to say 'weird clutter'?), which is why as kids my sister and I were gifted with 60cm tall ceramic elephants. But when I was about 20 I found in my dad's garage what must have been a plotting table off of a naval vessel, a metal thing about a meter high and a bit less in diameter, with an illuminated top marked off in degrees. I found it a lovely thing with which to decorate the loft of the garage (the less said about getting large metal military-surplus crap up a ladder the better), and found satisfaction in getting the interior light working again. Alas, about a year later I moved and have not seen the gloriously impractical thing again. I'm well aware that it suits nobody's interior decoration style, but it amused me then and I'd still be tickled to have something odd that nobody else did.


A 30 cm bronze sculpture involving dragons and others in a small shop in San Francisco some decades ago. A chance to buy some in-the-box original HP-35s maybe twenty years ago.


Many years ago, walking to Partick train station to get to work, I went into a charity shop on Dumbarton Road.

They normally had a good selection of SF books, something none of the other charity shops seemed to have. So i thought I would have a browse.

After a minute or two I spotted an old (and I do mean OLD) copy of William Burroughs Naked Lunch. Being a book I had read years previously I was most pleased and picked it up to see how much it was. One pound. Bargain or what? Then I flipped to the usual copyright page. It was a UK first edition. Or so it would appear. HOLY CRAP! The motherload!

Sadly I had left the house with any money as my plan was to go to the bank en route to withdraw my survival funds. So I rushed off to the bank, about 200 yards up the road, got money from the ATM and ran back.

Gone! Someone had bought it!

Mind you, I have had a few that didn't get away. Like the first edition of Robert Rankin's Antipope (his first novel) from 1981, which I picked up in a second hand book shop for one single pound. Its now signed, at the launch party of his 30th novel, and is priceless to me.


How about a 1959 Mercedes 190SL roadster for free? All I had to do was find a place to park it. In New York City! Even in 1973, protected parking spaces amounted to half of our rent. UGH!


The opportunity, in 1992, to purchase a vacant block of land on the hill in Cooktown, Qld, Australia for AUD5000. I bought a car instead. Two years later, when the road was surfaced and access to the town was made easy, that land was resold for AUS200,000 and prices never went back down. My car, alas, was not worth anywhere near that.


That reminds me of the time I tried to get a Boys rifle on my FAC. Sadly the local plod was wise to me and pointed out there wasn't a private shooting range in the country that would let me use it.

There was also the Southern Armoury's (in)famous ads in the shooting press, including the German WWII 150mm seige mortar they had on offer at one point which required a shotgun certificate and a driving certificate endorsed for tracked vehicles.


Back while I was in University, ~1994-1998 time frame, I ran across an old console-type color TV set - with a round-face picture tube. At a garage sale. That still worked! "The wax has run out of the coils and caps, so it turns on and works for a bit but once it warms up the picture goes away." I think that was the description

IIRC, they wanted less than $50 for it. I could have easily afforded it, there was room in the truck for it, but I had nowhere to put it while it wasn't in use, being a dorm-dweller. So I didn't buy it. I bet I'll never see the likes of it again, and now I know the sorts of people who could easily help me clean and restore the caps, coils, etc. and bring it into perfect operating condition - modulo the X-rays it would probably throw out in quantity!


There was a Jeep CJ-7 for sale by the side of the road in Gwinnett County, Georgia in 1991. I didn't buy it, and after another year of searching for a similar one I instead bought a much more expensive car which broke me. That Jeep has haunted me ever since. It had a winch on the front!


I've only a few thankfully and most probably don't count for our purposes here.

First was an autographed and picture with James Doohan. He was at a local con in the mid 90's and wasn't able to stick around for the photo and autograph session. After that the con scene dried up unless you were willing to trek (har har) four hours away and I was still in high school.

In college George Carlin was playing a local show but it was finals week and I was already struggling with a few classes. Same situation again, no local further local shows and died before I had the chance to travel to see him.

In a rare case of trying to stick to a budget I'd passed up the single disc releases of disc 5 and 6 of the anime series Ergo Proxy. The next week the distrubtor folded and the discs vanished. So I'm now stuck with either having an incomplete set or shelling out $30 for the box set.

At a book sale I'd run across a first edition of Emma Bull's War for the Oaks. I still had 3/4 of the sale to look through (it was in a convention center) and didn't want to lug it with me through the rest of the center. Never did remember which table had the book.

I won't even start on how much I'm kicking myself for not having the cash to see a shuttle launch live...


My loss is also furniture. In Bali in the 80s, wandering around an antique shop, found a Balinese bed something like this - very like, actually - of the sort that's a small bedroom in itself. They didn't particularly want to sell, because it was serving as their tea room, but I could have got it for a thousand dollars. I would have bought it if I'd been able to face the work of finding a shipper and getting it fumigated back in Australia, but I've always regretted not having it. Perhaps I should chase up the shop at custom design bali and see if they still have that one...


That would be a marcasite gecko. I can't recall the price, but it was quite expensive and, while I was deciding on whether I could justify the purchase, someone else beat me to it.

Last year I spotted an even cooler looking marcasite gecko, only to find out it wasn't marcasite, but set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Sod the price, I bought the damn thing and it is awesome.


"roll cage and racing seats and no carpet" Yes that sounds like a race one. Only about 50 were made. They pounded Jags. But not for street, no way.


While in the UK I missed Pink Floyd too, did not know they were playing until the day of the concert and I was in Helmsley. That lead to the real regret, we were staying at the Feversham's hunting lodge (full size house for those of us not members of the British nobility) and were offered a chance to see The Three Tennors at Castle Howard as guests of Lord Feversham. We turned down the offer since no one expected to be in the UK on the night in question. We were, so I ended up watching it on the BBC and banging my head against the wall.


An electric harmonium from the 1950s, in beautiful pale timber, on consignment in a Sydney music shop a couple of years back. It looked gorgeous, like something from Mad Men, and had a sound to match. I hemmed and hawed, discussed it with my wife, and hesitated still (I'd just bought a new PC and laptop), and finally decided to spend the money - but it was gone when I returned to the shop.


The ones that got away for me were two books I lent to an alcoholic friend back in the 70s: autographed copies of Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That and his Selected Poems.


Honda NSX


That reminds me of the time I tried to get a Boys rifle on my FAC.

Let me mention that the instructional documentary for the Boys is remarkably watchable. I have no other excuse for having that video on my laptop.


ilya @ 100 NOT EVEN WRONG Some "antique" cars are better (for some values of "better") than current ones. Like: NO ELECTRONICS - which is why my Land-Rover, bought for £9500 in 2003 is now worth - about £9500.

Which reminds me - J Wilson @ 98 has raised the point. There was some sort of "perfection" in hand-tools, both for woodwork and metal, in the period 1950-65. I have several such. The original "King Dick" right-angle-head adjustable spanners were a classic, for instance (I have 2 of different sizes).

Charlie @ 111 I'll keep my "Rascally rebel Dwarf" edition, thank you!


An 86 Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 guitar going for £250 - they're worth around 10 times that. Didn't buy it because I suspected it was stolen. Nearly a decade later I'm still conflicted, but I guess I did the right thing by not touching it with a bargepole.


Now I look I can't find any online refs and Wikipedia seems to think Heaney didn't reside in Oxford during his professorship... so there's something that needs investigating here. I heard about Heaney hawking his poems on the street from my father, who's a professor of Eng Lit with an interest in modern poets and therefore likely to be reliable, but that's not very useful as a reference. It's entirely possible I've misremembered the name of the poet and/or jumped to conclusions about who I actually met.

OTOH, the Oxford Professor of Poetry has to give three lectures a year so it's not an absentee appointment, if that's the right term. The memories I have include a tweed jacket (hardly rare at Oxford, but suggesting an academic rather than a street-lunatic), an Irish accent, and an elaborate, rather acerbic, turn of phrase. It was a sunny day, too, which would make it the spring or summer vacation. (I didn't go to Oxford, but my parents live nearby and I had a vacation ticket for the Bodleian.) I would have been in Bodley a lot in the summer of 1989, when I was researching my final-year dissertation... which is the year Heaney was made Professor of Poetry. So the chronology does work, at least.

Sorry - that was probably too much speculation and analysis, but it's bugging me now. I'll post a link if I find any positive information.


This is "got away" in a slightly different sense: I discovered too late the existence of the Vance Integral Edition. A set of about 45 books containing the full oeuvre of Jack Vance, lovingly restored by dozens of his fans to how he meant it to be, rather than how the pulp magazine editors butchered it to be. For just US$ 1500 or so. Subscription closed less than a year (I think) before I heard about it.

Fortunately I was not the only one who missed it. This resulted after much delay in the Compact VIE, or The Complete Jack Vance, in just 6 massive volumes (for about the same price, though). I'm glad I didn't miss this one, even though it's a bit less fancy. It seems orders for a second printing will open "soon".


I was going to post that one.

I'm actually even more annoyed I missed being in the distributed proofreading for VIE.


Things I should have kept: a black and white, Intel (!) TV set with the triple-ring tuner (one for coarse, one for fine adjustment, one to set 405 or 625 lines!).


No, the precise shop was over the road where either the bookshop or the trendy crafts shop is now.


Bren Gun. (Deactviated)

It was the price of a sword.


One significant item that comes to mind was more of an experience as well, instead of a "thing" (unless you count the show tickets)... my wife and I were in Vegas in February 2008, and George Carlin was performing at a casino off the strip. We talked about going to see his show on Friday night, the night before we would be flying home, but opted to spend the time packing instead. He died in June.

Turns out his time in Vegas was to tune material for what would be his last HBO special.


Thirding the Vance Integral books; When I read about them I thought 'I HAVE to have a set', but the printing had been and gone and I doubt anyone would consider parting with their set for a reasonable price... :(

Whoever mentioned UK houses upthread - When I moved to Newcastle early 2000 I looked over a fantastic 3-bed upstairs flat in a prime city location, but it was £85k and I was on a low wage; I figured the mortgage would cripple me for years and so rented a place instead... Now I'm on decent money and have just paid off a £101k 2bed house out in one of the suburbs, I still think back and wished I'd taken a few years of lean times to have that place.

My actual 'Missed opportunity' is a bit of an oddity - I was off browsing the Sunday market at Tynemouth metro, something of a cross between an art fair, a carboot sale and a farmers market... I found a porcelain statue of a hound dog, big tearful eyes as he held a pistol to his head suicide-style; oh, his pistol hand comes off and he's a decanter for your whisky? As I pick the fellow up, it clicks; there's a small activating pin for a wind-up musicbox underneath. Guy wanted £7, I would have offered a fiver but forgot about it till I was back in the car.

Never seen it since, and I'll always wonder what tune a suicidal ceramic hound plays when you pour a drink out :)


A friend in the US found all but three volumes of the collected Storisende edition of James Branch Cabell's works. It was available for approx $300 and he offered to buy it for me at cost (including shipping). I didn't really have the money. He found the other three volumes in a nearby store, those having been bought by someone and then resold. I still don't have a full set of Cabell's works but I should have snapped it up even with the three missing volumes - if I'd wanted to sell them I could have made money off it immediately. By the time I'd mentioned it to Brian a couple of weeks later and had Brian offer to loan me the money my friend in the US had already bought it (that's when I found out about him finding the other three as well) for someone else.


The one that got away was not having the cash to buy a signed first edition of Red Mars back when it first came out. I was a student and it was the end of term.

The copy I bought a couple of years back led to a particularly difficult conversation with my wife.


I don't count this as a missed opportunity exactly because the "opportunity" would have involved theft, but my other student claim-to-fame was discovering(*) a complete set of the Storisende edition in my university library (Warwick). It was signed (I don't know if that's true of the whole Storisende edition?) and all but the first few volumes had uncut pages. Cabell doesn't get a lot of academic attention in the UK, so my guess is that the books had been part of a bequest and had basically been ignored ever since they were shelved.

(*) In the sense that they were on the shelf and in the catalog, but that nobody had cared to look for or at them in decades.

I borrowed and read through the lot (cutting pages as I went) and made some of my friends in the student SF Society aware of them, which feels like a win of some kind. Books deserve to be read.


Really? I got one of those for free. (Back in the day I was reviewing for VECTOR, and I landed "Red Mars". In hardcover. Then when Stan was doing a signing tour I got him to sign it to me by name. No, I have no idea what a mint first-edition RED MARS hardcover personally inscribed to Charles Stross by KSR is worth. And my home insurance premium doesn't want to know, either!)


We went to an antique store, and they had dead ringers for my grandmother's candlesticks. I really wanted them, but there was no price tag, and the owner of the store was absent. The person manning the desk took my number and said he would have the owner give me a call when she got in, but that never happened. Next weekend we were back, but the candlesticks had been sold.


NOT EVEN WRONG Some "antique" cars are better (for some values of "better") than current ones

Sure -- for some values of "better". IOW, some antique cars beat modern ones in some specific criterion -- never in all criteria. So yes, my post #100 was not wrong -- it was mostly right.

To call my post #100 "NOT EVEN WRONG" in all caps on the basis of "some are better (for some values of 'better')" implies some serious issues on your part.


I got one that didn't get away - you've perfectly captured why I love my house. It was built in 1885 by a local industrialist for three people (plus servants) - he and his wife had a single daughter. They had a master bath connected to the upstairs parlor, the daughter had a nice south-facing bedroom with three hexagonally placed windows on a bay, and servant's quarters were in the back (there's a clear transition in quality of trim that I find hilarious).

Downstairs is the parlor, a massive (33 feet by 18 feet) ballroom, a dining room with the original trim mostly in place, and what may have been the kitchen.

There's a full basement that would make a fantastic machine shop now that I've got the drainage to the point that it's all dry.

The carriage house in back had an upstairs apartment installed in the 1940's that we are actually living in while restoring the main house.

I got the whole thing on a foreclosure sale for $8000. No, I didn't forget any zeroes. I had read that the market had crashed in 2009, did some poking around in my old home town (well, kinda - Richmond is where we went to the library and piano lessons - but my mother lives here now) and found this beauty, and instead of stopping there, I damn well bought it.

The neighborhood is pretty horrible these days and my wife loathes it here, so it's been a short run, but I'm really happy I took the chance; we've essentially lived here for free for two years.


Not so much "the one that got away" but "the one that fell in my lap": snapped up a couple of Steven Erikson novellas on Amazon, "Blood Follows" and "The Devil Delivered".

When they turned up, I was amazed to find they're signed numbered limited first editions from a run of only 500: no mention of which was on the product page (and just "ordinary book" price tag too).

Oddly "The Healthy Dead" I got a few years later had a page for a signing plate, but no signing plate. :(

I missed the other two in the series when they came out, and checked the prices for what would complete the set... suffice to say my eyes watered. (For a book that had at the time been out for a few months...)


Ilya @ 148 What do you want? I wanted reliability, and the ability to do at least 80% (& perferebly 95%) of my own mantenance - both cheaper, and usually more reliable. And I didn't iontednd, if I could help it, ever replace it - so it had to last a long time. Current L-R's have electronics, and are thus less reliable (Charlie may burst a gasket at that sentence but it's true, unfortunately.)


One that got away: 1000 Apple shares at $20 in the early 80's. I did have them. But I was poorly advised by my "Investment Advisor" from SL who I mistakenly thought had the health of my account as his priority (turned out it was his commission stream) and got into bad shape and was margin-called. I would not have to work any more had I been able to hang on to them as I wished.

One that did't: our slice of paradise on this island in the PNW we stumbled on mid 90's. Far from living on the cheap, but weathered the 2008 crash nicely.

Another one that did: my 1740 cottage by the Grand Union Canal I owned in the early 70's. Sold it for $13000. It is now worth $1,000,000.


Coventry, Watches of Switzerland.

All through my adolescence I watched and wanted a particular chronometer, out of reach until I had a proper job.

It was a wonderful thing that could, with a couple of spins of the slide-rule bezel calculate rates of climb of the jet you were piloting or the rate of dive of your submarine. It was bigger than the one Burt Reynolds wore for his Playgirl set too. Can you say "manly"?

The year I got a proper job (it took a while because the month I graduated Perkin Elmer put a microprocessor into its infra-red spectrometers and my chosen skills were largely obsolete) everyone fell in love with Casio and chronometers and all the specialist watch sellers including Watches of Switzerland stopped carrying clunky analogue watches.

In 1984, jut before I emigrated to the US, I went in and asked to see watches with hands, that needed winding up - and not by shaking the wrist back and forth either but using the knob on the side - and I was ordered out of the store by a manager for "troublemaking".

You can get the old type chronometers again, now, but they are collector's items rather than workhorse watches and command silly money, even sillier than that watch sitting in the window of Watches of Switzerland in 1974 is priced at, the one being ogled by that spotty yoof.

Christ, look at that hair, those trousers, those boots!


But for sheer perversity, I moved to NYC in '84, noted that Les Paul was still playing at Fat Tuesday's every Monday night - which was within walking distance of my workplace and my digs - and still managed to put off a visit until it was too late.


""antique" cars" and other antiques prices are mostly set by rings who bid them them up to by selling them them to other members of the ring. With little real money changing hands. Like all the old Nazi Merks going for high prices. They may or not be a Nazi car, but the value is set as its passed around in the ring, then its sold to a sucker. They got it coming.


OK, OK. That's what I think about how antiques prices are mostly set.


I think you've got a rather odd idea of how supply and demand work. (Put it another way: your hypothetical cartel is going to be out of a lot of money -- the auction commissions, storage, transport, and insurance costs -- if there are no willing buyers at the price point they want to hit.) I'll grant you that some antique prices are set stupidly high -- but as the customer, you've got the right to make a counter-offer, or to walk away.


My "one that got away" was half of a pair of -- I don't know what they're called, sofas with one arm each, so they made a matched set, upholstered in green either leather or vinyl, mid 20th century. I actually was going to get it for free/very cheap; I was working for a Children's Museum and the pair was in the "yard sale" fundraiser event that I organized. It was beautiful, in great condition, and would actually fit in my teeny-tiny studio apartment.

But my boss decided -- after promising me that I could take one and another coworker could have the other -- that they would be better used as breakroom sofas. So we couldn't have them.

The odd part of that story is that the coworker who wanted the other one ended up asking me out on a date, and now we've been married for over a decade. And we're BOTH still irritated at the old boss for taking our sofas.


I lived in Florida for 7 years, and never went to see a Shuttle launch. I kept figuring I'd get around to it eventually, but then I moved and now they aren't around...


And there is the problem with signed copies ..sell the Book and you no longer have the Book on your shelves - Oh, The Horror!

Long, long ago and at a local, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Waterstones Reading by the Author I met ..

And also, and much less happily, met a fellow audience member who interviewed me on What, And Which and WHY were Davis and fellow ' Series Characters writers '..her term .. SUCCESSFUL and Made LOTS of Money!!

At the end of Lindsey's talk and at the end of the signing Qu but behind the Interrogator I chatted with Davis who told me that clearly I wasn't a DEALER since I wanted my Early in the ' Marcus Didius Falco ' series books signed to Me by Name ..but also, had I met ? ' Yes, I said, I'd had that honour and and that my left ear still rang with Tinnitus and that the Woman in question clearly LONGED to be A SUCCESSFUL WRITER ..make scad's of MONEY ££££ !!! .. cos if it could be done with -insert writer of Choice .. could it be SO Hard? '

Davis and I shook our heads in unison in weary acknowledgement of, well... The Way It Is/ Was, and Ever Shall be.

What's your favourite Signing Q Story Charlie? My own is not that Lindsey Davis Story but one that appeared in the British National press of a - apparently rather Rotund, Middle Aged, and Enthusiastic - American Fan of Star Wars who asked Alec Guiness what advice HE would give to a 'Young Jedi '

The journalistic piece didn't give the response but apparently Guiness did appreciate the Star Wars Money whilst becoming rather less than enthusiastic about the Role and the Series, as wikipedia quotes, " Guinness soon became unhappy with being identified with the part, and expressed dismay at the fan-following that the Star Wars trilogy attracted. In the DVD commentary of Star Wars: A New Hope, director George Lucas says that Guinness was not happy with the script re-write in which Obi-Wan is killed. However, Guinness said in a 1999 interview that it was actually his idea to kill off Obi-Wan, persuading Lucas that it would make him a stronger character, and that Lucas agreed to the idea. Guinness stated in the interview, "What I didn't tell Lucas was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo." He went on to say that he "shrivelled up" every time Star Wars was mentioned to him.[14] "

My own response would have been " Eat Less, Exercise More " but then I'm much nastier than ever Guinness was.




A lot of signed book stories... This is why I bought the signed limited-edition copy of "Toast." Well, that and my fear that my "reading" copy of "Toast" will fall apart or get lost right when "Toast" is out of print and impossible to find again. In which case I'll happily tear off the plastic and convert it into my reading copy.


Yahoo! stock when it first came out, what, 15 years ago or so? I even remember the amount I was going to buy -- $3,000. But then I figured I would use it instead in the downpayment for a house. Today that would be worth $37,000. I probably would have cashed out before the peak, or maybe near the peak ($200,000), I don't know.


I don't regret it, but I also failed to go up WTC. I was in Manhattan in January 2001; the Monday was a holiday so my girlfriend and I did some touristy stuff (I was actually there for work), but it was a very foggy day so we didn't go up WTC. Ah well.


Between an understanding wife, a fortunate paying off of credit cards and a post I saw on Livejournal and I picked up one of the 1000 for a 1000 seats on the last Concorde flights.

Between being nicely upgraded to Business on the leg out and Concorde back it was a glorious trip. Sorry :)


My story is about stock, but it's about stock I had and then sold. In 1983 I quit working at Intel and walked away with a little over 250 shares of stock, valued at about US $30 per share at the time. But my (very first purchased) house hadn't been re-roofed in almost 30 years, and it had started to leak, so I sold the stock, getting a good profit from it, and paid to fix up the roof.

For the next 20 years or so Intel stock followed Moore's Law by doubling in value every 18 to 24 months (it had split twice in the time I held mine). By the late 90's, when the growth started to flatten out, my stock would have been worth several hundred thousand dollars, perhaps as much as a million. Oh, well, I really didn't get into the business in order to get rich.


When my grandfather became too ill to ride he gave away his lovingly-maintained Norton Commando. After I mentioned that I'd have liked it, I was told that my other grandfather had left an identical bike that had been sold for scrap - plus the bike he rode through WW2, whatever that was.

I sold my Banksy for a grand - fair enough it only cost me £100, but I should have kept hold of it as they are fetching ridiculous prices.

But the real "one that got away" was the mint condition 1955 Gibson ES-125T in an original hardcase that could have been mine for a swap - the owner wanted a "more modern" guitar, and would have settled for a Vox White Shadow which is a very ordinary guitar by comparison.

The "conversation that got away" was when I was introduced to a chap as "Phil, this is Bob, we're going for a couple of pints if you want to join us". I didn't fancy a drink with a nondescript elderly stranger, and thus turned down my opportunity to have a long chat with Robert Anton Wilson.

(There's a 1st Ed set of LOTR, Silmarillion, etc - a fairly complete JRRT firsts in the family library, I reckon I should put in my stake now. Also, ever Boy's Own Paper and Eagle Comic ever published. Disclaimer - I'd rather have my parents a while longer than any books).


ITYM "M109 105mm self-propelled gun on Sherman Tank chassis; smoothbored; shotgun certificate and driving licence required"

Their advertisements were always amusing, e,g:

.25 Baby Browning (deadly on mice) .600 Nitro-Express double cased (nice rabbit gun)


I think it was "The Southern Gun Company" rather than "The Southern Armoury", but they were the ones with the 12pdr that I liked the sound of. (I later found out exactly what it was: "A light accompanying gun for cavalry, charge 3.5 pounds of RML black powder, shell weight 16lb, range 4,200 yds". I bitterly regretted not buying it: it would have been a serious ornament.)

I bought the DVD of Tubular Bells III and bitterly regretted not seeing that live, despite the torrential downpour and lighting failure at one point.



A few Canadian gun shops were selling British-Army surplus L1A1 SLRs in the mid-80s, for about $400 each, iirc. That was before sales of these types of firearms were prohibited under new firearms legislation, but any bought before that are still legal to own. Still wish I had bought one when I had the chance.


Leaving out the grotty details, I turned down a chance to buy 1% of Cisco for $10,000. Saw their business plan and decided nobody would spend $10K for a dedicated router when for less than $2000 you could put another ethernet card in the file server.


For myself I have two. One of them matches yours: in 1980 I was working with a British group tourijng in the US. They released a single that entered the charts at No 1 and it was deemed neccesary to cancel the last few shows and fly back home. The band flew back to the UK on Concorde and the crew were offered the chance to join them if we came up with the extra cost. It was only about three hundred pounds but that was a lot of money in 1980 and I couldnt really afford it. That was my one and only chance which I have regretted intensely ever since. The other one, whilst not strictly a bespoke item, happened in 1976. I was driving for National Carriers and went past a house in a small Hertfordshire town several times looking at an E-type Jaguar parked outside. Finally I got to deliver a package there and asked the owner about it. To cut a long story short, I bought it for £200 and drove it down the A1(M) to London. 147 mph on the speedo with the top down: scared half to death and loving every minute of it. When I tried to insure it the cost was approximately three months wages. Needless to say it was just driven around the yard for a while until I sold it on for £400. Back in college in 1986 I saw the car with the same chassis number advertised in The Times for 15,000. It was one of the rare 1964 lightweight models - mostly hand built with aluminium panels. I wish Id kept that almost as much as I wish Id paid for the Concorde flight.


There was nothing cheaper than a race car that no longer won. Then. "a rather odd idea of how supply and demand work." Well prices of most things are set by the biggest fool. Now days there is a lot more people demanding old stuff than there is old stuff. Makes fakes much more profitable.
One car magazine back then had a piece on where all those Nazi Murks were coming from. They wondered (to keep away lawyers?) if they were just old cars that they were passed around as Nazi cars at ever higher prices. Then dumped on outsiders. And it was believed that not much money was passed. Rather a little money and a IOU for say 50 model T's. My rich Republican aunt was into antiques. She stopped buying because of her and her friends belief that rings made up of a few con men were running up prices where she was. Now those are the real prices.
I know of yards here selling usless junked but hard to find cars to people who cut the ids out and put them into cars that are ordinary, then adding trim and parts turning them into hard to find, costly cars. Like wise over on your side finding new "lost" cars happens. With cheaper labor "lost" cars are made fron cheaper cars. One,long "lost" 1930's F-1 car was found. Much later it was said to made of modern metal.


well , its nearly relevant back in the day i went to the liv=brary and they had this book, ( i could have nicked it, and maybe i should have) it was battlefield earth by l ron hubbard and in the back of it was the story of how he bet a guy in australia that he could make a religion i swear this is true, ive never seen that version of the book again


@38 How about "talented and very expensive and starving"? The market for bespoke furniture is small, the cost to the consumer seems astronomical compared to IKEA or even John Lewis, but the number of commissions in a year, the need to maintain a workshop space and the sheer amount of time it takes to make a bespoke item means that sole trader furniture makers do not necessarily gross a massive annual income. (Also see, "I'm not paying £500 for that painting!" "But it took me a month.") For every furniture maker driving around in a BMW, there are another load who did the training, gave it a go for a few years, then realised they couldn't pay the mortgage so gave up...


Antique sword, France, 1996.

Utterly beautiful. The problem was, I was on the first stage of backpacking round Europe, and there was no way I could have carried it across any borders - let alone the ten borders that I proceeded to cross before arriving home.

The £180 was, at the time, painful, but I could have done it. It was very painful to have to walk away...


I passed up an opportunity to purchase a Krazy Kat daily original art from the Tiger Tea sequence.


Don't know if it fits.

About four years ago, a friend of mine told me about a car for sale in his neighborhood.

An early 1990s BMW 8-series. The kind with a V12 engine and a 6-speed manual.

(This is in North America.)

I was looking for a daily-grind car. And I didn't have a place to put an extra vehicle. The price didn't look to be out-of-the-ballpark-rich, but was more than I wanted to spend at the time.

But it would have been nice to have. Or even look at and test-drive...

On the "watch out for" list, my grandfather has what looks like a Lee-Enfield rifle among his gun collection.

I'm not sure if any other relatives want the rifle when he passes. Maybe I should offer him something for it. But I only see him a couple of times a year, and I hesitate to bring it up at Christmas time.


The first "one that got away" that comes to my mind is the one that I had for the longest time: My 1969 Camaro. It's more a "one that I couldn't afford to keep in shape."

I got it hand-me-down when I learned to drive in 1978, and drove it until 2001 or so. I sold it to a local airline pilot for a lot more than it had cost brand new, despite the fact that it was barely functional any more, thanks to decades of accumulated entropy outpacing my ability to pay to restore order. It may have been a mass-market item when I got it, but it's rare and precious now, and it is still, all these years later, the car that I am driving when I drive in my dreams at night.


When I arrived at my small private college in upstate New York as a freshman in the fall of 1994, I was full of ambitious plans to go crosstown and take a class or two at the other local school - Cornell University - particularly an astronomy course with Carl Sagan. Sadly, I got daunted by the red tape, and he started ailing, and I never made it happen. :/


(Telegraph code) I failed my saving throw against this one, mainly because I routinely make a test call to my work pager, and on one occasion got questioned as to why I wanted to send "Aardvark" to that number. In case it ever happens again, I have a prepared response: OK, send this message instead "STAND EFLAW EFBIP CEJIW NABEN AYCUV", and if they want to find out what it means[1] the can do their own research - GCHQ can doubtless unbutton it in milliseconds because the first group is the name of the code....

Not as much fun as the series of groups (in US Hydrographic Survey Code someone once put together, which expanded to: "I have no women on board. Do you have women on board? Are you willing to share?". You probably hat to be there (on that newsgroup ).

Chris. [1] The telegraph operator is too inquisitive.


@151 What do you want? I wanted reliability, and the ability to do at least 80% (& perferebly 95%) of my own mantenance - both cheaper, and usually more reliable.

I want comfort and fuel economy. Reliability is important, but I am willing to pay for it. I live in a suburb in a fairly mild climate, so I have no need for anything like Landrover. I used to repair my cars when I was young and poor, but I never enjoyed it much; I will be perfectly happy if I never work on a car again in my life. I drive 2008 Camry hybrid with 100,000 mile full warranty, and I like all the things car electronics make possible -- cruise control, CD-changer, built-in bluetooth. Not to mention the very concept of hybrid car -- constant switching between IC, battery, and battery recharge. One thing I want but do not have is memory seat -- ability to adjust the seat precisely the way I like it, then store that setting in car's computer so it can be instantly restored after someone else drove my car.

Do you see now why I do not think much of antique cars?


Another pair. The one that got away: I'd been reading Sarah Vowell but never met her in person, on account of us living on opposite sides of North America. Then one evening I discovered that she was doing a book reading, in my city, in a theater known to me, less than half an hour's walk from my house, quite affordable, and that started - ten minutes ago!

I never have gotten to see her in person.

On the other hand, just today I was walking down the street (a few blocks from the previously mentioned theater, as it happens) and on a display rack outside a bookstore spotted Asimov Laughs Again, in hardback, for a dollar. So, score.


A bokken (the Japanese style wooden sword). Hand carved from white oak. It's balance was incredible. Didn't buy it though, wasn't a huge amount of money (80$) but I was waiting for my car to be fixed (which had drained my checking account) and not in a mood to be spending out of my savings account.

I found out later that it was the last one made before the guy who did it left the state.


You seem to have a backwards idea of how a ring works. Quite the contrary - a ring aims to keep prices down so that private sellers at auction are the ones that are stiffed, not private buyers. They're illegal, by the way, but they're an open secret at many salerooms.

I'm an antique dealer's child so I grew up with the trade. I've attended dozens of auctions and spent many, many hours as unpaid labour at antiques fairs and in the shop. All I can say is your comment shows you have very little idea as to how the antiques trade actually functions. There are no cartels keeping prices artificially high, and while certain things do suffer from bubbles these can only be sustained over any length of time by the enthusiasm of private buyers.

I'm not saying there aren't plenty of scams (such as selling repro as original) and thieves (knockers, unscrupulous solicitors, collusive auctioneers) but the real money is to be made at the other end - getting things cheap - rather than selling them dear. People need to get over the idea that antiques are "worth" something. They are worth exactly what someone is willing to pay at that moment.


Digressing slightly.

Better you posted that than me, I can get frustrated at the response to a quote to make a copy of an existing chair (discounting the time to measure, create parts list and construction drawings etc). Of 'But we bought the other five for £150.'

I've survived mainly because I've done other things ranging from replacement windows to electrical work to fitting locks - call it modular economics.


In 1994, I read about the forthcoming Iomega Zip drive and mentioned it to my boss in passing. I was only interested in the storage capacity. It never occurred to me to buy the stock, which was around $4, and before long shot up, peaking around $100.

Does that count?


My "one that got away..."

Back in 1999, the US Government had a site where they posted odd items for sale. Stuff like 20 tons of worn-out tank treads as one single lot; generally nothing you'd have much use for.

Then along came an item that I WANTED. It was sealed bids by mail, not anything like eBay. It nearly killed me when I found out it sold for US$80,000. I might have been able to talk the bank into it...

The item: an aircraft carrier. Specifically, the USS Cabot. It had been stripped of most of its goodies, but it was still afloat. For $80K, you're looking at the kind of boat you can store under your carport... except this was a floating city, with accommodations for 1,500 of your closest friends...

Restoring it to functionality would have been prohibitive, but I could have had it towed out beyond US waters in the Gulf of Mexico, dropped anchor, and declared myself the Maximum Leader of my own People's Republic.


Les Paul custom "black beauty" from (I guess) 1960-61 (can't have been later than that, might have been earlier), which I saw & tried in a shop in the late 70s. It was a lovely, slightly battered thing in extremely playable condition which I could probably have sort-of-almost afforded. I daren't look to find out how much it would be worth now (less than the most desirable Les Pauls, but a lot, I imagine), and of course it would not have made me a better guitarist, but still.


I don't have one that got away, per se, but I can think about one that might go away at some point: Design.Y's notebooks. They're handmade by a guy in Japan and ludicrously expensive. But they appear to be the ultimate notebook, and I still carry around a (paper) notebook because I find it much easier to use than my phone.

For a long time, I used generic Moleskine notebooks—until this happened, which sent me on a quest to find a better notebook. Design.Y's might be the ultimate in notebooks, but they're dependent on a single guy and his inclination to make them. There's no guarantee that he won't wake up tomorrow and decide to go do something else. Which means that the notebooks he makes could become the one that got away very, very quickly.


Did one of the Boing Boing commentors nail the style of (if not the actual) chair?

Sir Compton MacKenzie's writing chair:


A hat. An enormous lady's black beaver hat with multiple ostrich plumes, circa 1908. I love hats and costumes. It fit me. It looked great on me. I could even afford it, with a stretch. But it was at least three feet across, and I was getting on an airplane the next day to fly home.

That was 40 years ago. I still wish I'd held it on my lap the whole way.


Same general idea as Sir CMK's chair ... but armrests with padded tops supported by a row of rods from beneath, rather than solid-sided; it was generally a lot airier.


I am amused by Catie Murphy's writing chair. It has split keyboards, one for each hand on the end of the chair arms. It might account for some of her productivity.

Either that, or her work ethic, the one where she planned a few months in advance

"Finish copy edits for $story" "Have baby"


About 10 years ago I found a whole box of Alfred Hitchcock magazines from the 70s/80s for 25cents a Yard Sale! I only bought four and got hooked on them- I came to regret not buying the whole box. No idea if they're worth anything (never bothered to look them up on ebay) but a find like that doesn't come along very often...


Well after 30 years working in Local Government, I never saw anything like it...

On the other hand I did come across many people who would have been delighted to have something like that. Any idea of the date of publication, title etc?


Intangible - We were in California at the time the first shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force base. We had the time to go there or to the Grand Canyon. We went to the Canyon.

Tangible - a local charity shop had an almost complete 30 year run of Analog for sale starting in the late 1950s. I didn't have enough money so went home for it. When I got back 15 minutes later half of them had gone breaking up the run completely. I bought what was left and have filled some of the gaps, but still...


In the sixties, my wife was working for a company that had an arrangement with a local gallery. The gallery supplied art to hang on the office walls which was rotated out after few month, but the art was for sale.

At one point, she had a beautiful small etching by a chap called David Hockney in her office. Hers for a month's wages. But she had a new husband, a kid on the way, no savings and a deposit to save so they could get out of rented and into a house of their own.

She still regrets it.

Me? I had a couple of opportunities to see Pete Bellamy perform at folk festivals in the summer of 1990 or '91 and I spurned them to go to a singarounds. They were good singarounds. But Bellamy committed suicide in September '91 and my chance was gone. I only appreciate his singing more and more as time goes by and I kick myself every time something of his comes up on the iPod shuffle.

Tangible, stupidity more than anything else: I swapped a first printing set of Watchmen for the Graffiti Designs hardback edition. Yes, I'm a bloody idiot.


"Black Mariah" by Charles Addams, one of the comic albums about the Addams family. As far as I could tell it was an original, not some reprint. I found it as a literary convention about 15 years ago. It was well within my financial capacity at the time, but I had to go away to get cash, and in the 20 minutes it took me to return it had gone.


"That desk is about the size of my office!"

So what you need is to remodel your office, into a reading cocoon!


A Katana, a real, vintage one, for $100. It looked like it had been used for gardening, and the sword buyer wouldn't touch it for that price. It would have been a bit of stretch to buy it then (20 years ago?), but it was the real thing (and back then I knew them well enough to date them to the correct period). But $100 was a lot to me, and I let it go.


Not sure if this counts, but I don't really have any shopping regrets--basically, if I can't afford it, I don't need it.

When I first got internet access I found a mailing address for Arthur C. Clarke, in Colombo (home or office? no idea [had a high school art teacher that encountered him there, but that's another story]), but I never worked up the nerve to actually write. And after a few years it was too late. Still kinda kicking myself over that. It's so much easier (almost disturbingly) to get in touch with favorite authors now.


No purchase would have been necessary other than a fifty quid train ticket, but in 2005 I could have hung out in the Science Museum, next to Charlie Brown, with Dave Scott. I'd have got Dave Scott's autograph. I haven't got Dave Scott's autograph. I am an idiot.


Ah, context is king.

In this case, I assume you mean David-Scott-who-walked-on-the-moon and Charlie-Brown-the-Apollo-command-module.


Sorry, I couldn't narrow it down.

  • Big Black's final show at the Georgetown steam plant. I was too tired/sick to go.
  • Chris Hitchens speaking at the local bookshop, just before he announced the diagnosis. RIP, ya drunk bastard.
  • The White Stripes at a small club. I'd liked what I heard, but was feeling under the weather, and the local hipster newspaper painted them as a gimmick act a la GWAR. The writer must've wanted them all to himself.
  • An Adminspotting T-shirt. (Yes, mass-produced, but NTK was a unique event all its own.)
  • Canadian citizenship. The Wife wanted to return to her old job in the US, instead, and we had a new President who would fix all the excesses of Bush II.

But at least I got Cory Doctrow his Disney knife sharpener.


I only remember the one I got: a dozen sterling silver demitasse spoons, handmade with fine filigree scroll work inset in the handles. I finally polished one partly recently and was stunned at the beauty. And I only paid 4 dollars over spot when silver was roughly 12/ounce. Gotta get them appraised, sure they aren't worth a fortune but the quality is astounding.


When I was 15 some of my older friends could get tickets to Live Aid. I lived in Scotland so this would have been an overnight trip with friends. Mt parents said no.


Not me, but my wife's former neighbors in London were offered some sculptures by a starving artist for a few hundred quid, and passed. His name? Anish Kapoor.


We have a winner: Fazal Majid's wife's former neighbours!

Wikipedia entry for Anish Kapoor. Key sentence, for non-art-loving philistines: "Kapoor made a $27 million profit in 2008, taking the fortune he has made from his art to an estimated $62.7 million. His record auction price is 1.94 million pounds, set in July 2008."


GSAXcess is a great place for NASA stuff except you have to be a museum or school, but I did get a space shuttle tile for my university there. I think IO will get the space food kit too

My one that got away was a first printing of Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover's translation of De Re Metallica signed by President Hoover and his wife Lou. This was being auctioned on ebay and it got too high price (>$1000) for me



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 15, 2011 10:27 AM.

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