Friday, 12 November 2010

How much for five used Condoms?

I will leave it up to you to decide how much emphasis you read into my title, and where you place the emphasis: whether you read it as a loud and incredulous rhetorical question—or a polite enquiry—concerning the price, or whether it is a disgusted response to the fact that it is five used condoms that sold, but the answer is the same: 2000 Euros or A$2750 for five condoms. That is 400 Euros or A$550 each.

On 9 November 2010 the Palais Dorotheum auctioned off the following lot

Lot No. 131: Five c. 1900 air bladder Condoms in original cardboard box with maker’s label. Size (of box!) c. 26 x 6 cm. Estimate EUR 300,- to 500

As I said, the realized price was 2000 Euros. The sale, which appeared under the heading of "Antique Scientific Instruments, Models and Globes" [actually, "historische wissenschaftliche instrumente und globen"], attracted a good deal of attention. (See here and here.) Enough, in fact, for me to hear about it before 9 November. I did consider bidding a fraction above the range, but knew I would be wasting my time. It is a consolation that I was right.

The condoms would have been useful as an example of the longevity of "skins" (condoms made from fish, sheep or pig gut) and of the longevity of the practice of cleaning and reusing them (a common practice in the eighteenth century). As such, it would have made a nice illustration in the book I am planning on this subject. Oh well.

Thankfully—as you can see—the Palais Dorotheum have supplied a very high resolution image. From this and the commentary online it appears that the former owner of these five condoms kept a careful tally of how many times he used each one. And it looks like they were only supposed to be reused ten times! Lovely. (The image below is slightly larger than life-size.)

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared again I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]

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