How storytelling increased the value of an eBay item by 6395%

2 min readJul 10, 2018

A wonderful study illustrating the power of storytelling.

Stories are the most powerful tools at our disposal. Good stories move us emotionally and make us susceptible to buying or doing things we might not otherwise have done.

In 2006, New York Times Magazine journalist Rob Walker set out to determine if storytelling was the most powerful tool of all.

He started his project by collating two hundred thrift items of low value (the average cost of each item was $1.25). He took care to ensure that there was nothing particularly special about any of them.

A plastic banana here. An old wooden mallet there. Even a plastic motel room key. You get the idea. They had no intrinsic value whatsoever.

Next, he telephoned two hundred professional authors and invited them to become part of his ‘Significant Object study’ and asked them if they would each write a story about one of the objects.

They all said “Yes.”

He then auctioned the items on eBay with the stories added to the descriptions. Can you guess what happened?

One of the items was a small plastic bust of a horse’s head. Rob had paid just $0.99 for it. What did it sell for now that it had a great story attached to it?




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