How to get ripped off on eBay…

Card file, fitness for purpose demonstration

Card file, fitness for purpose demonstration

First, here’s what the seller said about this piece in their eBay listing:

This is a beautiful antique card file cabinet. It is made of quarter-sawn oak with a gorgeous tiger stripe grain. There are 4 drawers, each with the brass label slot/pull on the front. There are 4 brass button feet on the bottom. This dates from the early 1900’s. It is made with sturdy dovetail construction and is in PRISTINE condition. The finish is like new! A few very faint scratches that are difficult to see. Bottom has a couple of scratches, but they aren’t normally seen. It is 12.5″w x 13″d x 9″h, and weighs a very heavy 17lbs. A beautiful addition to your home or work office, or could be used as a sewing box, phone number/address box, recipe box, or even for jewelry or crafts. Wonderful display piece, looks good from all sides — even back.

That pretty much says it all.  The only size standard card sold in North America anywhere near the standard index card is the standard index card.  3 inches by 5 inches.  Well, we can see here how the rebuilt drawer sides are too thick to allow this card file to hold 3×5 cards.  The seller asserted that “Many of the older file boxes do not fit 3×5 cards. I did not state in my auction that this file drawer would hold 3×5 cards.”  Well, true enough, the seller didn’t actually say it would hold 3×5 cards.  But, the seller did sell a card file without saying it WOULDN’T hold  index cards!

How about this little tidbit from MIT’s Technology Review, 2005:

…In 1876, Melvil Dewey, inventor of decimal classification, helped organize a company called the Library Bureau, which sold both cards and wooden cases. An academic entrepreneur, Dewey was a perfectionist supplier. His cards were made to last, made from linen recycled from the shirt factories of Troy, NY. His card cabinets were so sturdy that I have found at least one set still in use, in excellent order. Dewey also standardized the dimension of the catalogue card, at three inches by five inches, or rather 75 millimeters by 125 millimeters. (He was a tireless advocate of the metric system.)

Let’s not try and bullshit each other that this American made card file was made for any other size of index card.

Here’s my favorite bit:  “…could be used as a sewing box, phone number/address box, recipe box…”

How?  Using what card stock, Mr. Wizard?

Card File, bottom right corner

Card File, bottom right corner

Here’s the half-assed repair job on a crack on the front of the bottom right joint where the side panel meets the bottom.  Note the glue in the crack from being repaired without clamping, now keeping that crack open.

Card file, front top left joint

Card file, front top left joint

Notice how easily the top lifts off from the left side panel?  It’s no longer glued there.

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Note how the horizontal drawer separator is not flush with the front edges of the side panels.  Why would this be?

Card file, drawer separators

Card file, drawer separators

Oh!  Here’s why!  It’s also not glued in any longer.

Card file, drawer corner detail

Card file, drawer corner detail

Well, the seller thought those dovetail joints were a sure-fire indicator of antiquity.  Yeah.  No one making a piece with modern components would ever think of using dovetail joints.  Here’s the fun bit about these two photos:  Note the Phillips head screws.  Then, remember that the seller said this item dates to the “early 1900s”.  Phillips head screws were not in use until 1937, when Cadillac started using them in all their cars.  They weren’t widely available to the public until 1939, when some 85% of the world’s screw manufacturers were licensed to manufacture them.  Source:  Phillips Screw Company.

That took me all of ten minutes to find out on the internet.

So much for this claim of authentic antique construction from the early 1900s.  I don’t think we need to hear that “1937 IS in the early 1900s”, either.  If the seller wanted to say “the 1930s”, they could have done so, but did not.

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Card file, drawer bottom detail

Oh, I just thought I’d show some more of those “early 1900s” time-machine Phillips head screws.

Summary:

This was sold as an antique, making no mention of the much more modern drawer rebuilds.  It was also sold as “pristine”.  The loose and poorly repaired joints show it to be otherwise.  It was also sold as a card file.  One that could be used for recipes, or perhaps a phone number/address box.  But, the seller never bothered to see that an actual index card would fit into it.  A standard that has existed since Dewey invented it for, wait for it, card files.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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