Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.
eBay is a weird corner of the internet that has somehow survived as long as I’ve been alive—it’s actually only one year younger than me. And I’m not trying to be a narcissistic millennial—I’m just pointing out that a lot has happened online since 1995, so it’s kind of incredible that this lame e-commerce site has changed with the times so successfully that there is now a really good Instagram devoted to its absurdity. @Ebaybae, run by New York-based Tae Ahn, brings together the best-worst items for sale on eBay—from a $1,000 Supreme brick, to a Kim Jong Un “RompHim,” or whatever those horrible things are called. It’s basically a wonderfully crafted catalog of extremely dumb shit.
Fusing her love of visual research with her skill for curation, Ahn used to spend hours on eBay while commuting to work. Fascinated with the bizarre listings and the fact that you can buy literally anything on the site, the 33-year-old wanted to share the amazing stuff she found with everyone who’s left the OG online department store for Amazon.com. While she posts a lot of one-of-a-kind fashion gems, like these Chanel tennis balls, her best finds are the insane objects that only exist because of how mindlessly our generation consumes—like this banana slicer. Her profile has the power to make you both laugh and cry at the frivolity of modern innovation and the stupid voice inside your head that says, “I should totally ironically buy a money-themed toilet seat.”
Name: Tae Ahn
Occupation: Collection Specialist at The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Favorite eBay item: Fresh orange juice kiosk in the shape of an orange.
Weirdest eBay item: Ham and cheese sandwich fragrance oil.
Ugliest eBay item: This Medusa leather helmet.
How’d you get so interested in eBay?
I went to graduate school for museum studies and fashion, so I’ve always been interested in material culture, and while in school, I often had to do a lot of object research. I’ve been using eBay for a long time, and it was sort of a marriage between my background and my interest in design.
What draws you to weird objects?
I’m fascinated how many novelty objects exist. Fashion is my main focus, but I love anything that is a utilitarian object, like office supplies or home decor. A lot of people think you can only buy weird fashion items or camera equipment on eBay. But I like to show that you can buy literally anything on this one retail platform, from a luxury good, to real estate, to haunted things, and friendship.
How do you find the things you post?
Sometimes I’m inspired by a word, a color, a texture, or the description of something. I really got into looking at salesman samples, which are vintage pieces from the days when salesmen had to go door-to-door to sell anything, and they had little miniature figurines of whatever they were trying to push.
Your Instagram highlights mass-consumerism and the over-production of pointless products that goes with it.
That’s my thought also. I like to juxtapose things you’d find in somebody’s basement with something really overpriced and trendy—like a weird McDonald’s freezer side-by-side with pieces from Jeremy Scott’s french fry collection. I like that they’re both so different but they’re lifestyle accessories for people.
What kind of things have you bought on eBay?
I bought a Vivienne Tam demonic-print dress. But I usually don’t post what I purchase because I want to keep things sacred. I’ve heard of people who have actually purchased what I posted, and I don’t want it to become such a popular thing that when I search for it again, I’ll have competition.
What would happen if someone whose item you posted found your Instagram?
I definitely do think, ‘What are these people thinking?’ when I post things on my account—and I kind of hope they don’t find out about it, because I feel like it may come off like I’m ridiculing them. But if they’re on eBay and listing things, they’re releasing it out into the internet. One poster literally glued a rock to the top of a pill bottle and placed a set of house keys in the pill bottle and listed the item as a secret stash. With something like that, I’m just really amazed— that’s a genius item. I admire that person for having the balls to post that.
Why are you so interested in the people who post on eBay?
I’m really interested in the variety of niche items people sell—they’ll sell whatever they’re into and they don’t think it’s weird to glue a rock to a pill bottle, or to sell 27 pill bottles or a vintage lot of Polly Pockets. And to take the time to arrange it in a visually pleasing way—it just shows that everyone has a very particular set of things they’d like to acquire.
How do you decide what to post?
I just recently started getting such a following, and I don’t want to feel pressured to primarily stick with what does well, or with the fashion audience—I have to remind myself to stay freaky.