ANY DONATION MADE VIA THIS PAGE CAN BE USED AS A CREDIT FOR FUTURE PURCHASES FROM PHOTOMEMORIESLANE
usual morning. Iit can be any day of a week. It can be Athens,
Istanbul, Belgrade, Zagreb, Kiev, Skopje or Tirana. Or some other
place with name which is non-pronounceable even for me as Estonian
who has more strange wovels in my own language than most other
While I am walking down the narrow street, or along the shaky tables on some semi-official market, fragile old gentlemen and ladies (I wouldn't call them just 'men' and 'women'), are saying hallo in their language, some come hugging and kissing me – doing what's required by a local custom when you meet a friend long not seen.
And the word spreads among those local sellers, most of whom have had their small stores, stalls or tables there for years – the 'crazy Estonian' (in good sense, I guess :) is in town again – and you should get ready your boxes with old photos; call your friends who have some; find an interpreter (we don't have common language with some sellers, except our love towards old, antique and out-of-usual).
I am offered freshly brewed Turkish (or Greek) coffee, some local sweets, or rakiya / ouzo, or, in the worst case (at least in morning, lol) something they call vinyak in Serbia, but despite it's name it has nothing to do with wine – it's local brandy. I am brought a table and chair, and lots of boxes with hundreds and thousands of photos inside. My working day begins.
At least it has been so for the last year, when I have been on the road for most of the time. It's probably not the most reasonable way of earning your income, when you will be 50 soon – but searching for old photos to sell them is highly addictible. It can even become an obsession - and who would understand it better than a collector?
Everything turned upside down on a sunny day in the beginning of May when second-largest vintage marketplace closed my account out of the blue – I had 1900 sales and 800 five star comments there. No complaints, nothing. It just became one of 180,000 stores this marketplace closes every year – and they don't even explain the reasons. You can't appeal their decision.
As I grew up in the Soviet Union, I remember stories told by my grandmother when I was little kid visiting her in a village on Saaremaa island in Estonia. My grandparents wee deported from Estonia to Siberia in 1949 by Stalin's regime. The only reason – they were 'rich' during the period before Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 – about 30 acres of land, two horses and four cows.
Why I recalled her stories this morning, was the way my account was suspended: without any reason given, without any official document, without possibility to appeal. That reminded me very much about Stalin's repressions in the USSR from 1930's to 1950's. There was a 'troika' (three guys in special 'court') whose decision was final. Now they call it 'Integrity Team'.
Even worse, few days later a payment provider limited my account as well – with very different explanations given (and changing every time I ask). Still in process of arguing with them, but hope to solve it soon. Everything is fine with eBay, though, as they seem to be very understanding and helpful in framework what they can do, so my eBay store is just on holiday right now.
About the same time I found hundreds of illegal copies of my photos from eBay sold as 'reproductions' on a third marketplace. Which meant, that a guy downloaded the small-sized images from eBay, sold them few dollars apiece, and printed them out in no-quality.
I've sold about 7000 photos during the last 12 months. It makes as average 20 photos a day to be found, bought, scanned, listed, sold, invoiced, packed and shipped. In order to find 20 photos with striking or unusual images, you need to go through few thousands of them.
And if you read this text here, you are one of my buyers who have helped me to reach this number, and most probably have also received my packages from very un-touristic places, bearing exotic stamps and unreadable postmarks. But you have received them, and you have come back. Thank you!
After having two separate (but complementing) problems the same time, I haven't bought or sold a lot since May. I have shipped all photos which I sold (and all of you have been very understanding and helpful). Thank you all – for trust and honesty and friendship.
I have received numerous e-mails with support and wishes that I would be back selling soon; people are even calling to my mobile from the other side of the Atlantic, worrying about my health and offering their help. And few colleagues have helped with buying my stock in bulk, so I could pay my bills.
I have had quite a lot of time to think, what to do in the future. My doctor (with whom we argue for years already, if I have a BAD or “just” depression) suggested I carry on with what I love to do instead of finding some dull office job. I took a short trip to hospital as well, as the 'shrinks' suspected I may have had a mini stroke due to pressure, so I was offline for some days. My apologies.
Really, is it worth of average € 1000 ($ 1200) monthly income, after expenses, before taxes, when you work up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week – living away from home – and when I'm not buying, scanning, listing, packing and shipping, then I would be travelling on some funny local bus from point A to point B in some almost unheard of country in the Balkans?
When I look on my route history on Google maps, it's between 'strategic points' in each town – a cheap hotel (should be next to the Post Office), antiquarian markets and streets, and then to the bus station or airport.
Sometimes I didn't remember where I was on a certain day a week before (and I needed to check it by postal receipts from different countries which are a substitute of calendar for me :).
Once, taking a night bus from Zagreb via Belgrade to Sofia, I was asked by Serbian borderguard when exiting the country – 'sir, where did you enter Serbia' (as they don't always scan your documents in these countries). It took me few minutes to recall that it was Zagreb this time, not Budapest as it was my first guess :)
But I like the people I meet on marketplaces, old shops and shadowy alleys. I like those fragile old ladies and gentlemen (for some of whom I am an only buyer interested in their old photos which may have been untouched for 15 or 20 years).
And, I like my buyers – I like you, whom I have met on Etsy, eBay, Delcampe or some other online marketplace, as you are fantastic people, and for all this I believe, it IS worth resuming this business. Thank you for supporting messages as well.
It's every photo dealer's (and any antiquarian's) dream to find something unusual, valuable, a secret treasure. Time to time I find photos which have 'real' market value, like an original 1870 Cabinet Card of young Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia by Levitsky.
A private archive of 1880's Romanian circus 'wonder girl' Eugenie Petrescu with photos and posters of her, which was almost to be recycled in Bucharest. An odd original Wilhelm Plüschow, hidden (read: thrown away) among other old photos in a box in Athens.
But usually my finds are just small snapshots and RPPC's with some unusual, funny, or intresting details. Once valued memories for someone, and glimpse to the past for us. I like the moments when I find a very unusual amateur image, which might be in the bottom of the box of hundreds of dull and faded snapshots.
And I like those days when my auctions end on eBay, as it's a real rush of adrenaline when you see the price to go up two, ten, sometimes 50 times in the last seconds. It's unbeatable feeling. It's not so much about the final amount but that there are other people 'out there' who share my 'eye' on this or that image.
I also do not want to let down my providers in Istanbul, Athens, Belgrade, Tirana or some other place who have put aside 'topics' I have asked them about. I have already apologized for not being there now as I promised. With some of them we chat on phone – with those who don't speak English, I communicate via other local friends. They are expecting 'the crazy Estonian' to be back in town soon.
Being pathologially honest :) I always try to pay a fair price for photos I buy. I mean, in places, where old photos are sometimes considered worth not much. Of course, there are some places (like Croatia or Bulgaria) wheres some sellers try to charge me twice the price I could ask for the same photo on eBay. And sometimes I sell cheaper than I buy. Just because I like that or another photo.
My dream is to have the best online vintage photo store focusing on old amateur photos of people. I was half way on it, but setbacks followed by health problems almost made me to stop. I sold my stock of photos for minimum price to pay my bills. I was looking for a stupid office job. And then e-mails from loyal started to come in, asking when I would be back.
I was very hesitating, as when you have been out of business for two months (and sold your old stock, except few), it means you need to start everything from square one. This needs enough funds for two first months until the merry-go-round of buying-listing-selling-shipping takes up speed again.
Then I got a transfer for € 200 from one of my loyal buyers (as 'seed' for growing a new business tree) together with an idea to crowd-fund the new store. It took two more weeks from me to go with the idea as I am not comfortable with asking favours.
One of my buyers wrote me once (I don't remember the exact wording but this was the idea) that buying from PhotoMemoriesLane is like ordering a cab but getting a ride in Rolls. I try my best when serving you, and I would apologize if I have written you too often.
Statistically, 20% of my buyers have given me 80% of my income. You are among the ones who have returned, which means that we have similar ideas about good photos. I hope you will come back again – and that you help me to restart my business.
Thank you, and have a great summer!
With best wishes,
Tom from PhotoMemoriesLane
- Any donation you make via this page can be used as a credit for future purchases from PhotoMemoriesLane on any marketplace or for direct sales (covering 50% of the purchase value on period 01 OCT 2018 – 31 DEC 2018 and used as full payment from 01 JAN 2019).
- This is a private campaign, which is visible only to invited participants who have the weblink. In respect to your privacy, you can additionally choose to stay anonymous, when checking the corresponding box on donation page. When donating anonyomusly please be sure to fill in your name and e-mail address on payments page so I can credit you in the future.
- We will be back online with totally new stores (with new selection of nice old photos) from 01 SEP 2018. All supporters will be informed first about our new items and special offers.
Links to buyers' feedback about our store: