This was originally part of the post on minimalist travel, but I didn’t want to bog that post down with the story. But I had written it, so I will post it here.
In Bulgaria, I was near the big cathedral and they have a great number of street vendors selling antique stuff. Old Soviet pins, WWII items, etc. I like to send post cards, and a lot of the dealers were selling antique cards. Some were in great shape, some had already been used, and some were deteriorating not from bad storage but simply age. But there were thousands of cards, and some of them were really, really interesting. So, I approached one table, and I was told a card was 2 euros. That’s the tourist price. Tourists will pay it, and so that’s what they ask. So, I picked out 5 cards, and I asked the price of them in total. At first it was 10 euro. I said no. Then 5 euro. I said no and walked away. I didn’t really want those particular cards; I was just collecting information.
I walked over to another table where the operator saw me walk away and could hear the conversation. I asked how much. He said 50 cents. I bought one card. Then I walked around the corner to another table where there were thousands. My card was out of sight. I asked the operator how much, and he said 1 euro. I said that the guy around the corner was selling them for a euro, and I would not pay that much. He asked me how much, and I asked him how much. He said 50 cents for a card. I said I would look. I picked out 17 cards and asked him how much. He looked through them, and pulled one out and said that this was very expensive; it was a color photograph card. I said “OK, I don’t want that one or this other one” and asked him how much. He was getting the picture. He said, said to me, “How much?” I said $5 for all 15. He looked at me, studying me to assess the situation. He said $8. I said no. $5. He said $7. I said no. $5, and I started to put them down and said, “It’s OK. I will look at another table.” He said OK and sold them to me for $5. I bought them and told him that I would come back for more, which I did two more times and he made easy sales.
These cards were anwhere from 60 to 90 years old, and I had the good fun of sending them to friends and family. Remarkable. If you think I was being a jerk, I wasn’t. I was just playing the game that this man was very skilled at playing, and even at 30 cents a card (which was half the price of the cards at the bookstore), he probably would have gone even lower, but I was not going to press my luck or have ill feelings about dealing with me because I wanted to buy his cards. Afterwards, I found several of the cards on eBay for $100/card (US prices), but I used and sent the cards anyway as they were really great.