About Aunt Hill
Aunt Hill is an online boutique-style department store created and curated by the muses, as channelled through a small network of artists, creators, designers, thinkers, and writers of our time.
What is Special about Aunt Hill?
The items available here are completely unique. Each graphic design, title, description, placing, and so on is 100% exclusive to Aunt Hill. Other than re-sale, you will not find these items anywhere else. In addition, only 1000 of the coolest people (and sometimes fewer) get to own any one item in the Aunt Hill catalogue.
Interestingly, each purchase from Aunt Hill represents a small stake in intellectual property.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is the real estate of the imagination. Like real estate, the value of intellectual property can fluctuate due to market conditions. And in case you’re wondering, you are the market.
Intellectual property is the realm of developers, film makers, inventors, musicians, photographers, researchers, scientists, visual artists, writers, and other people who create something meaningful out of nothing. When you buy a book, music, an app, a program, or a calendar with pretty pictures, the person (or group) who created it gets a slice of that price, also known as royalties. This can only happen when there is a means to translate the idea into something that can be packaged (as in a book, a license, etc.) and when the item is deliverable (i.e., there is an efficient way to get it to the customer in due time that doesn’t outweigh the cost and/or perceived need of the item itself). In theory, as many copies as wanted can be reproduced, affording literally any “nobody” the opportunities of royalties.
Also known as passive income, this claim on intellectual property is transferrable, either for a fee or through an inheritance, and doesn’t expire until 50 years after the death of the creator. Britain and our neighbours south of the border have extended this number to 75 (to accommodate a mouse!), so Canada is sure to follow suit soon. Regardless, intellectual property represents potential income for up to three generations. And Aunt Hill couldn’t be happier to support and invest in the future of today’s creators by putting their artwork on products for you to purchase and enjoy.
Sometimes it’s not possible to make copies of something, though. An original painting by Euphemia McNaught is beyond the budget of most art lovers because there is a limited number of them available for purchase; despite being very prolific, the Mackenzie-commissioned painter passed away at the age of 100 in 2002. There will be no more opportunities to receive handmade Christmas cards from her as a gift, and buying one is now the only way for most to obtain an original. The value of that particular subdivision of intellectual property increases every year as more and more people come to know and love her work and its comparative scarcity becomes more evident. The market value (i.e., the value to you) has increased so much that most of the market (again, you) can’t afford it, just like real estate in Toronto or Vancouver.
Fortunately for the Everyperson art-lover, there are reasonably priced reproductions available in the gift shop of the gallery in Beaverlodge, Alberta that hosts much of her iconic work. Thanks to the gift shop, there is no charge to see the gallery’s ever-changing exhibitions or have tea in the Pink Room. Of course, nobody is expecting the market value of a post card to amount to much; an overnight increase of 1000% wouldn’t even cover the cost of an out-of-province family vacation!
What’s Your Point?
Mass produced items lose almost all their market value as soon as they are purchased. However, if an item exists as a limited edition, then the scarcity of the article has the potential to increase its value, depending on the demand.
The companies that supply the materials and fabricate the items don’t produce exclusively for Aunt Hill, of course. That would make Aunt Hill like a Swedish furniture store/rat maze. Yes, you will see the same fine cardboard postcard, great ceramic mug, or luxurious throw blanket at other sales points, but never with the limited-edition designs you will find at Aunt Hill (except for re-sale, of course).
By limiting the number of copies of each item for purchase to one thousand, Aunt Hill helps ensure value for both the consumer (my goodness, you are everywhere in this conversation!) and the creators of the graphics, texts, and so on.
How does Limiting the Run Help the Artists Make More Money?
You likely recall the stories of Hercules. Even if your closest contact with this Greek classic is via Saturday morning cartoons, you are familiar with the story involving the beast with many heads; every time old Herc cut one off, two teeth-gnashing, fire-breathing noggins would sprout out of its place. We can easily see the truth in this metaphor for terrorist groups, but there are also ways to be a Good Head-Doubling Beast.
Only popular bands sell out concerts. Regardless of the size of the venues, groups with sold-out shows get more shows (also often sold-out), more album sales, merchandise sales, sponsorships, patronage, licensing deals, and so on. Each one of these revenue channels has the potential to generate more revenue channels. Each one of these “heads” provides income for many different profiles of people, not just the musicians. You are the person who makes one band more popular than another, and the limitations on supply to the market (seats in a concert venue, for example) are exactly what forces multiple heads out of the place where there was only one before.
Yes it does! Popularity wrecks everything. When something becomes popular, it’s no longer cool because everybody has one. Isn’t that dumb?
Yes it is! That’s why only the 1000 coolest people get to own any one item for sale at Aunt Hill. Limiting the number of copies is like cutting off a head; when the item is sold-out, this is a signal that the artist is ready to introduce more designs to the market. The creator can still sell an unlimited number of items to just as many fans, but by limiting the availability of each design, each purchase retains more value for the new owner. The artist can become extremely popular without the value of your limited edition purchase being affected, except for the better.
Aren’t the Prices a Little Steep?
Not if you buy two or three items. The 20%, 30%, or larger discounts reflect the savings on shipping more than one item at a time.
Also, each item is created on demand so that you get the right size and perfect colour. When you order a bomber jacket, for example, the design is printed on the fabric, the fabric is cut to your size, then hand sewn together before it is inspected, packaged, and sent to you. Embroidery and printing also require at least one operator, and of course, no items wrap themselves up in a box and walk themselves to the post office.
Wouldn’t it be Cheaper to Make 1000 of Each all at Once?
Absolutely, but there’s no way to accurately predict exactly how many of each size or other variation to produce. And due to the extra shipping, warehousing, and the various infrastructures and human resources needed to sustain that, the retail price would inch its way back up to where it is now. Because the element of customization would be very limited (especially sizing and colours), the market would shrink, and that’s bad for creators. Its bad for fans too; if the art doesn’t feed the artist’s children (and those of the professionals in the various, associated sales channels), then the art won’t exist. For all the good that is art (Art is the Foreplay of Science), no sane person would choose it over feeding their baby. And that’s a good thing.
Does this Mean that Buying Things at Aunt Hill is an Investment?
Buying low and selling high is somewhat like winning a lottery with very hard, skill-testing questions to qualify. Without doubt, some beginners get lucky breaks and these are thanks to right-place/right-time coincidence: simply an exaggerated example of finding a loony on the street. But most uneducated investors are losers. Naturally, losing is part of winning. Not because somebody has to lose, but because loss is the best teacher there is. If you’re smart, failure and losing will show you how not to win until you finally do.
Will a throw pillow from Aunt Hill be worth more than you paid for it some day? If it sells out much quicker than the average sales rate for throw pillows, then yes; a rush on a product with limited availability very often pushes up the re-sale value. We’ve seen this before with toilet paper, concert tickets, and cabbage patch dolls. Again, since the resale value depends on the market, you are the one who ultimately decides what will become an iconic, sought-after classic.
My Head’s Full Enough Now, Thanks
Thank you! Thank you for reading all these words! Thank you for taking the time to poke around Aunt Hill and for getting right to the bottom of this dad-long version of a short story!
Don’t be a piece; do the puzzle.