Canine umbrella stand datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
June 6, 2011

The right-hand column of page A3 of the NYT — the first thing you see when you turn the front page — has historically been home to slightly silly luxury-goods ads from high-end New York retailers. Today is no exception, with Tiffany at the top and Brooks Brothers in the middle. But there’s clearly money in e-retailing again, because the bottom slot has been bought by 1stdibs, which uses the space to advertise this “rare umbrella stand in the form of a collie dog by Piero Fornasetti”, yours for $4,600.

I couldn’t help but think of the famous $15,000 umbrella stand that Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski had in his Fifth Avenue apartment. Has there been massive price deflation in such things? As it happens, I had a meeting at Artnet this morning, which has a comprehensive database of auction results for such things, and they couldn’t find a single dog-shaped umbrella stand coming up for auction ever.

But then I found a description of the Kozlowski umbrella stand, and it’s definitely not a Fornasetti:

The stand is a sculpted terrier on its hind legs with a brass ring through its paws to hold umbrellas.

So there’s no chance that the umbrella stand on 1stdibs was formerly owned by a convicted felon. But we do now know that we’re about 31% of the way towards the point at which a universal touchstone of corporate greed and profligacy becomes a purchase so mainstream that it’s advertised in the Monday New York Times. Is this a sign of another bubble? And if so, is the bubble in dog-shaped umbrella stands, in online retailers, or in New York Times readers with thousands of dollars to drop on umbrella stands? Much as I’d be tickled by the first, I suspect the answer is some combination of the last two.

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