Making A Living From The Dead – Part One – Cash And Carry

No, it’s not about embalming or other mortuary subjects – it’s about how to get your eating money by being a purveyor of history. A commodity that you did not make and cannot buy.

Every industry, trade, or occupation needs raw materials to begin with. Farmers need seed, land, sun, and water. Shopkeepers need stock. Coal miners need coal and desperation. Once the various parties secure their kit, they can start to make use of it…eventually turning out food, profits, or contributions to political parties.* The trick to making a success of the thing is to get the starting stuff cheap, economise on the making or handling, and sell the finished product dear. If you can find a market that simply must have what you produce no matter what, you can pinch the margins and raise the prices and do very well indeed.

There is no cheaper raw material than history. It may have cost the people who made it very dearly indeed, but by the time we get it, there is generally no more to pay – particularly if the old stock is well past the date. Time is not the enemy of the history salesman – it is the wonderful unpaid finishing process that coats the dull and disastrous with a golden layer of ” Respect “. If it is recent, the history clerk can flog it as nostalgia and if it is 200 years old it can be sold as heritage. The point of it all is that it can be sold.

The buyers of history are numerous; people who want to push a current political barrow and need some baggage to put in it – the idle rich who need amusement – and the idle poor who need amusement until the next dole cheque arrives – the student who needs something to get their next certificate. They’ll all pay for history, though in many cases they’ll tell you that they forgot their wallet and that they’ll settle up with you next time.

One of the secrets of successful history selling is to give credit where it is due, but never to  customers. Cash now and they can have the receipt next time…

*   I could use a million, Clive. Just sayin’…

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