The following is a guest post by Gary Varner, proprietor at Notegeist.com
The world of cool stationery goodies has never been better. There are limited editions throughout many types of items, but most notably in pencils, pens, and notebooks. Creating limited availability goods has both makers and consumers happy, unless you are a consumer who missed getting one before they sold out! FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is a new emotion now firmly rooted in our stationery loving souls.
Or is it new?
Back in 2000, the first paper – written by a marketing strategist – appeared on the broader aspect of this cultural phenomenon. FOMO in the stationery world is a small part of an overall, more serious condition. A study estimated about 70% of adults in developing countries feel the creeping, often consuming feeling that something is happening and they are not involved. Further studies showed mostly young people (and more so in males) experienced FOMO. If you’d like to read deeper on the subject, start with The History of FOMO.
Can you spell 'stationery' without FOMO?
Back to our beloved stationery world. From the Field Notes Quarterly Limited Editions to the Blackwing Volumes series to Retro 51 Poppers to Dapper Notes artisan single notebooks, Log+Jotter monthly releases, and many others, we who love these products have a veritable feast of FOMO-inducing treats to enjoy.
My personal experience with rare offerings and tiny windows of availability occurred in the Field Notes world with the release of the alphabet soup editions like Landland and Mondocon, or Aaron Draplin’s DDC releases such as EEEK, Union, and others. Taking part in the frenzy when the virtual doors opened was both fun and slightly unnerving to watch. Most of the time, the rush either took down the server or the item sold out in minutes. Some walked away in brief nirvana, while others (most) felt the bitter taste of FOMO realized.
Gotta catch them all
The challenge can become like that well-known Pokemon phrase, can you catch them all? Putting aside the ethical and pragmatic question of “should you even try?” or the mantra of the anti-FOMOite “they’re only paper (or pencils, or pens),” FOMO seems to be about the chase and acquisition, and not about need or use. Not saying that SABLE (stationery acquisition beyond life expectancy) is good or bad, and acquiring stationery goods may be both therapeutic and less harmful than other habits. Yet all the marketing voodoo and consumer impulse psychology can be where FOMO lurks for the unwary.
So what is a stationery lover to do when they miss out? That’s where the secondary marketplace, with its happy mantra of “Give FOMOs a chance” (all due respect to John Lennon and apologies to readers for that ear worm), comes to the rescue.
The flea market
Options to find missed limiteds range from reasonable prices to floating, higher market prices, and from working trades in various focused Facebook Groups, e.g., Erasables (Blackwings) and Field Nuts (Field Notes limiteds). The most well-known site is eBay, which is the secondary market price setter, or at least, typically sets the high-water mark on pricing. Other places such as Amazon, Tophatter, Bonanza, etc., may offer items but they typically are not the best hunting grounds. Regardless of where, you can expect to pay more than original price when you find what you are missing. But at least you have a second chance.
Second chance shops
Another new and growing option is at a small, focused online stationery shops. To my knowledge, there are very few such shops offering secondary market limited items, like my online shop, Notegeist. I specialize in finding and selling at fair prices limiteds such as Field Notes, Blackwing Volumes, and Dapper Notes. I built my shop around this model so stationery lovers can build their collections affordably.
Today’s secondary marketplace offers some help to avoid suffering from stationery FOMO. Whether searching the depths of eBay, hunting via Google Search, or finding independent online shops, you can eventually find that notebook, pen or pencil you missed out on. But next time, maybe get there a little earlier when the virtual line forms for the release of the next limited stationery thing. Just don’t stand too close to the virtual door when the frenzy begins. ◾️
Postscript, a note from Enon:
In the past, I wrote a recap on how to get your hands on sold out Dapper Notes. One of the ways I listed was to simply ask me, and if I had materials to make a new copy for you, I'd happily make it. At this point, I'm mostly out of old materials. I've also come to realize that I end up spending multiple hours on creating one-offs, time I'd rather use for experimenting on new things.
Thank you Gary for creating a trustworthy space in the secondary stationery market, and for writing this article to provide very helpful context.