Magazine December 20, 2021, Issue

Knife-Swapping and the Martians

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The careful buyer of an object of dubious provenance has two indications, if not of its worth, then of its authenticity. The object might be priced at or above market value. Here the higher price might mean the seller knew something the buyer did not — either that the market had gone up, or that the seller was ignorant of the fact that it had not. (This last is called “making the market.”)

In an unregulated interchange — a flea market, for example — the rule is Caveat emptor (“Trust everyone, but cut the cards”). An item priced above the market

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