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Vintage Levi’s Featured in Newest Simpsons Episode

The Thread

In an episode of The Simpsons last week, Marge Simpson sold a pair of Levi’s 501xx Big E Redlines with Hidden Rivets for $2595. In a clip from the episode that I thought was AI generated at first, Marge walks into a vintage clothing store with a pair of Homer’s old Levi’s and shows them to Collectible Pants Dude, who offers her $20. However, Marge, having been watching Trash for Cash, knows they are worth much more. “Nice try, bub. I saw a pair on eBay for $3000.” They strike a deal at $2595, and Collectible Pants Dude watches his markup shrink from 10,000% to 15%. This interaction perfectly represents what has happened to the vintage market and how media exposure, like the episode itself, influences it.

“Levi’s Hidden Rivets Sell for $2595” may pale in comparison to past Bidstitch headlines like “Kurt Cobain’s Jeans Sell for $500,000” or “A Pair of Levi’s Jeans Sold for $76,000,” but Marge’s $2595 sale is still significant. This isn’t a sign that vintage is dead or that The Simpsons writers have blown the spot; eBay, Antiques Roadshow, and TikTok did that. What it signifies is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to underpay people for their old clothing, and as a consequence, vintage store owners will suffer.

The vintage industry was built on esotericism. It was as much about having an eye for style as it was about knowing more than the person you’re doing business with. Nowadays, looking up “comps” is as simple as pulling out your smartphone, opening the Google Lens app, and taking a picture. Before eBay and smartphones, vintage was the wild west. I’ve heard stories from old timers about how they’d go town to town, taking out full-page newspaper ads saying, “Buying USA Levi’s $$$” or “Cash for old clothing!” and hand out cash in hotel rooms to lines of old ladies. A few people made a lot of money because of knowledge they had that the seller didn’t. The more ubiquitous vintage clothing becomes, the harder it is to have a knowledge advantage.

Dating and pricing vintage clothing has gotten progressively easier. There are tag guides, haul videos on YouTube and TikTok, and Instagram bin-fluencers to explain what to buy and how much to sell it for. In a world where everyone has perfect knowledge, the margin shrinks. Selling vintage has become a simple equation of volume and margin. The gold rush is over.

Collectible Pants Guy probably used to be able to pay the Marges of the world $20 for Hidden Rivets. He could operate a store that paid its bills buying and selling mids and get the occasional big win off some poor schlub. Now he’s lucky Marge didn’t list the pants on eBay herself. His big wins get further and further apart, and if he wants grails, he has to pay up for them. Those at the top of the food chain with enormous buying budgets will continue to buy and sell grails as usual, and the bins kid selling $20 tees on Depop will continue to buy and sell mids as usual, but the small-town vintage store owner is getting squeezed at both ends.

A question I’m left with is, do we need the small-town vintage store? Do they provide something we can’t get from eBay or Depop? Should Collectible Pants Dude get a day job?

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