Part One Five A.M., Noon, Nine-thirty P.M., Midnight Select One and Let's Go Shopping Basics About Buying Online How much would you pay for an old pair of jeans? Ten bucks? Let's say these are a pair of vintage Levi Strauss jeans from the nineteenth century. Would you pay $150? Consider that nearly everything belonging to the San Francisco-based Levi Strauss Company-designs, records, and drawings-was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Could these jeans be the only pair from the late 1880's in existence? If these jeans were to appear in an Internet auction, would you bid $46,000? If you did, you'd lose. Several bidders who participated in an eBay auction on May 24, 2001, registered their interest, during the final hours, in what can only be described as damaged goods: There was a fifteen-inch tear in the fly area-ouch!-and holes in the right knee, not to mention a lost buckle and label. But-whoa, Nellie-we are talking about the very fabric of American fashion history, not just any pair of indigo vegetable-dyed denim jeans with mounted metal rivets stamped L.S. & CO. PAT MAY 1873. These may in fact be the earliest example of the only article of clothing turned out by mass production in the nineteenth century. The pants were found during the excavation of a Nevada mining town and given to the consignor who reproduces historical clothing. Perhaps coincidentally, Jacob Davis, the tailor who shared that patent with Strauss for a pair of trousers with copper rivets at its stress points, was himself from Carson City, Nevada. The Levi Strauss Company, whose $46,532 bid ultimately claimed these jeans in the final moments of the auction, authenticated the garment. The auction, conceived of as a promotion by the History Channel and Butterfields auction house in San Francisco, became a powerful marketing tool for each party. The jeans were probably worth the unusually high winning bid. After the auction, the Levi Strauss Company displayed the jeans in their flagship store in San Francisco. This extraordinary auction clearly established the significance of vintage fashion items as worthwhile purchases. While most of us might not be able to match this level of expenditure when acquiring our personal collections, our passion for the prize is just as great. We fall in love with things and buy them or bid on them with care and genuine enthusiasm. The Romance of It All Vintage clothes take us back to times past, perhaps to younger, wilder days when we wore miniskirts and hot pants, or to imagined evenings of an elegant era when beaded flapper dresses were all the rage. Vintage garments have a power to comfort us and elevate our moods on a gray day when we are feeling what Holly Golightly described as the "mean reds" in Breakfast at Tiffany's. First Steps: Shopping at the World's Online Marketplace If you're like us, you've shopped at tag sales and flea markets, going through racks of used clothing looking for treasures. You may have favorite consignment or vintage clothing stores with names like My Secret, Second Hand Rose, or Consignment Originals. You've browsed charity bazaars, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill looking for cashmere sweaters and great coats among the donated clothing. You're no novice, to be sure, but shopping the Internet for vintage clothing is an altogether new experience. EBay is by far the largest online auction site and an excellent place to start; there are riches galore, and it is relatively easy to learn the ropes. We'll use eBay as an example, since most auction sites use a similar process. Log on to www.ebay.com, click on the Register Now button, follow the steps, and select a user name. We recommend you go for one that's easy to remember and not too long, as you will want to type it in quickly when you're ready to start shopping.Lindroth, Linda is the author of 'Virtual Vintage The Insider's Guide to Buying and Selling Fashion Online', published 2002 under ISBN 9780812992007 and ISBN 0812992008.