Friday, February 8, 2008

eBay Buying Guide for Pince-Nez, Part II of II

Now to get down to the nitty-gritty, as they say. It seems like each line of goods on eBay has its own particular high points and low points. Pince-nez tests the extremes. The bad side first. Sellers generally know very little about eyewear and usually nothing about pince-nez. Descriptions are usually poor and pictures are typically of low quality. The good side of pince-nez on eBay is that this eyewear is dirt cheap! There is no reason why you should spend more than $20 with shipping for a pince-nez. Most bidding starts at $10 and doesn't go much higher. If a bidding war ensues on one item, pass on it. Another good pince-nez will come along very soon.

On Fit
You will develop a good "feel" for what will fit after gaining some experience. The important thing to remember with pince-nez is to look at fit differently than you would eyewear with temples. One size does not fit all. Take into account the width and depth of your nose bridge when looking at a pince-nez.

Do not gauge the width between the closed nose guards on a pince-nez in the same manner as you would look at standard eyewear. Remember, the nose guards on a fingerpiece open up so that they can clamp onto your nose.* Buyers may tend to think of guard distance as far too narrow without understanding the concept of them being opened when the pince-nez is clipped on the bridge of the nose.

Pince-Nez to Avoid
There are some items on eBay which are often seen and should be avoided at all costs.

Any mounting which has a bent or twisted frame. Such a flaw is seldom able to be corrected on a fingerpiece and risky on a hoop spring. The item below is a longnette with a twisted frame.

Nose guards not in good working order. Fingerpieces should make a snapping sound when closed. The spring on a nose guard of a fingerpiece should not move when released. The coils should have an excellent appearance, as if new. Symmetry is important when judging nose guards as this is an indication of condition.

Hoop springs with rivets instead of screws for attaching the lens to the mounting. This variety appears with great frequency on eBay. These pince-nez were sold in drugstores as cheap sunglasses. The problem is that these lenses are not replaceable. Only buy this style if you are looking for cheap, costume eyewear. I've seen the style below listed at $30 which is ridiculous. $5 would be appropriate.

"Zyl" pince-nez without screws for the lens mount. Zyl was an early type of plastic dating back to the WWI era which had a tendency to dry out and get brittle. Many of these are seen on eBay. In addition to the material problem, many of these mountings do not have screws so that lenses may be changed. An optician would have to expand the strap with heat to pop in the lens. Not a wise purchase. However, there are some zyl frames which do have screws for the lens mounting. Zyl is a tricky field for the novice and should be avoided until you build up some experience. This includes me!

Below is a photo from the back of a zyl frame without screws for the lens mount.

Given that sellers typically know very little of pince-nez, rely more on the photo than the text of the description. Sellers are known for "puffing" their merchandise, often exaggerating condition. I couldn't believe it, but a seller actually described the pince-nez shown below as in excellent condition. A position impossible to justify given that the mounting is missing a nose guard!

Good Deals
New, old stock mountings. These are great finds as the condition is usually excellent. Some may even come on the original cardboard holders. It might be worth a premium to buy one of these when you see one, provided the price is within reason. Here is one that recently sold on eBay for $30.

Groups of mountings. You can often often find groups of pince-nez assortments for a very reasonable price on eBay. This is a great way to get familiar with different mountings at a cheap cost. Even if some mountings are broken, the parts may be salvaged for later use. Springs and screws are very difficult to find otherwise.

In conclusion, the last element to include is luck. Yes, that intangible quality which is all so important. Sometimes even the best research and procedures results in a less than satisfying purchase. Other times, you get lucky despite indications to the contrary. Just don't overspend and I guarantee a good experience in the long run.
*When fingerpiece nose guards are opened fully, the width between the nose guards should be about 1/8th inch minimum to 1/4 inch maximum more than the width of of individuals nose bridge. These figures represent a total of 1/16th and 1/8th inch on each side of the persons nose bridge. This is just a rough estimate but useful.


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