Jonestown and the economy –
reflections on eBay’s hidden treasures

by Sylvia Marciniak

09-02

If you really want to know how the economy is doing, check out eBay on the Internet. You can learn a lot on eBay by what and how people are selling. It’s like the ultimate garage sale on the web. At the moment, eBay is a buyer’s market and a seller’s nightmare. Many items don’t get the low asking price and an item can remain on the market for a while before a buyer bids.

In the last year I have noticed a pattern regarding Jonestown items. They usually come on eBay around the anniversary in the fall. But patience is a virtue: after a few years of being an eBay buyer, I have learned that the item can often return again for a lower price if the seller isn’t lucky in the first run.

Recently I have purchased some QSL cards from Guyana and I am happy to share the front and back sides of both cards which are signed Paula Adams and Al Touchette. I find that they are quite revealing of the months prior to the events of November 18, 1978.

Both cards are dated January 31, 1978, but there is a difference in the ambience of the two. Paula’s message is positive, upbeat, and warm with regards to Guyana’s relationship with Peoples Temple. There are no misspelled or shortened words in this message. Since Paula Adams was Jim Jones’ envoy in Georgetown, Guyana, she must have been under the watchful eye of Sharon Amos, his right-hand lieutenant in charge. I can’t help but wonder if it was a standard impersonal response to the sender. I also wonder who Bob was.

Albert Touchette’s QSL card is different from Paula’s in that it seems more personal, but the note also raises questions. Why was he trying to get to a congressman months before Leo Ryan arrived with his entourage in November 1978? And why does he mention that Guyana was becoming more Americanized as something positive, when Peoples Temple came to Guyana for a communist way of life? I wonder if Albert Touchette was trying to send a message to the outside world without sounding too obvious. Was he really trying to get help for Jonestown when he asked for help for Guyana? Was he trying to defect without being obvious to others around him?

These are some of the questions my recent purchases on eBay have raised, and they show why I hunt for items related to Peoples Temple on eBay: to better understand the organization and its place in history. The turn in the economy has allowed me to unearth more of eBay’s hidden treasures than I would otherwise have been able to. Eventually I hope to donate my collection to the California Historical Society so that other people may learn too.

(Sylvia Marciniak is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her complete collection of writings for the site may be found here. She can be reached at sylviambe@yahoo.com.)

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 13th, 2013.
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