As an active buyer on EBay, I have searches for anything regarding Jonestown, Peoples Temple, and Jim Jones. For the past year, I had a request in the “favorite search” section for material related to Indianapolis 1978. Since Indianapolis was the original home of Peoples Temple, I thought there would be something – even a newspaper – regarding that year and the city itself to connect to the disaster in Guyana, but nothing has come my way.
Newspapers from November 1978, particularly San Francisco papers covering Jonestown and the Moscone/Milk murders, are actively sought by collectors like myself. In fact, one seller has a San Francisco Chronicle newspaper on the market for the hefty price of $450. I received one for $33 after a tough bidding war.
I have a search regarding Rev. Jim Jones too. I am usually am notified about books like Raven by Tim Reiterman and documentaries like Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. I also have bid – and won! – the familiar envelope in which to enclose money for the cause and mail to a post office box address in San Francisco. These items sell for about $6.99 plus shipping and handling. In the last year, Jim Jones’ high school yearbook turned up on the market, but I was outbid on that one.
I am most interested in the Peoples Forum newsletters which would tell me more about Peoples Temple. There were HAM radio cards that were also on sale as well and I bid only to lose. Other items I am searching for include anything with Rev. Jim Jones’ signature and photos taken in Jonestown. There were a number of the latter last year, but most have disappeared from auction recently.
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I have some advice for those who have Jonestown memorabilia that they are considering putting up for auction on EBay.
• Please consider donating them or finding a buyer who is willing to donate them to the California Historical Society in San Francisco. This is the largest repository of Temple materials in the world. If CHS accepts it, you may even be able to get a tax deduction!
• Right now, EBay is a buyer’s market, which means that it’s a shopping frenzy for shoppers, and sellers are often not getting what they want for their items.
• If you have collectibles and rare antiques, make sure that you check them out by researching the items’ values and worth, whether you are offering them though the Internet, library, or a respected antique appraiser.
• If you do plan to open up shop on EBay, make sure that you check out your competition regarding certain products.
• You can sell and buy practically anything on EBay. I have bought items that I can’t buy anywhere else.
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In late July, I attended the Titanic Exhibition at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. When you go in, they give you a card with some information about a person who boarded R.M.S. Titanic. When you leave at the end of your tour, you learn the fate of the person on your card. My person was a young woman who was going to become a nun in Massachusetts and traveled in steerage or third class; she died. My mother’s card was a first class lady passenger who survived.
I would love to see a similar type of exhibition – complete with biographical cards – where people can come and learn about the people who lived in Jonestown or who were members of Peoples Temple. In the end, they learned of their member’s fate: did they die in Guyana that day? were they among the survivors in Guyana? were they in the U.S. at the time? I believe people need to know the truth about Jonestown and the events that culminated the tragic events on November 18, 1978. If we can learn from it, then those lives lost were not lost in vain.