[auctionsniper]My Totally Normal Addiction to Buying Teen Magazines on eBay

  When the first issue of Sassy came out, I was about halfway through eighth grade, extremely self-conscious in my first year at a new school in a wealthier part of town. It was a challenging time. There was a brief vogue in my class of wearing shirts inside out and backward so that the Esprit or Benetton labels were right under the wearer’s chin — really. I felt hopelessly different from all of my classmates, certain that I would never find another person like me. And then, suddenly, there was Sassy.

  It was different from all the other teen magazines. Like them, Sassy covered pop culture, fashion, beauty (or Zits & Stuff, as the column was called), but it also took on heavy topics without condescending to its readers. Teen suicide and “Losing Your Virginity: Read This Before You Decide” were in the premiere issue, almost as if the editors were afraid they wouldn’t get a chance to address them if they waited — and, indeed, advertiser boycotts and letters from furious parents did result. Sassy didn’t venerate the Tiger Beat-minted stars marketed to people our age; instead, it championed out-of-the-mainstream bands and regularly mixed thrifted and vintage pieces into its fashion stories. Like all the most resonant stories for lonely teenagers, Sassy gave you a sense that there was a wider world out there waiting for you if you could just get through whatever torturous or stultifying or even just dull existence was currently trapping you.

  Looking back, I find it obvious why I suddenly became obsessed, in the summer of 2020, with recapturing that feeling: Once again, I was trapped by circumstances beyond my control. Eventually, I wound up on eBay. I created a list of all the issues I had, in iCloud, so that I could check new auctions against my library, no matter where I was. Losing out on a 15-issue lot — still the biggest I’ve ever seen — in the literal last second of bidding ruined the rest of my day and finally persuaded me to install an auction-sniper app on my phone. Functionally, collecting Sassy wasn’t that different from a gambling addiction: There was an element of chance, I was compulsive about it, it was expensive — and it passed the time.