How it all Began

“To accept what each day may bring, unless through my own endeavor I can better myself and those who my life may concern; to value the present, because it is one with the past and future which are mine to make or to mar; to strive only for what I believe to be highest and best, holding others to no standard which I cannot maintain for myself; to be thankful for, and improve the privileges which are mine as a college woman, bearing in mind the added responsibility which devolves on me because of them; to hold high the honor of my fraternity, tempering word and deed according to the influence they will and must have, upon the colors I bear; finally, to give in all things the best I have; this is to be my Kappa symphony.”

These beautiful words written by our sister, Anita B. Perrin of Beta Eta chapter (Stanford University), inspired the name of my blog. 

I joined eBay in 1999 and immediately became very excited about the idea. I had always been a fan of estate sales, browsing pawn shop jewelry, and rummaging through jewelry boxes at garage sales looking for diamonds in the rough. I looked at eBay as a way to go to garage sales, estate sales, and pawn shops without having to deal with driving around in the Texas heat to yard sales or heading to sketchy parts of town to hit the pawn shops…. 

A few years later, I was searching through the online treasure trove of eBay estate sale jewelry. (I have a thing for charm bracelets, with my own James Avery bracelet being one of my most treasured pieces of jewelry.) On that day on eBay, I found a beautiful gold charm bracelet that I soon discovered was filled with treasures. I was delighted to see a gold disc with gorgeous filigree work and a detailed Kappa crest in the center. I clicked through more photos to find an owl charm and what looked like a 50-year fleur-de-lis pin converted into a charm! There were various other unrelated-to-kappa charms, including a fantastic mustard seed in a tiny glass bead  (not a Kappa thing, but I loved it anyway), and then I saw it….

This charm bracelet had one of our badges that had somehow been modified from a pin into a charm, as if it had had the pin backing removed and had been soldered onto a gold disc. I couldn’t believe my luck at finding such a treasure, especially on something that had no bids, an affordable reserve, and ended in less than two days! 

I immediately placed a bid (newbie mistake #1) and then I messaged the seller (HUGE newbie mistake #2). The auction had made it clear that this was part of an estate, so I told the seller that the charm bracelet was obviously owned by a Kappa Kappa Gamma and that if there were any other Kappa items in the estate, I would love to see them listed or we could work out a bundled price and utilize the (at that time) new “Buy it Now” feature.

The next thing I know, the auction was cancelled, and the old auction had a link to where the item had been re-listed.  Aghast, I went to the new auction. The seller (may the fleas of 1,000 camels infest him to this day) had taken the information I had naively provided and had made a new auction. “Kappa Kappa Gamma” was the keyword of the day. I was horrified. I placed a bid (ugh, such a noob) that made me the high bidder.

The moment the auction ended, I was the loser by far. This was back in the days when you could see the user name of the other bidders and the winner. Being the Nosy Nelly that I am, I clicked on the profile of the winning bidder. After searching through his purchases, I was so confused! This person not only bought Kappa Kappa Gamma badges, he bought pins from every fraternal organization out there. In his feedback, I saw where he had won a beautiful Pi Phi arrow badge. I saw a gorgeous Chi Omega diamond-encrusted badge. I saw the crossed swords of the Theta Chi fraternity badge and the crescent moon and stars of the Tri Delta sorority. I saw many others that I did not recognize. 

Why on earth was a man buying all of these fraternity and sorority pins? Why would anyone who wasn’t a member, who doesn’t have the personal connection, who doesn’t know why “alpha omega omicron” is featured on the ward of our key want a Kappa Kappa Gamma badge, or the badge of any other organization?

I was about to learn a great many things.

First of all, I learned that a smart eBayer never places a bid until the last few seconds of the auction, preferably using an automated service like eSnipe. (The three golden rules of eBay? Bid ONCE. Bid LATE. Bid your absolute, positive MAX… then add a little bit more to prevent regret.)

Second of all, I learned that there is no honor among sellers. Never give out information or give any clue that you’re interested, Julie, you big dummy! 

Finally, I learned that there are people out there who collect our sorority and fraternity treasures. They have never gone through our beautiful service that is initiation. They have never sung “Oh, Pat”. They have never been to a candle pass and rejoiced with their sisters at that occasion (still kind of salty that my college boyfriend didn’t care enough about me to do that…. hahaha!!). They aren’t a member, they don’t “get it”, but they want our pins.

Boy, do they ever. Kappa Kappa Gamma pins fetch the highest prices I have seen on eBay for fraternal pins with the exception of Yale University’s mysterious Skull and Bones secret society.

I will never pretend to understand it. To me, it seems to be a lot like someone who collects photo books filled with images of sand and surf and amazing rainforests and angry volcanoes, who amasses a variety of beautiful lei necklaces, who has shelves full of Koa Wood bowls and pictures frames, who has a ukulele signed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole…. and who has never and will never visit Hawaii. What’s the point?

I don’t get it. But it’s what we’re up against.

And so it began. Next thing I know, I am searching “Kappa Kappa Gamma” and am finding everything from badges to vintage pledge manuals to ashtrays to unique party favors. The collection was started. 

I am a charter member of a group of women who comprise a very special Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnae association. This group is known officially as The Golden Key Alumnae Association, known informally as “The Keepers of the Key”. We started out as a group of eBayers who began communicating through eBay and discovered we were all sisters on the same mission. This small group of eBay-shoppers-turned-strategists became an official Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnae organization in 2004.

P.S. – I’m STILL mad about that charm bracelet… 

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