The Time I Scored Elton John Sunglasses from eBay

In honor of May Day I’ll recount the time I scored a pair of Elton John sunglasses – made by the now defunct May Optical Company of Wareham Massachusetts – from eBay.

If you collect vintage eyewear you’ll know some of Elton John’s sunglasses are harder to find than others. Certain frames, like these square Anglo American’s you’ll see from time to time:

Elton John wearing square sunglasses by Anglo American, circa 1975

Elton John wearing square sunglasses by Anglo American, circa 1975

Others are out there if you look. I believe this is an Anglo American frame, too:

Elton John on the cover of People Magazine, August 18th 1975.   The sunglasses are probably by Anglo American.

Elton John on the cover of People Magazine, August 18th 1975. The sunglasses are probably by Anglo American.

The really freaky and interesting ones are harder to find.

I had always thought certain frames, like this one, were one-offs:

Elton John wearing the famous May sunglasses.   They go nicely with the rhinestones on his shirt collar.

Elton John wearing the famous May sunglasses. They go nicely with the rhinestones on his shirt collar.

But one day I’m browsing eBay… Searching there for “Elton John sunglasses” is usually a disheartening experience; a pageant of garbage, hyper-shoddy and emitting a dim whimsey. The adjective “Elton John” is a sort of catch all for every kind of cheap novelty frame. But I figured I’d give it a try… And there it was! The proverbial gemstone in the dungheap. The seller had posted an image of Elton wearing his from the auction catalogue when he sold off all his stuff. I’m guessing other collectors found the search so arduous and unrewarding that they didn’t bother with it.

I won.

If there’s a thrifting lesson – and life lesson – to be learned there, it’s the importance of persistence in the face of all obstacles, including tedium.

I received the piece. The system holding the wire hoops in the frame was an odd one in which pressure created by small screws held them in place. The previous owner had lost a screw and tried to glue the hoop in. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed. I sent the piece out to be repaired. A confluence of chaos involving publishing deadlines, a talent contest, and a bunch of other things prevented me from including the piece in the book.

If there’s any thrifting lesson or life lesson to be learned there I can’t say, but I’m sorry the piece didn’t make “Eyewear: A Visual History”. It’s a pleasure to finally be able to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it:

Elton John Sunglasses made by May Optical Co., circa 1975, from the Moss Lipow Collection

Elton John Sunglasses made by May Optical Co., circa 1975, from the Moss Lipow Collection

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