What did you do in 2004 when you desperately needed handmade Doctor Who crafts? You could find instructions to make your own or maybe stumble upon someone selling a knitted TARDIS in a LiveJournal community. The pre-Etsy days were indeed dark. Nowadays, you can satisfy your desire for almost any geeky craft thanks to this site that shines the spotlight on handmade goods.
Etsy launched in 2005. It was not an average e-commerce website as the focus was primarily on handmade items. Sellers aren’t permitted to post commercial, mass-produced goods. You can’t go to Etsy to find a DVD, but you can get handmade items that run the gamut from soap to food to clothes to geekery. No really – it’s a whole category on the site. For example, a search for Doctor Who items yields over 1,200 results.
As of 2009, Etsy was bringing in about $10 million a month. I would love to know how much of that is in the Geekery category. I see at least five links to Etsy items on Twitter everyday. At Nerd Approved, we cover these items religiously and our friend Jill Pantozzi writes an Etsy Made Me Do It blog for Newsarama each week featuring geeky items.
This sort of access to the world of geek crafters still has the new shine. You’re not limited to saving your money for an annual convention with vendors who will have Star Wars soap designs, you have access to this sort of stuff year round—and the options are mind-boggling. Even if you want a completely unique product, but lack the skills to make it yourself, find a seller that offers similar work and see if they take custom requests. Etsy is working on revamping a system called Alchemy that exists just to facilitate the creation of custom orders.
D20 Necklace by Paw and Claw Designs
In addition to handmade goodies, Etsy allows sellers to post vintage items in their shops. They have to be more than 20 years old, and the items can’t be marked as handmade. Though you can search for vintage anything on eBay, it’s less intimidating to do so on Etsy. Compared to the auction site, I get a narrow field of results when I search for vintage Star Wars toys on Etsy. It may seem limited, but it’s also a great way to save money. And there is plenty of geeky goodness in this section. I’ve found some good deals on board games and the perfect boots for a Poison Ivy costume in the vintage section on Etsy.
If you’ve ever shopped around Etsy, you know that it can take some digging to find exactly what you want (and get a decent picture of it for that matter). There is a small risk inherent to buying anything handmade, and it’s increased when you purchase it from the internet. You can’t look the vendor in the eye, you can’t hold it, and you can’t get a feel for its durability. I understand why people are hesitant. Etsy certainly doesn’t have a juried system; anyone with a valid email address and a Paypal account can sell wares. You have to reach out with the Force when deciding to buy from a seller. Are the photos clear? Did the seller describe the item in detail and include measurements? I also look at how many transactions the seller has handled and what sort of feedback they get. I’ve purchased everything from clothes to vintage games from Etsy over the past five years, and I’ve yet to be unhappy with an item. Trust your instinct, and if you’re hesitant about a seller, it’s probably not meant to be.
Go forth and find D20 jewelry on Etsy! When your desk is covered in Star Wars amigurumi dolls and Doctor Who dice bags, remember that I’m not to blame.
Plush TARDIS by doctormoo