Introducing The Merchant Roll

The Merchant Roll

First and foremost, this is a developing project.

One of my primary goals with Turnip of Terror is to promote my journey, it’s vain, but it’s a fun outlet for a hobby I only get to “show off” with a few times a year. Also, the oversight, scrutiny, and input from the community keeps my impression accurate, honest, and sharp. All good things. But I would also like to make this site a useful utility for others. That’s why I post scans of my drawings, personal resources, and my methodology: in the hopes that someone else will be able to walk the reenacting road a little faster because they’re taking a moderately-worn track instead of trailblazing.

Another thing about me, I like to buy things. I’m not really a maker of much. There is so much to buy online, it can be daunting. Also, unlike finding a toothbrush on Amazon, it’s sometimes difficult to locate merchants who sell goods for living history. And worse, when you do find an index of medieval merchants, it’s filled with dead links. In an attempt to add to the Turnip Patch Emporium of Useful Tools that is this site, I’m going to begin to curate a digital archive of medieval merchants. My goals for the merchant roll are as follows:

  1. (Stage 1) Keep an alphabetical list of safe and accessible merchants that everyone, even the introverts can order from. Make it a pretty list, with logos, and clickable things. There is incredible quality to be had going through solo artisans working a side job primarily through their Facebook page. In fact, many custom and bespoke items require contacting and developing a relationship with these kind of artists. Dealing with them also requires a large amount of up front social investment as well as time (if you can even get a hold of them) and still carries with it the risk of being flaked on, having product misrepresented, having money stolen, requiring alternative forms of payment (wire transfer was a whole new experience to me), etc. Eventually every accomplished reenactor will find their pet artisan for a project that requires something more than they can find on the shelf at a store, so to speak. But there’s value, especially for a beginner, to the safety of secure checkout, the reliability of well photographed and representative inventory, unambiguous and well displayed prices, and the convenience of stock items that are ready to ship. I fondly refer to this quality as an “Online brick and mortar” store. I may, eventually, do a companion list of independent artisans in the future.
    • Dead Links are for Losers. I update this website every month or so. In addition to producing content I maintain the resources I provide to you, namely checking links. Every. single. link. in the merchant roll and its accompanying resource tables (the Rapa Armorial, the Reading List, The Groups Billboard and removing or updating dead links. You can trust that this list of websites will never be more than 30 days old.
  2. (Stage 2) Review them for historicity. Since this is a living history focused endeavor, it’s important to be able to see, at a glance, without having to troll every site yourself where on the authenticity scale a website sits. Sites that sell exclusively living history quality items will score higher than those who sell ren-fair fantasy schlock (and honestly, the latter may not even be included in the list.) Some sites that contain a mix of both will receive a moderate rating. A site whose’s accurate wares are exemplary but mix them up with the inaccurate poses a hazard to a newer reenactor who is still developing an “eye” for what authentic clothing and armor looked like.
  3. (Stage 3) Review and categorize each merchant for more than a “historical accuracy” rating. What are they really good at? What items do they stock that should be avoided or chosen elsewhere? Do they have a particular time period that they sell for, or a specific type of items that they generally provide? Can you expect long shipping times or high shipping costs? How’s their customer service? Etc. This one will take me more time to complete, but once established and in conjunction with their historical accuracy rating, a user of the Merchant Roll will be able to scroll down the list and get a fairly steady bearing as to what shops sell the stuff they’re looking for at the quality and price point they are comfortable with.

This will, obviously, take me some time. Generating the list was fairly easy, I just asked around on Facebook. The rest, well, is a forever task or maintaining, vetting, and reevaluating companies as time goes on. It will involve extensive review of inventory and, because I’m no medieval PhD, considerable conversation with my academic superiors to generate well researched reviews and ratings that you can rely on and feel confident in using as a guide.

Any merchants I didn’t include? Do you have suggestions for commentary, authenticity rating, or category? Let me know in the comments, shoot me an email, or post on the Facebook page.

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