10 Questions With Auction Houses: Part I

It’s been quite a year in the sports memorabilia auction business.  From major finds of vintage cards and unknown treasures to whopping sales numbers for high grade cards,  Babe Ruth jerseys and game worn artifacts, the bid business is alive and well.

We tossed a series of ten questions about what’s hot, what’s next, where the hobby has been and where it’s headed to several auction company executives and for the next couple of weeks, we’ll share their answers with you, one at a time.

Auction catalogs sports memorabiliaAuctions have become the pulse of the hobby and also generated more mainstream media attention than ever before.  Wire service stories went out around the world.   There was coverage on network news programs and local major market morning shows…not to mention a couple of reality shows.    Here’s what some of them had to say about the spurt of interest from outside the hobby.

Rob Lifson, Robert Edward Auctions:  I think that mainstream  articles about exciting finds do have a positive impact.  In a world with so many distractions, people really enjoy reading about collecting and the marketplace for collectibles.

For serious collectors, it’s always fun when their hobby gets attention from the mainstream press. For non-collectors, these stories offer a fascinating glimpse into the subculture and marketplace for collectibles, and many times offer an introduction to the field that promotes serious collecting interest.

News stories about exciting finds have an appeal similar to the Antiques Roadshow. Every item has a story and the story promotes learning about history and learning about the world of collecting. And you can’t underestimate the impact that will be felt many years in the future. Somewhere out there, the seeds for future collecting interest are being planted by exposure to the field in the media. Today’s ten-year-old kids are tomorrow’s serious collectors. When an interesting hobby find is covered in the mainstream press, everyone wins.

J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane:  I think all the media this year has been great and we at Memory Lane have seen an increase in new buyers/collectors in the recent months. It’s very refreshing to see this trend as in the past few years some significant collectors have been leaving the hobby.

David Hunt, Hunt Auctions:  We firmly believe in the power of mainstream  media to drive interest to our hobby.  It is a medium that we began utilizing over a decade ago as it is an extremely important element to the process of  bringing new clientele into the marketplace.

Leighton Sheldon, Just Collect:  It has been a positive impact.  Interest is strong in vintage cards and that’s great considering the unemployment rate is so high in our country.

David Kohler, SCP Auctions:  It’s a huge impact.  When you get the mainstream media talking about some of these important pieces that are found or come up for sale, like the Babe Ruth jersey we had that sold for over $4 million, it’s tremendous publicity for the hobby as a whole.   I sense the media more than ever likes reporting about these collections and pieces.  It also brings in new clients who see it and they get excited and want to register to bid in auctions.

It’s good too that in the last 25 years there’s been a maturity in the way business is done so people have more confidence in what’s out there.

There’s also the fact that we’re different because we’re selling sports.  It’s not a fad.  It’s not going away. People love sports and the more people realize there really is a market and there’s all these things you can buy, the more they want them.    A  lot of them are worth more years later and that’s a good thing but many times when new buyers come in because of something they saw in the media, they’re buying something just because they like it and it makes them happy.

Steve Bloedow, Collect Auctions: Virtually any mainstream media attention is good attention, which brings new collectors and investors into the hobby. Whether it’s an item selling for a record price, or a find of some sort, or a historical item that is coming to the auction circuit, it’s good for long-term growth of the hobby.

Next:  With the influx of new blood in the hobby, just what is it they’re buying?