Auction Companies Prepare for 2010 Stretch Run

The sports memorabilia auction business is booming.  That is, if the number of auctioneers is your yardstick.  2010 has brought new companies into the auction field, while others that launched in the last year or two have pushed further forward.

Babe Ruth signed baseballIf you’re going by sales, the general perception is that the market is down.  The still sluggish economy isn’t helping.  Increased competition is making it harder to make a buck.  Even the pro sports leagues who have moved into the game used memorabilia business has siphoned off some customers and dollars from collectible dealers.  Still, the market endures.

Ryan Friedman

“Contrary to what most might think within the hobby, it is  my  opinion  that  sales  have been above average for a lot of the auction companies and dealers,” said  Ryan Friedman of Auction Report.  “What people might not see or realize is that  it  has  been  harder  to  create  the  sales, and companies and individuals  have  been  working harder than ever to find material, to get consignments, and create the sales. But, this has also brought out some  amazing fresh material this year. Fresh material always leads to great sales.”

What’s selling and what isn’t?  Tough times have sent some collectors retreating for less expensive material, but overall it’s still quality that drives the market.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 8.5“No  matter  if  its graded cards, autographs, game used material, wire photos,  wax,  etc,  people are looking for fresh material, high grade material,  unique  one  of  a  kind  items  in  all  areas,” Friedman said.

Fresh material has come into the market.  Some collectors have chosen to downsize.  Advertising and news stories have generated finds that have sent collectors scrambling for their wallets.   Auction houses chase it relentlessly, knowing that they’re judged on what’s inside the catalog.

“The market for high end items is really strong right now so I would say for those it is a great time to sell,” wrote collector Walter Anderson on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page.  ‘”The middle and lower end items are selling and bargain prices and I have been able to buy at prices I haven’t seen in a long time. I browse every auction and hope to find more great deals throughout the year.”

As 2010 heads for its ‘final quarter’, there are some three dozen larger auctions scheduled by those who specialize in that segment of the sports memorabilia market.

Collectors in need of a payday by consigning items to auction often wonder which time of year brings in the largest bids.  The answer is…there’s no good answer.   Active collectors really don’t take time off from their hobby.

“I used to believe that the best time for an auction was either in March or November of each year,” Friedman explained.  “But after covering auctions for over a decade I honestly believe that the best time for an auction is determined by the material being offered in that auction. It really doesn’t make a difference when the auction takes place as long as the
auction itself is full of quality material.”

1918 Red Sox World Series press pinSelling baseball items during baseball season isn’t the worst idea, though.

“Some companies do have specialty auctions where they may do a special football memorabilia auction.  Having it happen around the Super Bowl time makes a lot of sense for PR value but again, in general, the timing of the auction really should be determined on when the auction company feels they have the right material to offer to the

eBay is still where the majority of sports memorabilia transactions take place.  Auction catalogs are still devoured.  Nothing has changed, really, over the last ten years or so.  No matter what your venue may be, auctions clearly have become the biggest driver of sales.  Simply put, people like them.

“You don’t have to answer the question of ‘what do you want for your piece?’,” Friedman said.  “You can put it in auction and see what it goes for letting the market determine the fair value.  The questions of  ‘Am I selling my piece for to little’ or ‘Am I paying to much?’ don’t matter because the seller knows they are only giving up a set percentage of what their piece sells for and the buyers know that someone else was willing to pay pretty much the same price for the items they win which makes people feel better about their purchase.”