Over the last 10-15 years, no element of the sports collecting hobby has grown more than the auction business. Auctions have always existed in the hobby. Pick up a 35-year-old hobby publication and you'll see private collectors and dealers running mini auctions in the pages of hobby publications. However, sports memorabilia has now joined the ranks of fine art and antiques with incredible color catalogs, sometimes hundreds of pages long, full of vintage and modern era cards and collectibles.
What about the auction business itself? In part 7 of our 10-part Q&A with auction company officials, we asked what sort of changes they've seen in the business compared to the way things were ten years ago.
J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane: "The business is now in our opinion more respected as an industry because of the popularity of authentication and card grading. And due to this, the collector now has more confidence in the product. In addition the growth of the internet has allowed collectors to conduct business world wide. "
Leighton Sheldon, Just Collect: "One word: Internet. Even though it was there a little bit before, it dominates our industry now."
Rob Lifson, Robert Edward Auctions: "One of the biggest changes is that there is a greater awareness of issues that often exist with reference to grading, authentication, and the auction process in general. There is a greater awareness of conflicts of interest, shill bidding, and all auction practices. I’d like to think that REA’s vocal approach to all of these issues has played a role in heightening awareness. Collectors need to be aware to protect themselves. Today, they’re more aware than ever.
In the short run, it might be a little discouraging for some longtime collectors to realize that for years they have been cheated by shill bidding or one of the many other scams that have so commonly victimized collectors, but in the long run it’s very positive. It’s a much healthier climate for serious collectors today than ten years ago. Knowledge is power!
That doesn’t mean there are no problems. There are still plenty of land mines out there. But the environment is improving. It’s going in the right direction. We have much greater awareness by collectors. The Internet, which ten years ago played only a very small role in the field, today plays a huge role. It’s never been easier to learn about cards and memorabilia and the field in general because of the Internet. Popular message boards such as Net54, Full Count Forum, and GameUsedUniverse.com allow collectors to communicate and learn from one another. The efforts of law enforcement have played an enormous role in changing the field for the better. A lot has happened in the past ten years!
David Kohler, SCP Auctions: "The internet is more of a way of life for everyone and whether you’re getting news, touching base with family or friends or buying something and that includes the sports memorabilia market. Auctions are internet based now where before they were an event in a ballroom or hotel. That also opens it up to the world. We now have international bidders and the market has grown because of that. It seems hard to believe but we sold a $4.4 million item on the internet. People today are comfortable with bidding online and they can see multiple images and more detail now. I’m sure we’re just in the beginning stages of that."
Steve Bloedow, Collect Auctions: "The biggest change in the past decade is the role of technology in our industry and everywhere else. Ten years ago they were still running auctions with phones and a bid board. Now all the auctions are run online, people are bidding on smartphones, iPads, etc. Auction house advertising was also being done almost exclusively through print advertising and now it’s done through some print, banner ads and social networking sites."
David Hunt, Hunt Auctions: "The business has obviously changed greatly over the last ten years both positively and negatively. At the end of the day the hobby remains incredibly strong and as long as we continue to adapt and react to client needs we feel it will only grow in strength."