The electronic age and instant communication have changed the world. While fakes continue to be a concern just as they’ve been for decades, collectors are showing confidence in an era when so much information is available online. The business is big enough to house more than two dozen auction companies who are utilizing technology and media to grow their business and their bottom line.
So what’s ahead? In the eighth part of a ten part Q&A with auction company reps, we asked about trends in the hobby and what they’re doing to prepare for the future. Some are playing it close to the vest but all have confidence that the coming years will bring more growth.
David Kohler, SCP Auctions: “We have some insight but it’s a competitive business (laughs). As far as making a public statement it’s hard but the thing I will say is that as a company we’re very bullish on the future. You can read more about collecting online than ever before. Sites like Sports Collectors Daily are very valuable and reading about the hobby regularly keeps collectors in tune with the hobby and informed about a lot of things. We’ve found the the more they know the more fun they’re going to have with collecting .
There are people who are high end collectors today and their entry point was on eBay five years ago when they bought a ’56 Mays they had as a kid. They buy it, then collect the set and as they become more sophisticated, they work their way into major auctions. In the old days you had to rely on the card shows or drive by a shopping center and see a card shop and try to get your knowledge that way. Today it’s online and hearing that a Babe Ruth jersey sold for $4.4 million makes them want to get into it. Maybe their favorite player was Rod Carew. They find out they can get in at a reasonable level and they continue to collect and that’s how things are trending. When a great find or a big sale gets onto the nightly news, some people head for the attic to see what they have or they decide they want to collect. That kick-starts things and it’s good for the dealers, auction houses, collectors and guys who have put together great collections for the last 20 years and see them appreciate.”
Steve Bloedow: Collect Auctions: “There are a lot more auction houses now than there were even two years ago. Some do it well and some leave a lot to be desired. We try to stay ahead of the curve with a personal touch. We answer emails quickly, answer the phone and return calls promptly, get to know our consignors and pay 30 days after the auction is done, which is the quickest in the industry. Relationships and trust win out in this industry.”
Rob Lifson, Robert Edward Auctions: “I can’t say if this is a trend in the marketplace or just our experience at REA, but we see a tremendous interest in high dollar items. Of course there is always going to be interest in anything that is great, but we have never seen more buyers interested in the very best items. We respond by filling our auction with great items. Of course we are limited by what is available but that’s how it always is in the auction business.
We sometimes try to remind sellers that, depending on exactly what they have, there’s no better time to sell than when there is great interest and so many strong buyers. Depending on what the item is, this is sometimes very good advice.
We have also started to do a little traveling to pick up collections. For us, that is moving with the times! One of these days we will start adding extra auctions, probably smaller auctions at first. We’re ready now, but we’re waiting for the right collections to do this. That is also responding to the trends in the auction business.
In the modern world, buyers and sellers naturally like to have things done very quickly. But even more so, they really like the way our auctions are a special event. There are a lot of auctions out there, more now than ever before. Buyers in particular are used to an endless stream of auctions. But a lot of these auctions aren’t all that special, and if collectors miss them, it’s not a big deal. There’s always another auction tomorrow. Part of our job at REA is to make sure each REA auction really is special. So we don’t want to change things too much. If that means not having as many auctions, and sending out huge catalogs when the trend is to eliminate them entirely, that’s OK. ”
J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane: “We see more competition now than ever before. While always remembering our core business we strive to innovative always so that our business model stands out from the rest. We are always been customer service driven and that part will never change and because of that we feel is the reason for our success.”
David Hunt: Hunt Auctions: “Trends within the hobby have obviously changed over time but if an auction house can provide quality items to their bidders in a reputable and ethical fashion the results for all involved are consistently positive.”
With the big money attached to some items, it can be tempting for people to create fakes. Is it a bigger concern these days and do you see a lot of non-genuine memorabilia that people try to consign? If so, what type of items?