I was recently asked about what I look for or how I go about bidding on items at auction. Truth be told, I bid on very little these days for any number of reasons. As I tried to describe some helpful hints to this collector, it occurred to me that others might benefit from a collector’s bidding worksheet or template if you will. What I have prepared is a Word Document with data sections on the front and Explanatory Comments/Notes on the Back. I have provided the front page in the form of a JPEG image for your consideration and subsequent use.
The front of the worksheet highlights things I have always considered important. They range from administrative data to issues of projected price and value. They also include provisions for ensuring you are completely comfortable with what you may be buying as well as who you may be buying it from. Both are equally important.
Below is the information that appears on the back side of the form. In order to get this to fit on the back side, the print is smaller than that on the front and would have been difficult to see if I provided a JPEG image.
1. Be sure to know the item title or lot number and make a record of it. This will make tracking the item easier during the auction cycle. This will also make it easier to reference if you call or e-mail with questions about the item. Having and tracking this by actual title and Lot# can also make searching for it post auction as well.
2. Before bidding, make sure you are aware who you are dealing with and what there internal business rules are. In House Bidding and Undisclosed Reserves can have a significant impact on the price you may pay as well as if the item is actually sold in the end.
3. Start and End Date is important since there may be more than one auction running at the same time. Be sure to know when initial bids are due by as well as how “after hours” bids are handled and closed.
4. Consider any pre-action estimate/reserve and evaluate where this figure comes from or how accurate it may be. Look for comparable sale prices and make note of where and when they were sold. MEARS Sales Archives located at www.mearsonline.com/forsale is a helpful reference for thousands of sports memorabilia items.
5. If the item you end up is not what was described or represented, what recourse do you have and how is this addressed? What is this company’s, individual’s, or venue’s track record for disputes?
6. You have to answer this honestly since it will likely have an impact on how much work you need to do prior to auction close. In keeping with this, if the item is offered with some sort of Letter of Authenticity or Letter of Opinion, how familiar/comfortable are you with the work of that individual/organization.
7. If provenance is offered, is it both reasonable and verifiable. Reasonable refers how the item was obtained and does it seem more likely than not that what is be offered is true. Verifable refers to ones ability to confirm this in an independent manner. If the source is said to be a “former bat boy or equipment manager,” make sure you can get a name to verify. Team yearbooks and internet sources can help you confirm things like this. Statements of “Impeccable Source” or “Impeccable Provenance” without qualification are just that, statements.
8. If the item is graded, make sure the basis for that grade has been conveyed and makes sense. Review the grading criteria and see if can objectively make the same case for what you are looking to buy. If it is ungraded, think about what questions you need to ask and have answered prior to bidding as condition has a significant impact on sale and resale value.
9. Force yourself to master and understand what you know and don’t know about the item ahead of time. Actually writing them down makes the whole thing real and if you keep your worksheets, allows you to see over time just how your knowledge base has progressed. Also keep track of where you went for the answers. MEARS On Line (www.mearsonline.com) features hundreds of informative articles, sales data, and a bulletin board were collectors can post questions. Consider what was used by information or process to answer the questions you have. This will help you identify where your information gaps are and how to best address them in the future.
10. Items move through the auction cycle all the time. If you don’t win the item, you will at least have a record of the price. Over time, collecting this type of data on the items you are interested in will help you establish a solid sense for the market for this or like type items. This is helpful when looking to either to buy or sell.
As I said at the outset, both front and back have been developed in a Word Document. If you would like to get a copy that you can use or modify to meet your particular needs, just drop me a line. As always, I consider e-mail to be a form of personal correspondence, and as such, I seldom if ever reply directly anonymous requests.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com