I thought I would spend some time talking about what might be possible with respect to auction houses and the use of technology. I harbor no elusions that these will be implemented unless they are seen as a means to positively impact the bottom line. Please know this not directed at any one house, but at the industry as a whole. This is not a hobby but a business/industry and the bottom line is the bottom line.
Attracting New Bidders. One of the projects I have been involved with deals with the concept of machine translation. This is not a new phenomena, but languages, dialects, vocabulary and applications need to be relevant to the environment they are being used. The military is working along these lines and much can be seen today with current initiatives in international business. I am curious if and when we will see lot descriptions listed in other languages…the two that come to mind off the top of my head are Spanish and Japanese. Spanish might be seen as option simply based on the changing demographics of the American landscape. Consider this information provided by the US Census Bureau in 2005:
Of every two people added to the nation’s population between July 1, 2003, and July 1, 2004, were Hispanic.
The projected Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2050. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 24 percent of the nation’s total population on that date.
The nation’s Hispanic population during the 1990 census -just slightly over half the current total.
Part of any long term marking strategy for any business entity involves the study and understanding of demographic shifts.
With respect to Japanese, it has been noted in recent years that the overseas market, especially with respect to baseball memorabilia has attracted Japanese buyers.
Attracting New Bidders or Maintaining Bidder Confidence.
As I have stated on a number of occasions, I do read the Game Used Forum. Any number of posts can be found during any auction cycle with collectors asking questions about lots that are featured. MEARS fields questions on a regular basis either through e-mail, the Board, or on the phone about lots we have done. What about the idea of setting up a “Chat” or “Instant Message Function” where collectors could question the people who did the work about what they saw? Of course, much of this could be rendered unnecessary if the auction houses posted the actual letters that where produced. A concept for this might involve these steps:
1. First, require that anyone who wished to take part in the Q&A be registered with the auction house prior to the event. This would provide some means of accountability. The prospective bidder would be required to use their login information to take part.
2. The auction house would establish the time that the specific person(s) would be available. They could break this down by categories such as game used, autographs, cards etc. The person responding would not need to be at the auction house because I can only assume they will have made notes that served as the basis for their opinion that they could reference. This would negate the need to have them on site or the excuse that it cost too much to fly them in for this. Clearly for those houses that do their own work, this would never be an issue.
3. Ensure that the Q&A’s remain available after the fact so that others could evaluate the quality of the answers.
This concept, unlike the first, is not currently constrained by technology. Rather this is a function of personality with respect to getting someone to agree to do it. I know that collectors would want this, but then it is not always about what collectors want.
The business calculus is simply…would the cost of these technologies pay for themselves or give an auction house a competitive edge over those who did not use it? That is for them to study and figure out but thought I’d toss it out there.
MEARS Auth, LLC
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