In the course of trying to shed light on why MEARS returned an item to a submitter, I was accused of being both Big Brother and one who can not see the Big Picture. You are free to and actually encouraged to read Mr. Joel Alpert’s comments on the MEARS Network 54 Forum Board as “Big Brother-MEARS Auth, LLC” did not delete or modify Mr. Alpert’s posts because he complied with our forum rules. Mr. Alpert has stated on more than one occasion he is concerned for the long term viability of MEARS and links our potential success to being named an E-Bay Pre-Certified Authenticator. Objectively consider what this means and who the principle beneficiary of this is…the person selling the MEARS evaluated item on E-Bay. While MEARS may tangentially benefit from this because of a possible increase in retail submissions and the buyer or bidder on this item gets all that comes with the MEARS process, policy, and procedures…the greatest upside goes to those who see E-Bay as primary sales vehicle…someone like Mr. Alpert who has been “involved with the sports memorabilia, rare coin & vintage US currency business full time since 1985.”

Mr. Alpert has conducted just under 8000 E-Bay transactions and has an impressive 99.7 positive feedback percentage. At the time of this writing, Mr. Alpert had some 111 items listed on E-Bay with all but six either currently listed at by bid or Buy It Now at $200.00 or less. There were also seven (7) items listed by other E-Bay sellers highlighting a MEARS LOO in their listing.

Mr. Alpert has something in common with both Dave Bushing and Troy Kinunen, they all see the value in the MEARS name and all look to offer and sell MEARS evaluated products. Dave and Troy started in earnest along these lines a year ago last January when they established the Bushing and Kinunen For Sales Section on the larger MEARS Web site. A look at the first quarter 2008 sales data for the Bushing and Kinunen site shows any number of things including:

Jan 1-March 31 = 91 days

Sales = 156 items

1.7 items sold per day

Range of Sales By # Items

$1-$200: 19

$201-$500: 34

$501-$1,000: 32

$1,001-$3,000: 50

$3,001-$5,000: 12

$5,001-$10,000: 4

$10,000+: 5

Lowest Sale Item by $ amount $12.00.00 (Wally Moon 8×10)

Highest Sale Item by $ amount $30,850.00 (1966 Mickey Mantle Bat)

Individual Buyers (58)

Multiple Purchase Index Given 58 Individual Buyers

1- Purchase: 38

2-3 Purchases: 10

4-5 Purchases: 3

More than 5 Purchases: 7

On average, the MEARS web site gets just over 8000 page views a day with viewers from some 30 countries. Last year the Bushing & Kinunen For Sales Site did over $1,000,000 in sales.

Objectively, looking at the “Big Picture”, something I seem to be incapable of doing, it would appear that even without being a E-Bay Pre-Certified Authenticator, by some miracle (it’s called a search engine that picks up on the content that MEARS provides free in the form of Current News Articles) people are actually finding the site. Those that have made purchases in the first quarter don’t seem to be the typical $200.00 or less E-Bay Buyer that Mr. Alpert seems to feel we are condemned to doom without. The single greatest first quarter buying band was in the $1001-$3000.00 range. The other thing to notice is that many people are buying more than one item and that in looking back over the previous years sales data, many of these same folks bought stuff last year. How has this happened without being an E-Bay Pre-Certified Authenticator?

I have worked to shape our policies and operating procedures in order to establish a certain logic trail if you will. This is not propaganda or media spin, but what do you want people to think about your organization and why. The logic trail I have tried to focus on runs like this:

-MEARS writes and shares information with the hobby in a manner by content, detail, and volume that no one else does.

-They spend time and money buying references and doing research.

-They use this information to shape their opinions and own buying decisions.

-They have a Buyers Protection Program.

-They have taken principled positions and care about this hobby and collectors.

-They let me see things for myself.

In my mind, working everyday to ensure this is how MEARS functions and is seen is far more important than the E-Bay Pre-Certified Authenticator label…but what do I know…I am not a “Big Picture Guy.” I will be very candid, this is at the end of a day, a business and the person or persons who should benefit the most from the MEARS way of doing things is MEARS, namely Dave Bushing and Troy Kinunen. This does not mean that we should not be concerned with the overall performance of the industry since we are a part of it still…one in the same. MEARS has taken aggressive steps with respect to offering a better product with things like the use of worksheets and open disclosure of ownership. This fall we took it a step or leap further with our auction house policy. In his most recent post Mr. Alpert proposes:

“What i suggest to MEARS is that they consider a policy in 2009 to amend the Auction House Policy to state that anyone can submit a full price retail submission so MEARS doesn’t have to: 1. Insult (and show off about it on this forum) an honest customer at a trade show & 2. Major auction houses may submit items, but only at full price retail as they must wait for authentication as any retail customer and they will receive no extra support such as REA receives (as in on site authentication) plus they will pay FULL PRICE RETAIL.”

This is not an amendment, but going back to the days when all you needed to get a MEARS opinion was one of three things…cash, check, or credit card. It is a misnomer that REA gets on site authentication…Only preliminary work is done on site…Rob Lifson still has to wait for the final work to be done and the actual letters prepared, reviewed and signed. Rob was also the only auction house executive willing to adopt what MEARS was doing for the betterment of the hobby/industry, yet all he gets for taking this position of leadership is a faster turnaround on his items? Just doesn’t seem fair to me, but I am not a Big Picture Guy…Just Big Brother.

There was time when MEARS took a regular beating on the Game Used Forum, both in it’s original and current state. This venue has become a fairly mainstream forum whose posters are not shy about stating things they are not pleased with. Why is it that the focus for this group as of late has been by large on the perceived shortcomings of Lou Lampson and not MEARS? Maybe it was because as someone who was an original poster and supporter of the pre-MEARS forum, I looked at was being pointed out about my organization and the people that made up it and saw merit in some of the criticisms and we made changes. Big Brother or Big Boy who realized he needed to put his own house in order before attempting any larger hobby reforms? First it would have been hypocritical to mandate things you were not doing yourself, and secondly…why would anyone else want to change if you couldn’t show you were making money by listening to the concerns of collectors.

Although I am not a Big Picture Guy, one of my favorite books is “Diplomacy” by Henry Kissinger (Simon and Schuster; 1994). I am sure this is where I picked up my Big Brother ideology as right smack dab in Chapter I: The New World Order the first sentence reads “Almost as if according to some natural law, in every century there seems to emerge a country with the power, the will, and the intellectual and moral impetus to shape the entire international system in accordance with its own values.” Guilty as charged… With the success of the Bushing and Kinunen For Sales Site, collectors
have begun asking if Dave and Troy would consider running auctions as supplement to what they are already doing.

Without changing or compromising anything that MEARS has mandated for itself and has proven to have been at least partially responsible for strong sales, this is something to give serious thought to. There is certainly some desire for MEARS evaluated product or why would collectors want items evaluated by MEARS either for their own re-sale or through another auction venue. An item gets the same level of scrutiny whether it’s owned by Dave and Troy, a retail consignment, or one done for Robert Edwards Auction. The amount of work and the end liability is the same (Buyer’s Protection Program). Clearly the return on items that Dave and Troy sell is much higher. Wouldn’t Dave and Troy be in better position if the only way to get a MEARS evaluated item was either through a Bushing and Kinunen Sale or consigned to a MEARS Auction. Then maybe all they have put into building and establishing a brand name would then ultimately be rewarded.

Not being a Big Picture Guy, I don’t know how I stumbled onto the fact that when Dave and Troy were doing things under the SCDA Banner, they worked for a flat day rate of about $1000.00 an auction. The first auction I worked to support was the August 2004 Mastro Auction that featured the jersey Roger Maris wore when he broke Ruth’s single season home run record. For that auction, SCDA did evaluations on some 228 items (some items where multiple items in a single lot). This comes out to $4.38 per item and a 1/3rd of this went back to SCD. The Maris jersey alone sold for $302,000.00. Even if you only factor in 10% from the consigner and the buyer, that means that this one lot put over $60,000 in the pocket of the auction house. MEARS starting changing more, doing better work and actually fewer items and still made money…That is what I told them then and that is what I am telling them know…. Just think how much better things could have been if I was able to see the Big Picture and MEARS was on the E-Bay Pre-Certified Authenticator List?

MEARS just purchased a 15,000+ square foot facility that I am scheduled to see this weekend. As part of this visit, I have established this as agenda items for the meeting:

-Functional and Utilization Assessment of the New Building.

-See and understand the components of the Pin Back Division (Both product and process).

-Discuss workforce requirements for the Pin Back Division: (Training, compensation, number).

-Review strategy for a possible phased entry into the auction house segment of the industry.

-See and understand the proposed plan for the restructuring of MEARS by Divisions.

-Discuss branding and marketing.

The key thing in this and anything new that MEARS considers as part of it’s future is that all things must remain nested to the logic trail and core principles of:

-MEARS writes and shares information with the hobby in a manner by content, detail, and volume that no one else does.

-They spend time and money buying references and doing research.

-They use this information to shape their opinions and own buying decisions.

-They have a Buyers Protection Program.

-They have taken principled positions and care about this hobby and collectors.

-They let me see things for myself.

As I have stated any number of times, I have no ownership equities in MEARS…I am an employee. If I have failed to see the Big Picture or I have become Big Brother and am so heavy handed that I am surely to be the downfall of MEARS, then I know that that both Dave and Troy eagerly await a detailed business proposal and strategy grounded in something I have not either thought of, considered or dismissed out of hand…These guys both care about this industry and hobby, but they are also running a business. I encourage you to contact them and maybe it’s time to get in on the ground floor of what looks like and expanding and growing MEARS….Build them a better mouse trap and they will and should rightfully show me the door…

As for Mr. Alpert and anyone who might share his question of “what you really do for MEARS anymore?”… well, I guess what I have written pretty much sums it up. Oh, yeah… I write articles too.


For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at