In nineteen days I will placed on the retired rolls for the United States Army. For over twenty years my vocabulary has included things like “H-Hour”, “N-Hour”, and “D-Day”. As I close in on leaving Active Duty, I still find myself at “D-60” today..60 days from the day when we will know which auction houses MEARS will doing business with in 2008. So far only Rob Lifson of Robert Edward’s Auctions (REA) has made a public and open commitment to sign on. Based on Rob’s history and position on these issues, I was not surprised by his decision or his comments that in some cases called for things that we had not first considered. These are the things that we know as of today.

There are some other things we know as well. The policies for MEARS in 2008 and the long standing policies of REA have been what many in the collecting community have been asking for for some time. Opinions have ranged from:

“It’s about time”.

“You didn’t go far enough.”

“Nice idea, but it won’t work.”

The difference between opinions and actions are as striking as being on Active Duty and being retired. On 1 October I will always be able to talk about what I did in the Army and what I think we as an Army should do in the future. But talk is all I will do. What we do know today is that MEARS and REA are doing more than talking about change, we are living it. This article is not about trying to convince others that they should follow along, but to remind folks that decisions made within the next 60 days will have an impact on the entire calendar year of 2008. Whatever the outcome is on November 11th, no one will be able to say or claim that they did not know what MEARS was doing or that they did not have ample time to consider our policies and reply.

REA’s decision to publicly embrace what MEARS is trying to is not only in keeping with what Rob has been doing for some time, but it also does not appear to be turning away consigners. To date REA has submitted for evaluation over 30 items for their spring 2008 auction including some incredible Stan Musial flannels and vintage bats, a Jim Brown jersey, and a Michael Jordan rookie jersey. Remember that the REA auction is still almost seven (7) months away. These consigners are clearly willing to wait for something.

That something might be that consigners know that REA does not own these items, REA employees won’t be bidding on them and neither will the consigners. They know those game used items will come with a MEARS LOA and coverage under the MEARS Buyers Protection Program. Potential bidders in the spring REA Auction also know that Rob has voluntarily agreed to “open the books” and his operating procedures to outside scrutiny.

To date there have been instances when we have been told by an auction house that what we propose is not acceptable, only then to be asked if we would be willing to discuss our policy. My response has been we will be more than happy to discuss how this will be implemented, but that the policies remain as written. It would unfair to change something that has already been accepted by one auction house. To be honest, my response would have been the same even if REA had not stepped up right away.

As for who we have talked to and what their concerns are, those are internal discussions and will remain as such for now. There are still two months for every auction house to make the decision that they fell is best for their organization. We made our decision based on what we feel is best for our organization and for the hobby/industry at large. I suspect Rob Lifson at REA did the same thing.

If by now you are getting the feeling that this piece was written because I fear that REA will be the only account that MEARS has for 2008, you are only partially correct. My concern is not for the impact it may have on the MEARS bottom line, but rather what it may say about the future of this industry as a whole. Collectors have expressed confidence in and preference for MEARS related products. You need only look at the archived sales section on the Bushing & Kinunen MEARS For Sale section of the web site. Both Troy and Dave have significant inventories so any loss of auction house work will only increase the amount of time they can devote to their own items.

If you think about it, they could probably make more money doing less auction work and focusing on buying and selling. Consider that for a pre-war Hall of Fame jersey, MEARS charges a fee of $750.00. Dave and Troy do the same amount of work and have the same risk/liability under the Buyer Protection Program whether they own it or do the work for an auction house. I suspect that the profit margin on the same jersey sold by them would be a bit more than the $750.00 charged to evaluate it for someone else.

Doing less auction house work also means that there may be fewer MEARS evaluated items in the market place. This means that unless it comes from an auction house like REA or from the Bushing & Kinunen MEARS For Sale section of the web site, then the item will either have to be previously submitted one or the result of new retail submission. Retail submissions have seen solid and steady growth over the last 18 months as well.

I am sure that no sooner than I have explained all this there will now be those who will say “ MEARS Auth, LLC was thinking about this all along and is only trying to make more money for Bushing and Kinunen.” For those who are quick to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon, I would ask them to consider that I have been moving MEARS in this direction since our inception with respect to addressing collector concerns:

-Mandatory and Voluntary Disclosure of Items Sold or Consigned.

-Doing Less and Less Auction House Work Because Some Felt We Charged Too Much To Do It The “MEARS WAY.”

-Focus on Collector Issues and Providing Information For Their Own Use.
-Use of Worksheets.

-Rolling Substantial Revenues Back Into Research and Reference Material.

-Establishing a Buyers Protection Program.

-Establishing a Code of Conduct for Buying and Selling.

-Remaining Publicly Available For Comments and Questions.

My point in laying all of this out is not to attract any particular auction house contract, but to demonstrate that those in this industry can still make money by doing business in a much more open and transparent manner. Nor is this article about me finally revealing some sort of master plan it has taken me years to hatch in order to make Dave & Troy more money. It is truly about sharing what I have seen transpire over the past few years, the impact it has had on my organization and the impact I hope it will have on the industry/hobby as whole. What the endstate will be for the larger hobby/industry I do not know.

I do know that on November 11th, I will talk about being a retired Veteran on Veteran’s Day. I will also publish the list of which auction houses MEARS will work with in 2008. One will be talk… the other will be action. I look forward to both.