There have been some very interesting conversations that have taken place in recent days…some actually have their origins going back as far as the National in 2006. At that time Dan Knoll asked us if MEARS was interested in either being bought out or becoming part of an existing service. Our answer at that time was “thank you, but no”. One of the principle selling points to this offer was the chance at “greater volume.” Our track record has actually been less volume and a higher quality of work. We are no more interested in volume over quality then as we are now.
The other thing that has been most recently offered or suggested was the idea of a key member or members of the staff leaving MEARS for another existing service or to help establish a new entity. The individual and collective answer was once again, “thank you, but no.” What strikes me and those within my organization as being very telling, is that if MEARS as an organization was not formally valued in its totality by anyone other than Rob Lifson and Robert Edwards Auctions, then why the interest in pieces and parts.
Please allow me the leeway to express my opinions on this matter as a function of what the thought process might be that has led to this most recent round of inquiries.
Possibility I: “Getting a name or names from the MEARS Staff is all we need.” MEARS is not any one person. The value we have is based on the cumulative effect of time, process, policies and procedures that result in a valued product. Getting an individual or two does not get you this on the cheap. The MEARS system works because it is by and large a disciplined one…notice I did not say perfect. We do things a certain way and the goal is to do them the same way everyday. This takes time, money, and discipline. We like what we do and the way we do it. We would have no interest in going back to the days of showing up for a day or two and leaving the auction house with notes they would use to produce a generic letter and feed an item description. We are comfortable and proud of the internal polices we have established with respect to disclosure and the personal, professional, and fiscal responsibility we have for our opinions.
Possibility II: “If we get certain MEARS Staff members, we then get access to their product both from a service standpoint (Letters of Opinion) and actual items.” Take a few moments to look at the success of the Bushing and Kinunen For Sales site and then objectively ask yourself what would be the upside for Dave or Troy.
Possibility III: “The time to make a move on MEARS is now because they only have one auction house account in 2008”. I will remind folks that our track record since our inception has been to work for fewer and fewer auction houses for any number of reasons. The one account we have for 2008 is the one we feel most comfortable with as both a business entity and to a lesser degree, on individual levels as well. No surer sign of confidence in Robert Edwards Auctions could have been made by Dave and Troy than the decision to consign a number of items to Rob Lifson for his spring 2008 auction. Dave and Troy feel that the combination of quality items, a quality service provided by MEARS, and an open and transparent venue such as Robert Edwards Auctions will bode well for them and for other consigners. This is being done in spite of the fact that the Bushing and Kinunen For Sales Site has done just over $1,000,000 is gross sales this year. Remember in years past, auction houses were getting this product and MEARS services. So for those thinking these consignments are the signs of desperation because of low sales volume, think again. Think about this figure of $1,000,000 in terms of auction house impact. At an average market rate of 20% consignment and hammer fee, this means that somebody within the auction house segment did not get $400,000.
As I said, last year at this time I sold my shares in MEARS back to the company and committed myself to helping Dave and Troy become as profitable as possible within a structure I felt was in both their best interests and those of this hobby/industry. I feel very good about the results. My role as the Policy Director is like that of a General Manager. I set polices and develop strategies for the success of my organization and my employers. If the ownership sees fit to take a different approach, they can. I can tell you that I am currently working out policies, procedures, and strategies in support of additional product lines and services that will not involve the grading of cards.
The bottom line is that MEARS is not looking to be bought out and members of the MEARS Staff are not being swayed by the allure of volume or get rich quick schemes. Are we interested in exploring certain strategic partnerships that would not comprise the core competencies and culture we have built, absolutely. To be perfectly candid, I for one am looking forward to the “new authentication service” that is being said to being formed to service the segment of the auction house industry that MEARS will not be supporting in 2008. Please take note of the phrase to “service the auction house segment of the industry.” Why do I welcome this rival organization…? I feel this organization will either be such that it will actually show what we have done and will continue to do in a comparatively positive light or it will force us to make improvements we may not have even thought about to date. But heck, what do I know…I have only been an entity in this industry for a couple of years.
MEARS Auth, LLC