Many people have asked if this policy is in direct response to the personal position I took with respect to my work with Mastro Auctions recently, I can assure you it is not. It is part of a much larger process I have been working towards for a number of years. If this was personal and directed at any one auction house, then that or any auction house would have likely been excluded from doing any business with MEARS in 2008 from the outset.
Others have asked if the timing of this is also related to recent events. It is not. I have just reached the point where I have lost patience in waiting for change. In order to effect change in 2008, I had to establish a time line that permitted auction houses to consider this proposal and give collectors and consigners and chance to consider those responses.
Change in large organizations or complex operating environments takes time.
The other thing about change is that intellectual change must preceded physical change and I think we have finally reached that point. By this I mean, the hobby/industry has been talking about what needs to be addressed for years, but not much has changed. Truth be told, I look at what I have proposed as hopefully a forcing function in this industry with respect to creating some sort of National Association that ultimately would include authenticators, auction houses and dealers.
This policy represents a chance for an entire segment of this industry to take part in what I feel is much needed and long overdue change and reform. There are some auction houses that have never used MEARS and are likely not to in the future and I am just fine with that. My hope for them is that they would make these policies internal to their own operating procedures as well. This has nothing to do with trying to drum up business for MEARS. Each year, MEARS has done less and less auction work for a number of reasons. If MEARS was focused on catering to this segment of the industry, then we would more likely have been more accommodating as opposed to less.
Sports memorabilia is a commodity…and like all other commodity markets, it is influenced by trust and confidence on the part of the investor in the process. My goal is to strengthen the belief in the process and environment on the part of collectors by effecting change with respect to issues of openness and transparency. In the end, I think collectors will end up being able to make more informed purchase decisions and get a better product and service…a better product and service will command a better market price, or in this parlance, higher prices realized.
To those that say you can’t make money by doing this the right way…a way that includes things like:
-Mandatory and Public Disclosure of Ownership.
-Use of Worksheets.
-Requirement to Purchase Reference Material.
-Requirement to Provide Educational Content.
-Disclosure of Revenues and Sales.
-A Buyer Protection Program.
-Code of Conduct for Buying and Selling.
I would invite them to look at the archived sales section of Bushing and Kinunen MEARS For Sale Section (WWW.MEARSONLINE.COM). You will notice a couple of things here. Solid prices realized and an assortment of items that are typically found at auction.
What I am proposing is not focused at 2008…but 2018. By that I mean the industry needs to look hard at what collectors in their early to mid 20’s and 30’s are seeing and how there perceptions are being shaped by current events. What will a collector’s thoughts on the process be by the time they reach a point in their lives when they have more disposable income to spend in this hobby or industry? This will also likely be the point in time when some of the more impressive collections that have been built over the past 10-15 years are likely to re-enter the market place. I think that some in the auction house segment of the industry have falsely assumed that these collections will be brought back as consignments to the houses that sold them. I think it is more likely that these items will be consigned to the auction house that will get them the highest price realized. This ties directly back to what I said about the issue of trust and confidence effecting bidder confidence.
I have spent a great deal of time in this piece talking about why change makes sense from a business sense, especially with respect to the long term viability of this industry. This does not mean that I am only looking at the dollars and cents aspects, but am trying to highlight why doing the right thing does not have to come at the cost of profit. An auction house is a business and my policies are not likely to well received at first blush so I am attempting to portray what I propose against the backdrop of a long term strategic view as opposed to a focus on a single year’s auction cycle.
People have asked why I have been focused on a segment of the industry that I am not apart of…The answer is simple. I am a collector who has always felt I was entitled to something better. I have worked hard at MEARS to help shape our organization along the lines of what collectors have said they wanted. I could not have done any of this with the trust and support of Dave Bushing and Troy Kinunen. Both of these men have been associated with this hobby and industry for far longer than I have. They both have placed their livelihoods and personal and professional reputations in my hands and that is a responsibility I have taken very seriously. They have done everything I have asked of them and appear to be being rewarded by the market place for making the voluntary changes they have.
Some have been skeptical looking for how all of this is designed to just make MEARS more money. I would ask them to consider:
-MEARS is actually doing less auction house work and this could possibly reduce that even further.
-MEARS is absorbing the costs to ensure compliance.
-Bushing and Kinunen MEARS for Sale Items would no longer have the strength of position with respect to offering the product, services, and operating environment that collector’s desire.
Then why do it? Because we at MEARS, who are all collectors at heart, feel strongly that we are simply entitled to something better and are willing to work to ensure we and others get it.
MEARS Auth, LLC
POST SCRIPT: This article was originally written for publication in Sports Collectors Digest. The article was to have been provided at no charge. The only provision was that the text not be edited in any manner. SCD declined stating that they “would not relinquish any of our editorial discretion. We do not, as a matter of course with all freelancers, accept any restrictions on how we edit pages that will appear in SCD.”