Most of you are accustomed to hearing about policy issues from MEARS Auth, LLC, and you should be. Dave has been our Policy Director from the outset and at times has been our toughest critic. Dave has also been our best friend in helping us to see and do things we may not have otherwise thought about. Even the best policies in the world still require daily interpretation and implementation. That has been and remains my job.
MEARS has always been an organization like no other and our vision is to remain that way. We have introduced revolutionary methods and procedures for both the work we do and way we do it. In 2008 we took an unprecedented approach to how we would or would not work with the auction house segment of the sports memorabilia industry. Has it been the perfect solution or working relationship that all had hoped for? No it has not. But I would also like to remind the collecting community, that with the exception of Rob Lifson at Robert Edwards Auctions (REA), no one else was interested in being a part of what we have tried to do. As with many small and established communities, and the sports memorabilia industry is just that, there are often rumblings and back channel talk about what is or is not being done and why. As the person with the daily responsibility for operating and running MEARS, I would like to openly address some this now.
There has been a lot of discussion and or questions about why items not appearing in Robert Edwards Auctions can be found with MEARS letters. Some this can be attributed to items that have been previously been evaluated and continue to move through the hobby. Others are more recent, and often high profile/historic items that now have MEARS letters. To better understand the present, we need to reflect a bit on the past.
In early 2004 in an article in Sports Collectors Digest (SCD), Dr. Richard Angrist was featured on the cover. Dr. Angrist made it known both publicy and privayely, that he was going to have the then SCDA, evaluate and grade his entire collection. Since 2004 we have discussed the logistics of honoring that request. The sheer size and significance of the Angrist collection prohibited it being sent to Milwaukee all at once. Nor did MEARS have the time or resources to go to New Jersey at the expense of putting everything else on hold until this was done.
With the commitment by Dr. Angrist in 2004, we have always felt both honored and compelled to honor our agreement. Dr. Agrist continues to have MEARS evaluate and grade every item that he purchases. In addition, on a monthly basis he continues to submit new items he has collected and old items which he intends to sell. Is this the perfect solution given that any number of items Dr. Angrist has show up in non-REA auctions? No it isn’t but then again, we don’t feel out of place honoring a commitment we made in 2004. In this same vein, we have also applied the MEARS Buyers Protection program to items evaluated under the SCDA banner that predated MEARS. Could we have refused to honor those requests and directed collectors back to the original and still existing parent company, Sports Collectors Digest (SCD)? Yes we could have, but that is never how I have interpreted or implemented MEARS Auth, LLC’s policy.
Other items that have been and can be found at auction with MEARS letters are those consigned by Dave Bushing. As just a reminder, those items are always disclosed on the MEARS website as they always have been. Getting back to the matter and reality at hand, this can be considered a loop hole, but it is a loop hole which I intend to close this fall. I have spoken to Dave about this and his explanation does make sense to me. Dave has always been a dealer first. This means he has to purchase his inventory. Auction houses have the luxury of consignments, that by in large, do not require the same upfront and continuous degree of cash outlay. Dave’s continuing to consign to many of the hobby’s auction houses has allowed him maintain some fiscal survivability given what he as sacrificed to do things the “MEARS way” over the past few years. If you want to see and understand this in real dollars and cents as it impacts Dave’s livelihood, I would invite you to go back and re-read the article MEARS Auth, LLC wrote in March of 2007 titled “The Cost of Doing Things The MEARS Way in 2006.”
I can say with great degree of certainty and accuracy since submissions fall under my operational control, that in 2008, MEARS has turned away or turned back approximately $20,000 in retail submission alone from auction houses. By and large these have been high end or high profile items that would have liked nothing more than to have our name associated with. This did not make any number of people happy, including me, the person charged with making payroll to our staff every month. But once again, this is how I have interpreted and implemented MEARS policy.
We are now carefully evaluating our internal and external operating procedures in order to address these issues and concerns. We do this with both MEARS and the larger collecting community in mind. We have set an internal suspense to have this resolved by the time we move into the new MEARS Corporate Research and Conference Center this fall. I will share this with you now however, MEARS is not looking to establish any new auction house contracts.
Why was it important for me to write about all this? Do I want MEARS Auth, LLC’s job as Policy Director? No I do not by any stretch of the imagination. But as the person charged with running MEARS, an ever growing and ever expanding organization, you should know what I am doing or not doing and why. This too is grounded in a primary policy principle of MEARS Auth, LLC’s. That being, what we do, how we do it, and why we are doing it should be as open and transparent as possible. If we can’t earn and maintain your personal trust and confidence, how could we ever be expected to maintain your business?
Troy R. Kinunen
Director of Operations