While he was often referred to as “Silent Cal” (and no not Ripken,) when he did speak, he often spoke volumes with simple sentences. President Calvin Coolidge is probably best known for the quote “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” What many of you may not know is that the entirety of the statement also included the verbiage, “Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.”
Folks, let’s face it and be honest about it… If you are running an auction house or selling items on E-Bay or at card show, your goal is to make money….Ouch…dirty as it may seem, it is the truth. But what about the second part of the Coolidge quote, “the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.”
With the announcement of MEARS adding an auction division to our corporate structure, comparison and complaints were inevitable. I am a Jim Rome fan so I say, “if you are going to come, come strong..” If you don’t like what we do and the manner in which we do it, feel free to comment, but please come strong. By this I mean, if you expect it to have any impact on our decision making process, you should do more than just complain. Offer something well thought out and constructive. Take for example this golden nugget of knowledge:
“I think the whole authentication business is a scam….I agree with all that Mears is trying to set new levels of standards…but when you compare that level in this industry vs other industries in the REAL world, Mears’ standards are still in the horse and buggy stage.”
What am I supposed to do with this? What are the other industries that we should be using as points of reference and what are “the lessons learned” and “best business practices” that we should consider or emulate? And yes, I am looking for specifics that would include some functional assessment as to the impact on both the internal and external operational environment. What do I expect to get from this? Probably some retort along the lines “that’s not my job, that’s yours.” Just fine with me, but if you are truly not interested in helping me improve what I am doing, then as they say at Fort Benning, “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.”
Getting back to the sage commentary offered above, I clearly am not sure what the “REAL world” is. MEARS is an actual company with a 15,000 square foot facility that provides a service, has to make payroll and pay taxes, has a fiscal responsibility to investors, and needs to be seen as credible in order to stay in business. The list goes on and on. Are we or the sports memorabilia industry as an entity essential to the basic functions of our society? No we are not. What about the husband and wife who own and operate the small framing shop in the local strip mall? Essential and necessary? No. Real? Yes.
But let me not stray to far from points at hand, “Mears’ standards are still in the horse and buggy stage.” OK then, what is the Cadillac (yes, I still have a thing about buying American) standard in very specific terms and how does MEARS get there? Why do I ask this question? Because it is my job to see that we get there. Who in the same line of work and across all the facets that we are currently engaged in has the Cadillac and not the “horse and buggy”?
-Use of Worksheets based on established grading criteria.
– Full Disclosure of ownership.
– Buyers Protection Plan.
– Educational Outreach Program (MEARS Editorial Content. And please don’t confuse this or compare it to the number of posts on a message board.)
– Demonstrated willingness and proven track record of sacrificing profits in order to effect change across an industry.
– Openness and approachability with a means to have your concerns or questions asked and answered in both private and public mediums.
– Investment of time, effort and money into research and reference materials.
Remember, when you offer up the organization for comparison that we should be looking to emulate, they need to be one that:
-Performs Evaluations with personnel whose work can be directly attributed to that person by name and with fiscal responsibility for that same body of work.
-Provides substantive educational content on a regular basis.
-Operates as a commercial venture with sales and auctions.
Please know this is not a poke in the eye anymore than it is defensive posturing. Much of we have done at MEARS has been in direct response to what we have heard from collectors, ranging from policies and procedure to topics covered and addressed as part of our editorial program. But please, if you truly expect to heard, then please have something to say that can be given the serious consideration we are expected to give to it.
We have not endeavored to simply make money, but make that money in a certain way…a way for us that seems to be the right way. We at MEARS can point to this in line with the second half of the Coolidge quote “the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.” It has not been and we have metrics to back it up. Consider this information from my article of March 2007 titled “The Cost of Doing Things the MEARS Way”:
For 2006 alone, MEARS spent the following in these areas:
1. Video transfer initiative expenses: This was the cost of screening, capturing, and transferring NFL DVD footage to JPEGs to support our football research database.
2. Catalog project initiative: This was the cost associated with the review of auction catalogs, gathering and archiving data. Used to support all game used equipment evaluations with special emphasis on manufacturing/sizing of caps, shoes, etc as they relate to being able to perform trend analysis.
3. Reference materials purchase initiative: This was the cost associated with the purchase of books, magazines, yearbooks, photos, catalogs and film references.
4. Research Assistant: This was the cost associated with paying a person to serve in the capacity of a research assistant. Focus has been but not limited to, on gathering images for internal database reference, now at 44,000 images.
5. Web Site Maintenance: This was the cost associated updating the databases, search features, archives, and other information categories associated with the web site.
6. The cost of producing our own letters. This was the cost associated with checking and transferring work sheet information and photographs to a final letter for auction house work, photography and letter support for retail submission, entering those documents in the data base, and updating the same via the bat and jersey census. I think it is important to note, that unlike others doing this work, MEARS does not simply print out an auction house description on auction house letterhead.
7. MEARS Buyer Protection Program. This was the cost associated with either purchasing items outright or refunding a portion of the purchase price as agreed to by the collector.
Total for these categories alone: $72,531.66
Does any or all of this make us the “Cadillac”… no it does not but we sure have bought something better than a “horse and buggy” in my estimation and we have done it without “the accumulation of wealth as being the chief end of our existence.”
The bottom line is that collectors will always have something to say and we should be expected to listen. The real trick is what do you do with what is offered? I would suggest that much of it has to do with the overall substance of the message and the messenger… really the same thing that could be said with the opinion offered on an item for evaluation or auction/sale or related article or research on a topic…all things that we now offer.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com