Over the years, I have been afforded many “perks” associated with the various positions I have been in. The Army has permitted me all expense paid trips to Iraqi, Afghanistan, and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea. I would have to say that the one I enjoy most is the one afforded to me as the Editor of MEARS On Line…That being, I can write about whatever I want. I think I will exercise that option (first let me check with my editor…yep, it’s O.K. Dave). So here goes. I thought I would focus on the topics that I get the most phone calls and e-mails about.

“PHOTO MATCHING”. Hate the phrase. Not because of what it is but because of how it is done at large. Similar to the Supreme Court Ruling, that stated that Capital Punishment is not unconstitutional, rather decisions to sentence someone to it can not “freakishly or wantonly applied.” This catch phrase of “photo matching” is being thrown about the hobby with increasing regularity. In many cases a person will have claimed to have “photo matched” a jersey based on images of only the front of the jersey. Additionally, there is almost never any comparative work that shows what the shirt is not another from that same season. This second point is important because if you can’t show why it is not something else, then how do you really know.

The “A5”. Contrary to what you may have read by “blogging or posting experts,” I think I can tell the difference between a retail jersey and one that fits the A5 definition. The issue for us, and for those of you who “get it”, is that for certain product lines and time frames, they may be indiscernible. Thus some sort of distinction and discipline needed to be applied to the hobby and we provided it. Some collectors and auction houses like it, others do not. Our goal was to level the playing field for those who where interested in making informed purchase decisions and I think we have done that.

LOA’s and Letter’s of Opinion: Yes, I think they have value on any number of levels. For the collector, they assist them in making informed purchase decisions, serve as a means to make re-sale easier, and if written and done well are informative and educational. For the person that produces them, they can serve as tool to be leveraged for future work. One of things that I have found most humorous in recent months are the growing number of openly “public critics” of these letters who are the same people who are sending us their items for our Letters of Opinions.

“ALL THE BIG NAME AUTHTICATORS”: If you listen to the word on the street on the “web”, there is a seemingly large population of these folks, all crooked, ill informed and lining their pockets with hoards of cash in an underperforming industry. Not sure about everyone else, but folks…this ain’t MEARS. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I can pretty much count on one hand the number of individuals who do this work for major auction houses. Take a look at who they are, BY NAME, and evaluate the quality and consistency of their work, their willingness to disclosure what they consign, and what there individual or corporate policies are for when a mistake is made. As far as lining their pockets with cash…mine must have a hole in it. For our first year, MEARS has poured over 80% of our revenues back into the organization and product line and services. Troy Kinunen, Dave Bushing, and I have the 1099s to prove it. This was a conscious decision on our part to ensure we got it right. If we where only focused on raking in the cash, we would not have:

1. Reduced the number of auction houses we chose to work with.
2. Spent money on the web site.
3. Paid our staff more than the shareholders of the company make; not by percentage, but by actual dollar amounts they receive.
4. Forgone advertising revenues for the first year on the web site.
5. Decided it was a conflict of interest to charge an auction house for the lots consigned by a member of MEARS.

The Game Used Forum: Great idea and I think it has certain value in the hobby, but we are not in competition with them and never have been. When Eric began the original site, I was one of the first regular contributors. The MEARS web site has a Bulletin Board function, but that is not our focus. Our Bulletin Board is a very small subset of the larger site, and the site is essentially out virtual “office space” within the industry. Do I read the posts on the GUF? Yes I do as much of the traffic and posts deal with MEARS on a regular basis. Will I post there? No. My fundamental difference, and it has been since the beginning of the original forum, has to do with the concept of public accountability. I have actually removed positive posts from our board because of this. Secondly, now that we have a means by which on-line collectors can reach us that is how we will interact with the hobby/industry at large.

Sports Collectors Digest (SCD): Mixed emotions on this one as like many of you, I grew up in the hobby reading the publication. My first large-scale public introduction into the hobby came by way of the relationship I had writing for them as part of SCDA. Our original plan was to expand the SCDA model to look like what we are doing with MEARS in terms of an on-line presence and publishing. Publications, of any sort, be it paper or electronic make money based on a combination of two factors:

1. Subscription Revenues
2. Advertising Revenues

I think that over time, the focus of the publication was that on advertising revenues. Our model has been different on a number of levels:

1. Focus on content to build and retain readership.
2. Offer value for the subscription based on those interested in the game used element of the hobby.
3. Work in an on-line medium that compresses publication timelines and the ability to provide color images at no cost.

The MEARS Auction House: Building a Better Mouse Trap. This only recently has become the topic of a few e-mails and phone calls. While I appreciate the thought and support, this would be a significant undertaking and one I would not have time for until I retire (about a year away). While I think the proposal has merit based on these issues:

1. We would disclose all lots consigned by MEARS as they would “In House Lots.”
2. We would continue our policy of making sure the collector is not out of pocket if we error.
3. If we did become an auction house, we would likely forgo offering our services to other auction houses. In this way, consigners and bidders who value the MEARS name and what it has to offer would most likely do business through us.
4. Potential for lower consignment fees as the work we do for our auctions would not be passed along.
5. Potential for increased revenues.

1. We sort of like what we are doing now. A full time auction business might not leave us the time to devote to writing and making information available to the hobby as whole.
2. Time and distance factors. We would probably have to become more centralized by proximity and function. Right now, Troy lives in Milwaukee, Dave Bushing in the Chicago area, and I am in Northern Va.

I think I will plan to do this about once a quarter…that being provide a column on issues and topics that I am asked about and that you seem to have questions on…I don’t think this will be an issue as my editor said that my ability and freedom to do so is just one of the many “Perks of My Position…” What a Great Boss…I love that guy.