This 1966 Eddie Mathews Atlanta Braves road jersey was offered in the MEARS December 2009 auction as Lot # 49 with an opening bid of $27,500. It did not receive a single bid. The jersey was then offered in the MEARS April 2010 auction as Lot # 40, but did not sell. Both times the jersey featured the exact same description and images. Nothing about the jersey or how it was presented changed in either venue.

April 2010 Bidding Summary: 1966 Eddie Mathews Atlanta Braves road jersey

The Mathews jersey opened in the April auction at $2500 with a notice that a reserve was placed on the lot and the estimated value was between $25,000-$30,000. It was also noted that the reserve was lower than the estimated value. In April, the Mathews jersey had ten (10) separate bidders identified as Bidders A-J. In the April auction bidders D and E placed multiple bids.

Bidder A: $2500

Bidder B: $2750

Bidder C: $3,025

Bidder D: $3,228

Bidder E: $3,661

Bidder F: $4,028

Bidder G: $4,331

Bidder E: $4,875

Bidder H: $7,139

Bidder I:M $7,853

Bidder E: $8,639

Bidder J: $9,503

Bidder D: $10,454 APRIL High Bid

The jersey was just offered in the July auction that just closed as Lot #10 with the exact same description and images as featured twice before. Once again, nothing has changed about this jersey since first offered some six months ago. This time the final bid price was $15,307. So what changed besides the final price? The House Shill Bid the Item.

This shill bidding was done with the foreknowledge of both the consigner and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the explicit understanding that the item would not be sold at ANY price. This all has been well documented in writing. Our intent was to demonstrate first hand that shill bidding has had a significant effect on the prices collectors pay and have likely been paying for years. Our position has long been that shill bidding creates a false value in the market place because it forces collectors to bid against themselves, only driving the cost up to them in the end. Please know this demonstration was strictly limited to Lot #10 and no other lots were bid on by MEARS.

For this July auction, 6 legitimate bidders were in the mix, excluding MEARS. 3 from the April auction and 3 new bidders in July. For this article/analysis, the bidder identification in April was carried over to July. By that I mean Bidder A in April is the same person identified as Bidder A in July. The new letters of K-M were assigned to collectors bidding on the jersey for the first time. For the July auction, my bids are recorded as MEARS.

July 2010 Bidding Summary: Lot # 10 1966 Eddie Mathews Atlanta Braves Road Jersey

Bidder A: $2500

Bidder K: $2750

Bidder A: $3025

Bidder J: $3328

Bidder L: $4028

MEARS: $4431

MEARS: $4875

Bidder I: $5363

MEARS: $5900

MEARS: $6490

MEARS: $7139

Bidder M: $7853

MEARS: $8639

MEARS: $9503

NOTE: At 8:53 PM, a MAX Bid was placed by Bidder L, taking the active bid up to $10,545. MEARS has asked that our bidding software be programmed so that we CANNOT see what that Max bid for what any collector has been entered in as. This was a conscious decision on our part since many collectors fear that an auction house will use this bidding information against them.

Bidder L: $10,454 (Increment of a MAX Bid Placed)

Bidder L & MEARS: $11,500

MEARS $12,650

Bidder L: 13,915 (Straight Bid)

MEARS: $15,307

At a little after 11:00 PM EST I placed a MAX Bid on this jersey in excess of a quarter of a million dollars to ensure it would not sell.

At that time, the high bid was then still recorded at:

MEARS: $15,307

MEARS: $15,307 JUNE High Bid

As you can see, this time the final bid price was almost half again of the previous high bid. In house shill bidding created the perception that interest in the jersey was greater than it actually was and has been in the past. In this case, the auction house was directly and consciously involved in manipulating the perceived interest in and value of the jersey and this had a direct and material impact on the prize realized. Had it not have been a demonstration in which MEARS ensured that the high non-MEARS bidder would not be the winner, that winning bidder would have paid well above the actual price that other legitimate bidders were willing to spend.

For those who don’t see a problem with all of this “because everyone got what they wanted.” Specifically:

-The auction house is very happy because it got a sale and is able to collect both consignment fee and buyer’s premium at the artificial levels they manipulated.

-The consigner got more for their jersey.

-The buyer got the jersey they wanted at a price they were willing to pay.

But the premise hinges on the notion that the collector is somehow now happy because he got the jersey at a price he was willing to pay for it. Auction prices should be determined by LEGTIMATE market and collector interest. With shill bidding, the auction house is forcing the collector to pay more because of manipulative and deceptive business practices. Sure the collector could always just not bid, but shill bidding distorts the environment in which the collector’s makes their decision. The underlining message to the collector that comes with shill bidding is:

“You should really want this item because a lot of other collectors do too. You can see other collectors value it as much or more than you do by what they are willing to spend. You know this since you have been outbid. Keep bidding if you really want it as the market is strong for this item. Your need to increase bids are only a reflection of the market at this time.”

This is the message the shill bids I placed were intended to convey. Sad to say, it appears it was an effective message if the only thing MEARS and MEARS Auctions was concerned with was padding our own pockets. Like any business and particularly, any sports memorabilia auction venue, MEARS and MEARS Auctions wants to make as much money as possible. That money however, will always be made in a manner consistent with our personal and organizational values.

In order to ensure this sale never factors in to any buyers calculus of market value, the listing for the July 2010 sale of this 1966 Eddie Mathews Atlanta Braves road jersey will be removed from the MEARS Auction data base. However, to equally ensure there remains an accurate record of what transpired, the complete bidding records for this auction will be provided to the FBI. All past and future bidding records will also be made available to the FBI at any time they wish to see them. Please know that MEARS will NOT be repeating this shill bidding experiment ever again. Our only purpose in conducting this ONE TIME demonstration, which was pre-coordinated with both the FBI and the consigner, was to finally offer a first hand, fact/data based example to collectors as to the severity of the impact that shill and in house bidding has in the market place. This demonstration was also strictly limited to Lot #10, the 1966 Eddie Mathews Atlanta Braves road jersey. Based on what has been clearly been demonstrated, we encourage collectors to closely examine the bidding rules for any auction they participate in.

For the collectors who bid on this item, I truly apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. I don’t expect you to like what transpired since you obviously had interest in this wonderful jersey. I do hope you can at least see and understand why MEARS felt we needed to do this. As with the other article I provided this week on the source of forged flannels, MEARS remains committed to educating collectors and reforming the industry in which we operate. From our inception, we have felt strongly about both of these since we see them as the two sides of the same coin. When you have educated collectors and an above the board industry; the coins are better spent, honestly earned, and in line with true market value. Isn’t this what we all want?

As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.


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