I am sure this may seem like a surprising topic for me to address, but when you have finished reading this piece, I hope you will see the subject in a bit of a different light. The purpose for our auction house contract policy in 2008 is two-fold. First it is designed to align MEARS with auction houses that we feel are like minded in the way we conduct business with respect to some of the more pressing and critical issues facing this industry. Secondly, and tied directly to the first point, is that we are in effect attempting to lead some much needed change within the industry. Ultimately or at least for now, since this is an unregulated industry, we will rely on collectors to voice their support for what we are doing by the decisions they make with respect to who they choose to bid and consign with.

On November 11th, I will publish the list of those auction houses we will be working with in 2008. If you are wondering why an auction house decided not to sign with MEARS, that question will have to be asked to and answered by them. I would imagine they have their own reasons and those most likely support their vision for the industry as well as internal operating/business practices. I would offer that if the answer comes back in one of these responses, that you consider the totality of the response and all that it might entail:

Answer: We did not sign the MEARS 2008 auction house policy for legal reasons. While this may be true, I know of no external legal prohibition to disclosing bidder/consigner information that would be required in an audit. I know there are no industry wide prohibitions against this. If it is a matter of state or local law, I would be very interested and surprised. While I am sure there are legal issues, I suspect they are tied to an internal policy made by the organization that says they will not disclose this information. If it is an internal/corporate policy, then they have the authority to change it. I realize that this may be more difficult for some, especially if they are wedded or partnered with a larger organization. If this is the answer you get, ask for specifics.

Answer: We did not sign the MEARS 2008 auction house policy because MEARS is too expensive and we are trying to keep costs down. It is true that we have probably the highest fees in the industry, but then consider what goes into the service we provide and all that comes with it as compared to others. Another thing is, unlike in years past, there is NO stipulation in the contract that they use MEARS for all items or all items of any category. As far as MEARS being behind rising auction house rates, I would invite MEARS members to go back and read what I wrote about this topic last November (Rising Auction House Fees. What’s Behind This? This Answer May Surprise You-News Archive). The other thing I have shown over time is that you still can make money doing things that collectors have said are important to them.

Answer: We have no need for the MEARS service or program because we are comfortable either doing the work ourselves or are happy with the others we have doing this currently. Believe it or not, I think this a great and legitimate response for any organization. This may be based on any number of factors, but then again, ultimately it is the bidder and consigner who have the real power in this area. For the bidder, were you happy with the item and are you as confident that the person you may wish to sell the item to in the future will share your comfort level? For the consigner, did your item get the top dollar you were looking for based on bidder confidence that they were getting what they thought they were getting?

In my opinion, this next year is going to be a crucial one for the industry and I am not talking solely about the MEARS bottom line. It is going to be the year in which collectors and consigners will have some real choices and considerations to weigh and evaluate with respect to what really separates various organizations and segments of this industry.

If at the end of the day, you find yourself saying, “Yeh, these issues are important to me but these guys really have something I want…If it wasn’t for this one item, I wouldn’t do business with them…” If this is the case, then I hope you get the item you have been after, but then please don’t complain about an industry that is need of reform. MEARS is doing what we feel is in the mutual best interests of our organization and the industry on a whole.

As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect…I know I do.