Over the years and with the development of the Internet, the hobby has changed forever. The shows are no longer the major events that they once were, so unearthing a great collection or a buried treasure has become a daunting task. Collections are simply not walking in the doors of convention halls like they used to.
Can you remember what the show floors used to look like in the 1980s?
I can remember lines of collectors forming behind some of the more prominent dealers awaiting their chance to turn their childhood amassments into cold cash. It was unbelievable. The sellers found the buyers. Today, that has changed and for a variety of reasons.
Sure, with the Internet, people can offer their items to more people than ever before and with such ease. While there is no question that this can be a huge positive, most vintage collections -- the type that make for big headlines -- are buried with those who are not necessarily Internet friendly or really aware of what they may have.
The problem remains -- how can dealers continue to unearth solid collections?
Some dealers have been creative over the years. Some have ventured off on major buying trips where they pound the local papers in hopes of a collection nibble. Others have been more aggressive in their own hometowns, reaching beyond the traditional hobby publications and venues. At this point it is clear that diversifying your attack is crucial to survival in a hobby where the cream continues to rise and the weak links continue to be devoured by the big game hunters.
This phenomenon is really one that many people saw coming. I think it is safe to say that many collectors enjoy shows and the opportunity to see items in person but, with the advent of Internet auctions and the continued growth in major catalogue auctions, there is really no need to move off of your couch at home in order to acquire items for your collection.
The convenience is terrific for the buyers. There are more opportunities to buy high-quality pieces today than at any other time in our hobby's history. I remember that it was a huge struggle to find key pieces, even when the shows were in full force, because those in the know always had first rights. Great pieces were rarely available to the average collector and, while most collectors may not be able to afford a $50,000 Ty Cobb card or $75,000 Ty Cobb bat, at least they have an equal opportunity.
It will be interesting to see what the show circuit looks like five years from now and how difficult it will be to find fresh pieces in a hobby where demand always outweighs supply when it comes to the best of the best. If the shows continue to struggle, I imagine the dealers will have to continue to be creative and proactive in order to find new material. The smart ones will, because, in any business, you need to stay flexible to survive.
Dinosaurs are extinct -- you know.