Calling All Retailers
If you look at the landscape of the hobby today and sellers in particular, the trend towards auctions has become more than just a trend... it has become the norm. As we have discussed before, auctions have become the preferred method of selling items. In the past, auctions were often reserved for special events. Not anymore. While some companies have developed special event auctions as part of their repertoire, for the most part, the auction is just the way items are often moved these days.
Is this really good for the hobby?
If you look at other collectible fields, there seems to be a healthier balance between auctions and retail sales. For example, if you go to a coin show, there are plenty of high-end coins being sold on the floor in addition to a select group of auction previews. When it comes to sports collectibles, especially at the top of the market, there seems to be fewer and fewer opportunities to actually buy choice items before they head to the auction block.
This issue is something that also impacts the few worthwhile shows that exist today. Over the years, I have listened to many high-end buyers voice the same complaint. When asked why they didn't attend shows, including the National Sports Collectors Convention, they all responded the same way. The problem is that such a large portion of the high-end material is simply not for sale. You can look and even touch, but often times, you cannot buy. You can only register or bid.
The overall decline of shows is, of course, a product of more than just a lack of retail offerings. Lack of convention innovation and the ease of the Internet have provided reasons why you might not want to leave the comfort of your home in order to buy collectibles. The reality is that none of us have to go to a show. Knowing that, what the industry needs to figure out is how we can get more collectors to actually want to go to a show. The Internet has erased the need element, so we have to find new ways to appeal to collectors if we want shows to be successful.
To be fair, there are some auction companies who have developed their retail programs by offering the ability to go back through past auction lots or purchase items via "buy" events. Furthermore, even though this isn't about blame, the burden can't be put on the sellers alone. The behavior of buyers has also contributed to the clear focus on auctions. Time and time again, dealers are left perplexed when they offer an item for sale with no takers only to be shocked when the same item sells for significantly more a few months later after being consigned to auction.
There are a percentage of buyers who either lack confidence or simply prefer the action of the auction, often ignoring good buying opportunities. There is no doubt that participating in an auction can be fun, but as a collector, it is important to recognize good opportunities when they present themselves. With the way things are going, those opportunities are getting harder to come by. Smart sellers often adjust to buyer behavior, so perhaps the focus on auctions has just as much to do with conforming to collectors versus the other way around.
All of this is merely an observation. It's not about right and wrong, but the bad might outweigh the good from a long-term perspective. As a hobbyist, I would like to see a better balance between auction and retail sales because I do believe it could result in a better overall atmosphere; however, it will take adjusting on both sides to make that vision a reality.
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief
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