The Pool is Shrinking ... is that a Bad Thing?
In case you haven't noticed, over the past 5 years or so, the pool of full-time sports collectibles dealers has shrunk. It became very noticeable after the Internet started to boom. Once that happened, the storefronts started to disappear and the shows started to drop like flies.
The key question remains... is this necessarily a bad thing?
In short, I actually think it can be a good thing. While we all want options available to us, quantity does not equate to quality. One of the side benefits to the advent of third-party authentication and grading has been the overall improvement in the quality of the remaining dealers. I think that most of us would rather deal with 10 great dealers than 100 marginal ones.
When third-party authentication and grading started to take hold in our market, it became very difficult for dealers of questionable or overgraded product to continue to avoid the inevitable. At some point, even the most seasoned dealer would ultimately be taken to task by some of the buyers. The questions would come in droves...
"Has this autograph been authenticated?"
"Would you guarantee that this item would pass PSA/DNA?"
"What do you think PSA would grade this card?"
... and so on and so on and so on.
Not everyone believes in the concept and that's OK but, as the industry continues to mature, it becomes more difficult to avoid the issues surrounding authentication and grading as a seller. If the questions posed by the buyers are reasonable, and more often than not they are, then the seller cannot avoid them forever without it having an impact on their business. If he tries to avoid the questions, the seller will more than likely find himself sleeping with the dinosaurs.
As a collector, the natural attrition of the dealer community may actually be a good thing. With all of the changes that have occurred in our industry in recent years, it gives the collector peace of mind knowing a dealer or auction has survived through the changing times. The general feeling is that the remaining sellers must be doing something right. Whether they sell great product or provide excellent customer service, there has to be a reason for their continued good fortune.
I do suspect that, in the coming years and as the hobby continues to evolve, the attrition will continue and that's alright. The remaining players will simply get bigger, offer more items for sale and expand their staff and reach. Yes, it would be nice to see more storefronts in your neighborhood but the reality is that our world is an Internet world now. With the Internet, making contact is becoming less and less of a problem.
I do miss some of the faces I used to see at the shows and also miss speaking with some of the dealers who helped make my hobby possible but the industry is moving forward. In some ways, the fact that there may be fewer dealers in operation today than in the past may be a very good thing.
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief
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