In Defense of Quality Auctioneers
The industry is a small place in many respects and word can travel fast, especially something of a negative nature. With the popularity of message boards on the Internet, communication between people is easier than ever. When a disgruntled hobbyist decides to launch a verbal assault on someone, it can be done with a few strikes on a keyboard.
One of the entities in our business that endures a great deal of abuse is the auction house. For the purpose of this article, I am talking about the high-end auction house. I am not including auction venues such as eBay, even though high-end items sell on sites such as this each day. These auction houses offer thousands of items each year, including many items in the $5,000 and higher category. We are talking about a segment of the industry that contains fewer than a dozen notable competitors yet they combine to generate nearly $100 million in revenue annually.
Despite the sheer volume of items offered, some hobbyists are very quick to point out a mistake. Even if the mistake is only one in 1,000 lots, this type of person salivates at the chance to disparage an otherwise terrific sale. Maybe it's personal or a result of character flaw in the offending party? Whatever the reason, it does nothing to help the hobby and it is often unfair to the target of such animosity.
Believe me, as the leading 3rd party authenticator in the hobby, we know what it's like to act as the punching bag for frustrated hobbyists. When you are often in the business of delivering bad news, you have to know how to absorb verbal punishment. For the betterment of the entire industry, all I would ask of these people is to focus on helping the hobby instead of hurting it. I would also ask that people keep honest mistakes in perspective.
We are all human. Experts make mistakes. Collectors make mistakes. So do auction houses. How they handle mistakes is what separates a good auction house from a bad one. The fact that they make mistakes just means they are imperfect like the rest of us. Please keep in mind that I am, in no way, coming to the defense of auction houses that ignore evidence that an item is problematic or ones that treat their customers poorly.
If you see a problem with an auction lot, don't you think the company would want to know if there's an issue? While some auction houses may ignore the new information, the ones who are interested in preserving their name would embrace it, especially when they can avoid controversy and bad press.
Recently, I was looking over an ad for a notable auction company and noticed what appeared to be a problem with one of the items. I simply called one of my contacts at the company and let him know of the potential problem. After reviewing the item further, they pulled the piece from the sale and thanked me for alerting them of the issue. They were not offended at all but appreciative that someone took the time to alert them instead of concealing the information to only bash them publicly at a later time.
If you care about the hobby, as I do, then you will do the same. Good companies care about their reputation and do not want to be associated with controversial items if they can avoid it. Communicating with auction houses is a good thing. None of us can know it all and all of us make mistakes. Make the hobby a better place by sharing information and avoid becoming a naysayer. It serves no purpose.
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief
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