Last I checked, there were something like 20 auction houses in the sports hobby that I would call “regular” – legitimate companies that conducted regular auctions of sports cards and memorabilia. There were probably another dozen or so “occasional” auctions. And then there’s the one monstrous auction website that has items closing every minute of every day – eBay.
Some of the auction houses in question are very good – long-standing companies with excellent reputations, run by upstanding people with tons of knowledge. They’ve established themselves in the hobby and have historically performed very well for both buyers and consignors. It is, without a doubt, a tough business, with crazy amounts of competition.
So why would I try and start a new auction house?
Well, mainly because I love this hobby. Love it. I got my first baseball cards as a young kid in 1977 – a pack of Topps, handed to me by my mom, who wanted me to experience the baseball card collecting bug as her brothers had in the 50s and 60s. Pulled a Rod Carew out of that first pack, and was hooked. Instantly. Started buying cards I called “oldies,” which my friends and I classified as any card issued before 1970, at a store called Dollars and Sense, in Ridgewood, NJ.
The owner of Dollars and Sense, a colorful guy named Greg, had a shoebox full of real oldies that he kept aside for kids just like me. T206s and 1920s strip cards for a dollar each. Got my first T206 – a Rube Waddell portrait that I still have – in Dollars and Sense, and heard Greg telling my mom that he loved watching kids go through the really old stuff. Brought it right home and showed it to my grandfather, who was born in 1918 and learned about Rube Waddell from his father. He told me the stories about old Rube, chasing after firetrucks and disappearing into Philadelphia for weeks at a time, and I was hooked: hooked on hanging out with my grandfather, hooked on vintage baseball, and hooked on the hobby.
But I could collect just fine without trying to open the umpteenth sports auction house.
I’ve been buying collectibles from auction houses for about fifteen years now. I love the experience. Each auction is an event, and the more of them there are, the more I enjoy them. Running one has always seemed like an incredibly fun thing to do – handling these historically important pieces of art documenting America’s past, and helping collectors obtain those special pieces for which they’ve been searching.
But over the years, I’ve built relationships with other collectors, and I’ve also become fortunate enough to work with a variety of reputable people and businesses in the sports hobby. During that time I’ve come to realize that there is room for another auction house – if that auction house can conduct itself in an honorable, trustworthy way. All collectors want to be treated professionally, all collectors want to be dealt with in an honest way. They don’t want to be beaten over the head with it – they just want to trust the people with whom they’re dealing. And my experience has been that if a collector is confident in what they’re getting, they’re ready to become loyal customers – and consignors.
I guess I’m hoping to successfully recreate the experiences I had when I was a kid, back at that card store – where every binder I opened contained another treasure, and where I trusted everything that Greg, the store owner told me. A place where people can go to interact with the company and other customers, poke around and find some cool item that may something they’ve never seen before, and maybe even find a special new piece to add to their collection.
I realize it’s a big hobby filled with money, and that there might not really be room for another auction company. But it’ll be fun to find out.