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  #1  
Old 09-08-2007, 05:33 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: Tim Newcomb

At the urging of some people I respect, I am reposting a revised version of these comments--

PS: One edit before anyone else has posted:
______________________________________________

Like many of you my blood has boiled reading about all the recent problems with bigger auction houses. I didn't post in Ryan's thread because it was getting so big, but SCP and Sotheby's have gone way down in my estimation too.

Does it occur to anyone else that we have allowed an outrageous double standard to develop between auction houses and dealers who sell outright?

When I left the hobby for a decade around 1989, my opinion of card dealers was roughly similar to my opinion of the sleazy used-car huckster. When I returned I was very leery of "the dealer" at first, and I discovered to my surprise that most of the creeps had been weeded out and most of the remainder were top-notch people. I could name dozens I respect and recommend. Several have even become friends.

My view of the current situation is that:

--Well-known dealers are held to an extremely high standard in most situations, and most of them respond to problems promptly and in good faith, taking a lot of care to ensure the customer is happy. Most have a fair return policy, and the vast majority will make good if they sell a card that is fake or substantially altered. Those who stray from these good-business policies are raked over the coals on this board and other collector networks.

--The situation with auction houses is radically different. Everywhere I look lately I see practices that we wouldn't put up with from a for-sale dealer. I seldom place bids in larger auctions, but I follow most of them and sometimes enter into bidding agreements with friends. Within the past few months I have encountered most of these problems either personally or as part of a bidding group:

Auctioneers are

--refusing to accept returns even with just cause such as Ryan's (frankly I don't see why auctioneers should get away with not accepting returns if ordinary sellers have to)

--misidentifying cards in lots (nearly always to the lot's advantage, it seems)

--failing to recognize fairly obvious reprints in lots

--hiding behind the opinions of "expert" authenticators until the moment it becomes convenient not to do so, even when there is very strong evidence that an item is not authentic

--failing to list every card in a large lot

--failing, even in response to specific questions, to mention significant back damage on cards

-Ėfailing to scan enough cards to give the bidder a clear sense of the lotís condition

--failing to give an adequately detailed verbal description of the condition of cards in lots

--failing to represent the condition of ungraded cards according to the current standards of the hobby

--failing to answer questions or supply more information in a timely, pleasant way

--overcharging outrageously for packing and shipping (and not specifying these charges beforehand)

--raising buyer's premiums for a given auction after consignments have been submitted for that auction

With each of these issue, there are specific examples I could point to, and you probably could as well. But I'd prefer to keep the discussion at the level of the industry as a whole rather than zeroing in on specifics.

Then there is the whole gray area of auction-house shilling and allowing consignors/employees to bid. I can't speak to those issues with as much authority, but it seems clear to me that there is cause for concern. I can't believe that one of the major houses, famous for its integrity, would base its advertising so thoroughly on its anti-shill software if those in charge weren't certain that the problem was a real one in the industry.

There are certainly exceptions to this indictment, starting with Barry Sloate, and Seth Nagdeman of 19th-centuryOnly. And though I've not yet bought from Robert Edward Auctions, I have noted a distinct lack of complaints about them. They are clearly trying to raise the bar.

Conclusions:

1: At this point I'm surer of getting what I pay for from some unknown person on ebay than I would be from some of the bigger auction houses. Usually I have seen a scan of all the cards, and have gotten reasonable answers to my questions. I almost always know what the shipping cost will be ahead of time. In almost every case that I have been seriously dissatisfied with an ebay item, I have been able to return it for a refund.

2: No wonder more and more auctions are appearing, and several firms that once mostly sold outright are now doing auctions. It's because auction houses are getting away with murder!

3: Since many of the auctioneers are also (or were formerly) sellers, it's clear to me that the problem is not that auctioneers are all unscrupulous individuals, which they are not, but that collectors have put up with these dubious practices without complaint, and eventually allowed them to become standard.

4. I doubt there is any blanket solution as long as so many well-heeled people are into cards, people who don't really care how much they spend to get the cards they want. Donít misunderstand: I donít blame those folks as individuals either. But the current big-money climate has created an unhealthy dynamic in which auction houses only seem to care about the big spenders.

And when auction houses decide that a repeat customer spending $10,000 (as Ryan spent on that one photo) is not a big enough spender to be worth satisfying, even when he has an apparently ironclad grievance, thereís something seriously wrong.


ONE SUGGESTION:

hereís a possible solution to some of the things I complained about above:

ANYTIME we see auction lots without a full listing of the cards included, without scans of key cards, or without adequate description of overall condition, we could ALL write to the auction house requesting this information. If auctioneers have to take the time to field (or duck) many individual inquiries about such lots, they may conclude itís just easier to supply the info up front. But it will take a bunch of us to make the necessary impact, not just two or three.

Happy collecting!
Tim

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  #2  
Old 09-08-2007, 06:18 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: jay behrens

Tim, my sentiments exactly. I stated on this board many time, people here will let things slide that gone in major auction houses that if the same thing was done by a dealer or eBay seller, would get raked over the coals and hung out to dry.

It's sort of the reverse of the auction houses catering to big spenders. Collectors are willing to let auction house misdeeds slide because they offer material that is desired by these people, but they will go after the smaller fish because they don't offer the highly desirable items that auction houses do, so if they run them out of business, they haven't made getting those highly desired items more difficult.

For me, if I had the money, it's not of question of which auction house's items I wouldn't bid on, but which select few would I bid on. REA and Barry Sloate make that short list. Mastro doesn't and many others don't.

Jay

The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

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Old 09-08-2007, 06:40 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: barrysloate

You guys are both very kind, thank you, but I am not a saint. I just try to be fair. I make mistakes too, but I make an effort to correct them.

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Old 09-08-2007, 06:45 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: Ryan Christoff

Barry,

I think that's all collectors are looking for. I doesn't seem like too much to ask, but for some auction houses it obviously is.

-Ryan

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Old 09-08-2007, 07:13 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: JimCrandell

Tim,

Well said--and there is a lot more that could be added to your list.

The answer is what many seem to be doing privately--boycott them until they change their ways or publicly repent and then explain their new policies and why they are changing.

Jim

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  #6  
Old 09-11-2007, 04:27 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: Tim Newcomb

This didn't get much response-- I thought maybe some folks didn't see it because it was posted late on Friday afternoon. Anyway, looks like I've now got a couple more things to add to the indictment....

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Old 09-11-2007, 04:37 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: barrysloate

As I've said before: how do you guys enjoy this hobby? There's a big part of me that's glad I don't collect anymore. It would be too stressful.

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Old 09-11-2007, 04:40 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: jeff drum

Barry,
It's quite simple, I bid in none of the major auctions, never have. I have bought from you before and was extremely pleased. Not really much stress involved at all.

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Old 09-11-2007, 04:43 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: barrysloate

Thanks Jeff for the compliment. But what I meant to say is there are so many negative threads started on a daily basis, it can give one a real headache.

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Old 09-11-2007, 05:32 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: Tim Newcomb

Barry-- I love the hobby and find it is a great stress reducer.

How? don't get obsessed with condition, don't overstretch your finances, deal with the many good people, and don't deal with the major auction houses!!

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Old 09-11-2007, 05:38 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: dennis

why should they do anything different? they (auction houses) are getting record prices!

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Old 09-11-2007, 06:15 PM
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Default Auction house double standard -- take two

Posted By: David Smith

Maybe some of those "record prices" aren't record prices and some of the cards listed as "sold" are not really sold. Maybe auction houses are raising the Buyers Premium to cover for these losses.

I mean if a card is shilled to $10,000 then listed as "sold" but really wasn't, the auction house didn't make ANY Buyer's Premium and also had to pay the consignor for the card. These losses eat into the profit margin thus the increase in the Buyer's Premium to cover them.

Something to think about,

David

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