Auctions as Peer Review

Now that C2E2 is over, I’ve had some time to digest the events of the past week. It was a busy one as you can imagine. There were tons of press interviews to schedule, in addition to arranging deliveries/pickups, preparing the auction room and organizing our bidders. In the middle of the cyclone of chaos, we also held a panel discussion on the eve of the auction. It was billed as a Hollywood Treasure panel, but the topics discussed were very much relevant to the memorabilia and collectibles industry.

On stage were the cast of Hollywood Treasure–Joe Maddalena, Brian Chanes, Tracey McCall, Jon Mankuta–and Stacey Roman, our auctioneer. The questions from the audience were astute and poignant. The answers were equally thought provoking. I won’t rehash everything that was talked about, but I do want to bring up one thing that was discussed and that was the concept of auctions as peer review. Brian actually brought up this idea. I believe that the question that prompted this was, how do we go about verifying provenance? Brian’s response was the usual: ascertaining sales history, following the paper trail, consulting experts, etc, etc…

Then Brian cited the fact that the culmination of our research is summed up in our catalog descriptions. We send out 6,000 catalogs worldwide and published every one of our auction catalogs online for anyone and everyone to review. We also offer preview of the items prior to the auction. Moreover, we are a recognizable company with a listed telephone number, email and website. Anyone is welcome to contact us with questions, concerns or comments. In essence, we put everything out in the open that is pertinent to the item and does not infringe on client confidentiality, making this process a type of peer review much like what is done in the scientific community.

In fact, I know that there are forums and blogs that talk about our catalogs and auctions. The discourse and discussion that take place is great for our industry. Transparency is a good thing. However, what is counterproductive are discussions based on groundless accusations and meritless insinuations. I can say with confidence that many of the people that engage in these discussions that take place in private forums do not get their information directly from Profiles. I would know because I would be the one addressing these inquiries. A simple phone call or email could actually clear up a lot of things.

This makes one wonder why we are not approached directly. If there are legitimate concerns, then why not go to the source? Like I’ve said, there are numerous ways to contact us. It makes you question the motives of those doing the finger pointing. Also suspect is that there are private forums, where comments are routinely edited by moderators. Is this not the antithesis of transparency? If community policing is so important, then shouldn’t everything be out in the open?

Unfortunately, this business is also about acquisition and that means information is gold. If you are armed with better info, then you are better positioned to acquire an item than your competition. Equally effective is disinformation. Normally I would not even entertain this notion, but I’ve heard about collusion by some collectors who enter into non-compete agreements for things at auction. This kind of back alley activities is infuriating considering that we are often accused of so many things by our detractors. Yet, here I am declaring Profiles’s open door policy, as opposed to closed forums where shady handshakes take place.

7 comments

  1. Great topic, Fong.

    A question – would Profiles in History be open to the idea of adding a page to their website where questions about pieces can be submitted and asked publicly, transparently, in advance of the sale date, so everyone who is interested can read the question, and the official answer from Profiles in History – all first hand?

    People then have the option to contact you privately, if that is there prerogative, but if there is an option to ask questions about material in your auctions publicly, with public responses, I think that would go a long way toward some of the unproductive discussions that can take place on various forums and websites, as well as offer real transparency for all involved.

    What do you think?

    Jason DeBord
    Editor in Chief
    The Original Prop Blog

  2. fong says:

    Jason, believe it or not, I’m already looking into doing this. We will be redesigning the website and, in doing so, plan on engaging people more. We are still working on how best to incorporate comments, inputs and feedbacks in the new site. There may be several revisions before we find a solution. But, the short answer is yes.

  3. JA Manning says:

    That’s a great idea Fong. Though sadly, some blogs publish untrue, mean spirited information, just to get attention. I hope those same people don’t take advantage of your opening up feedback when the new site is launched.

    Once recent blog actually published an article where the author insulted bidders, which to me, is unprofessional and uncalled for.

    I really enjoy reading your articles.

    JA Manning
    Movie Prop Collectors.com

  4. ThePropStop says:

    I think this idea is brilliant.

    All I want as a buyer are the facts about the prop. Let them lay where they are for all to see. If the costume says stunt in trousers but not inside the helmet I want to know it….if it lights up or hasn’t been checked…I’d like to know it. I don’t think you can ever have too much info.

    I realise not every question can be answered in a catalog description but this would go a huge amount of the way to answering any potential questions. Having said that Fong has always been open to my emails and answered them quickly.

    Bottom line and I learnt this in Chicago…if you really want something go to the viewing. You get a lot of questions answered very quickly…can inspect what your buying and bid without your internet cutting out.

    Everybody there was VERY helpful with that at C2E2

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