Who’s on first?

It’s not uncommon for advertisers to take certain liberties when it comes to self-proclamations. Self-hype is an art form, or a science. Probably both. Car dealerships are notorious for claiming to be the best seller of this brand or that make and model. Boxers, MMA fighters and pro-wrestlers are great at this type of grandstanding. It’s showmanship and self-aggrandizement. Competition breeds this.

In business, self-promotion is almost necessary. Perception goes a long way. Lots of times, hyperbole in the business world works because: 1) it’s not illegal, 2) sales figures be damned since numbers, i.e. statistics, can be skewed, manipulated or ignored, and 3) everyone does it.

So everyone is the greatest this, the premier that, the largest in the world, the most trusted, number one in everything… Again, competition mandates self-promotion in any field, including auction houses. Take a look at how the better-publicized auction houses are referring to themselves:

Julien’s Auctions: “…the premier auction house in high profile celebrity and entertainment auction.”

Premiere Props: “Premiere Props is #1 for Movie Props, Movie Costumes and Movie Memorabilia.”

Propworx: “Propworx is now the # 1 source for studio prop & costume auctions.”

Profiles in History: “…the nation’s leading dealer in guaranteed-authentic original historical autographs [and] the world’s largest auctioneer of original Hollywood memorabilia…”

Heritage Auctions: “Heritage Auctions is the largest collectibles auctioneer and third largest auction house in the world. We are also the undisputed Internet leader in our field.”

Christie’s: “Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise.”

Sotheby’s: “Since 1744, Sotheby’s has distinguished itself as a leader in the auction world.”

Legendary Auctions: “No auction house can market your significant, high value collectibles like Legendary Auctions, Inc.”

Robert Edward Auctions: “With all the auction houses at your disposal, there is only one that can boast all of the above. Robert Edward Auctions. For both buyers and sellers: The most trusted auction house in the hobby.”

Lelands: “Lelands is the largest and most respected Sports Auction House in the world.”

All of the above quotes can be found on those companies’ respective websites. Of course, not all auction houses participate in self-hype. For instance, Nate Sanders, who recently sold almost $4M worth of Academy Award Oscar statues, has a very modest “About Us” page. So does SCP Auctions and Swann Galleries. But they seem to be the exceptions, not the rule. With so many auction houses claiming to be the best, how do customer know who to trust?

The truth is that most customers are not fooled by the rhetorics. Every auction house has its strengths and weaknesses. Experienced and shrewd customers know this. While there is some customer loyalty with certain auction houses, many customers are not married to just one company.

Sometimes the cutthroat nature and drama of the business is reminiscent of a certain cable TV show about clashing kings. Perhaps auction houses should take queues from Game of Thrones. They should adopt proper sigils and mottos and let their house banners fly proudly and defiantly. Like in Game of Thrones, the auction business has plenty of intrigue and deception, alliances and collusions.