Auction Update Review
Two auctions archived this past week are BBs in the empty Mayonnaise jar. Rattling the jar their sound fills all the space but the scale is slight - more impression than substance. It is of course always quiet in August, though this August very quiet. This time of year the auction houses, their consignors and bidders, play a game of nerves so this eerie August quiet is familiar if unsettling. What to consign, when to consign, how to reserve, when to sell - these are all questions that are easier to answer when the market is firm or rising. These days the economy slumps and nevertheless auctions have to fill schedules. This makes negotiation tough. The world may avoid a profound slump but not all elements of the economy will fare so well. Works on paper, that feel logical and appealing to older generations, have yet to convince the current forty somethings in sufficient numbers that collecting on a grand scale will bring clarity and purpose to their lives. Great material, and lesser material in intense focus, will resonate with collectors but may take years for its siren calls to be heard. Once started great collectors rarely willingly stop, a sure sign that satisfaction once attained often becomes the very reason for being; the mantra - I live to collect. Certainly most collections begin as assemblages but many become complex models the collector uniquely understands. When these collections later return to the rooms, are sold to dealers or are gifted to institutions, one can only hope for a sympathetic interpretation. When such collections are great and the interpreters skillful such collections are welcomed in the marketplace.
The power of collecting is eternal but the mechanisms changing. The next generation of collectors will invariably be using the AED and other complex tools for historical perspective. In a month or so we'll begin to estimate both current value and probability of reappearance for much of what's listed in the Americana Exchange Database. These numbers will represent probabilities and provide insight into two of the three toughest questions a collector faces - what is it worth and how often is it available? The other question - does it fit into my collection is separately addressed. I believe the next generation will collect uniquely, use more tools, buy more widely and ultimately contribute new ideas. The tools exist. The opportunities are at hand.
So its quiet this week and perhaps just as well. The quiet will soon yield to more data, more complex analysis, more material, more catalogs and sales. The next year will prove to be a watershed and it is almost upon us.