How many times have you waited more than three weeks and then stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to participate in an auction only to lose a bidding war well into the 10-minute rule?
Sure, the chase for an item can be fun, but if you really want a piece, the excitement of the challenge usually comes only secondary to the thrill of actually obtaining an item for your collection.
That’s why an auction can be more frustrating than rewarding. But believe it or not, numerous sports memorabilia auction houses offer a retail section as part of their websites, even though you may not have known it.
I scanned through all the sites I have bookmarked on my computer and found 10 online retail stores on sports memorabilia auction websites.
For instance, Steve Verkman, owner of Clean Sweep Auctions said he might add 2,000-3,000 items to his online store on any given day and acknowledged that some collectors prefer a retail component over an auction format because they don’t have to pay a buyer’s premium or endure that long, grueling wait for the gavel to fall.
“I have a strong suspicion that you may see the auction bug die off a little more due to the economy,” added Verkman “If you’re talking about a Gem Mint Babe Ruth card, of course, that’s an auction item. Not everybody buys in auctions, even though it’s a huge part of the business. Some people don’t want to stay up until four in the morning.”
Mike Hattley, owner of Touchdown Treasures, has featured an online store for more than 15 years, yet he still has people who participate in his auction that didn’t realize he offers a section on his site where collectors can purchase items outright.
He also mentioned, however, that many times when his auction customers see that he has an online store, they spend a lot of time navigating through the thousands of items he offers and that some people even prefer the “Buy it Now” component as compared to an auction venue.
“There are two schools of thought,” said Hattley. “Some people like the idea of buying it outright, and some like the thrill of the auction. With the auction, you’re hoping you can get a better deal on it. What’s weird is if you’re a company that offers both. If I have a really good item, do I put it on my storefront or put it my auction? You really have to mix it up pretty well.”
When asked which buying format he prefers, Hattley said he’s impartial because he’s a dealer and obviously trying to get the best price as he can.
“That’s probably how it is for the most part with collectors,” said Hattley.
That very rationale is why I decided to compile the list on these pages – the more options collectors have, the better.
Check out Chris Nerat’s blog, Gavel Chat at: gavelchat.sportscollectorsdigest.com. Readers may reach him at Chris.Nerat@fwpubs.com or call him at (800) 726-9966, ext. 13452.
Auction houses bring more to the market through online stores
American Memorabilia (www.americanmemorabilia.com)
AMI features more than 200 vintage and modern sports and non-sports pieces. A select few of its “for sale” items are accompanied by a photo and detailed description. Each piece comes with a COA from 100% Authentic, JSA or PSA/DNA.
Clean Sweep Auctions (www.csauctions.com)
Owner Steve Verkman boasts that his online store features the world’s largest selection of vintage baseball cards, autographs, programs and sports memorabilia. With more than 25,000 pieces offered at any given time, it’s hard to argue his claim. Many of the high-ticket items feature a nice image and detailed description. The site is laid out in easy-to-navigate categories and is very impressive.
EAC Gallery (www.eacgallery.com)
I’m not sure if these are basically unsold lots from its auction, but EAC features more than 250 items with a detailed description and images. There aren’t a whole lot of sports items, but if you are looking for historical non-sports pieces, this is a great place to look.
Grey Flannel (www.greyflannel.com)
Grey Flannel doesn’t have thousands of items offered on its retail site, but the pieces that are showcased are high quality. Nice, large imawww.greyflannel.comges and a detailed description accompanies each offering. The Long Island-based auction house’s online store specializes in autographed and game-worn sports memorabilia, with a sprinkling of other pieces.
Heritage Auction Galleries (www.sports.ha.com)
Don’t forget to navigate to Heritage’s site shortly after the close of one of its sports memorabilia auctions. The Dallas auction house features a “Post Auction Buys” section on its website, featuring, presumably, items that failed to sell at auction. The number of pieces usually seems to be quite limited, as most of their items sell, but on occasion there is a good buy that people missed for one reason or another when it first popped up for sale.
Sotheby’s with SCP Auctions (www.scpauctions.com)
I’ll be honest, before I started doing research for this column, I had no idea SCP featured a retail component to its business. I was pleasantly surprised, however, once I found it. Four PDF-styled catalogs are featured on its site, which claims that its retail component is updated once a month or anytime it receives significant additional inventory items.
Inside the Park Collectibles (insidetheparkcollectibles.com)
I’m probably not bringing this site to the attention of any serious vintage nodder collector, as I would assume most have travelled to ITPC’s site at least a few times. But, for the few collectors who haven’t made their way to this popular site, Inside the Park provides great images from all angles of the offered pieces and detailed descriptions are laid out on the easy-to-navigate online store.
Lew Lipset Auctions (www.oldjudge.com)
Hobby pioneer Lew Lipset hasn’t held an auction since November 2007, but there is no way I could leave his “For Sale” page out of this column. If you’re a fan of prewar sports cards, you better take a look at his selection. Great descriptions and clear photos make up the retail section of Lipset’s site.
MEARS currently doesn’t hold auctions, but with more than 2,000 offerings of sports and non-sports pieces, every one with rock-solid authentication, detailed descriptions and images, this site that is updated almost daily, abd it’s a place every serious collector will want to check out.
Touchdown Treasures (www.touchdown-treasures.com)
Owner Mike Hattley has been at the online retail store game longer than almost anyone. Hattley started his online store in 1992 and has compiled an impressive inventory of nearly 40,000 football pieces, while specializing in oddball material.