Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Power of Positive Rethinking

Let's face it, the antiques business is generally not one of rapid change. And we suppose that makes sense as it is an industry based on the buying and selling of "traditional" things. But it does appear that the current economy is forcing some folks to rethink how they do business. Recently, in the New York Times ("Shrinking the Art of Selling Fine Art", May 1, by Carol Vogel), it was revealed how Christie's and Sotheby's were looking to retool their catalogues as a way to save money (Sotheby's is even mailing thumb drives containing digital versions of their catalogs!). Auction catalogues have been getting larger, "sexier," and more expensive over past ten years and reducing the size and pushing e-catalogues is certainly a good place to start saving money (and it's greener, as you'll find out in our upcoming column in Maine Antique Digest).

But we like to think that this recent move is representative of a larger industry trend: change. Change is good, folks, and it's necessary to maintain a healthy business. The antiques industry has been doing business the same way for a very long time, and as a result, has seen its collector base age and dwindle, putting its long-term viability in real question.

We need to rethink how we do things, from the ways we evaluate and price objects, to the methods we use to market them, and even how we present ourselves to the non-antique-buying public. We hope that we have put some good ideas out there in the pages of MAD over the past twenty or so issues (see our full archive here), and over the next few months, we'll be talking more about how we, as an industry, can do things a little differently. Meanwhile, let us hear from you - do you have ideas for change or have you seen changes at work and making a difference?


james conrad said...

Considering that most auctions are online now, i cant understand why they dont have video/audio feeds of the auction floor.

Waiting for my object to come up while watching a still pic is about as exciting as watching paint dry

Hollie and Andrew said...

It is possible and has been for a couple of years, but it hasn't caught on. In theory, it's a great idea, but as that technology currently exists, it's very problematic. The big issue is that there is often a delay between what you are watching in the video and what is actually happening on the auction floor (and is represented on the live auction console the bidder is looking at). Even a 1/2 second delay can be the difference between getting your bid in (and being happy) and the auctioneer hammering down before being alerted to your desire to bid (which causes frustration on both parts).

Additionally, adding live audio/video hasn't been cheap, as much as $1500 per auction. So it is hard to justify such a large expense when the technology isn't up to par.

I remain hopeful that we'll get effective live audio/video in the near future, though!