As I have started my blog with a discussion on the NY Winter Antiques Show, I thought it might be a good place to analyze what is necessary to improve the show concept and expose some of their failings.
When one thinks of antiques shows, they range from the upscale presentations of a Maastricht international show to the local weekly flea market held on a Sunday afternoon in a rural parking lot. In both cases, the dealers are motivated to sell objects directly to purchasers looking to buy for any number of reasons, either as a collector, to decorate, or just for the fun of finding a bargain and seeing a variety objects. In other words, these shows are in theory a form of a marketplace.
For a marketplace to truly operate as such, pricing is the paramount purpose of its operation. Whether it is a stock exchange, a metals market exchange, or a fish market, the transparent disclosure of a seller’s price is what attracts buyers to the environment. What we have in many antiques shows and especially the “high end” shows is chronic lack of this disclosure.
One of my greatest criticisms of dealers is their lack of or trepidation to disclose a price. Are they hiding something, embarrassed, just want to make it difficult for a prospective buyer?
I will say that I saw more prices posted at this Winter Antiques Show than I have at other previous shows, but come on, why not require it. I am so purposeful with my pricing at Newel, that I have a price tag on all 8,000 + (yes, 8,000 +) items in my inventory. I even have the audacity to disclose my prices on my web site.
My point on price disclosure to the public at large is that it accomplishes 2 things that are vital to developing and maintaining a market based economic system for my industry. First, it creates a ceiling price that is a starting point for a buyer. In any market exchange format, there is a bid and ask equilibrium that gets played out between any buyer and seller. The art and antiques industry should abide by this classic market mechanism. The second is that the intimidation of having to ask a price is removed and a buyer now has one less hurdle to overcome in the negotiation process.
As industry shows have proliferated around the world, their promoters and their participants should demand that price disclosure be required. Let’s face it, if you think that the “experts” are there to vet a show for fakes, why is it a great leap of faith then to put a price on an item. The “experts” can’t vet the price, but the marketplace mechanisms can.