The first question concerning how the antiques business will operate down the road is will it survive at all or be forced to evolve, like the banks and auto industry, but without government assistance.
It also creates the perfect storm for change and innovation. Just as the Sotheby’s/ Christie’s duopoly operates on deception, fraud, and conflicts of interest, dealers as a group are too distant and fragmented to collude so successfully. If 50 dealers in any one antiques market operated with their own rules, like the duopoly operates, then dealers would probably make more money. But dealers need to know that any form of standardizing the sale of antiques will bring unquantifiable benefits to their industry. This advantage would not just be for dealer to dealer transactions, but could extend to dealings with the general public, the duopoly’s real moneymaking market.
There are no two dealers that are remotely alike in the type of business forms and methods they employ to make and record a sale. It sounds stupid, but electric utility sends me a monthly bill with too much data and information; but most electric companies give the same basic information.
The concept of commercial alliances among dealers must start with some level of integrity among the group or it is doomed from the beginning. The opportunity to gain a form of creditability as a commercial operation of dealers would be far more effective for its members than being accepted by some antiques dealer “association” that offers only exclusivity but no financial or operational benefits. It has also never been attempted on a multiple dealer platform.
However, the trading and sale of antique, collectibles, or contemporary art have operated successfully with a consistent auction method. However, the rules for the auction method as employed today offer no opportunity for negotiation on the part of the buyer, short of being complicit in a form of fraud with the Sotheby’s irrevocable bidding scam. The negotiation process between a buyer and a dealer selling something he values makes for good economics. It is the concept of an organizational structure for the dealer group that can make the difference.
All forms of exchanges like the New York Stock exchange, or any of the commodity exchanges have a market pricing method. They also have members of those exchanges that generally follow a clear method that works for the group of dealers to make the exchange efficient.
Antiques dealers, like all participants who do not compete by operating on the auction method need to think outside the box and innovate. The risk/reward opportunities usually can be found in times of difficulty within any industry; my industry is now challenged. Now is the time dealers can morph into a creative, collaborative structure and take advantage of the auctioneers’ procedural flaws.