Over the course of the last year, and especially during the past six months, I’ve been confronted with the most basic of decisions. Was I going to run my company like a business or was I going to go out of business altogether? Or as William Shakespeare once quipped, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
As the owner of an auction service that specializes in authentic, pre-historic artifacts, I recognize the pitfalls associated with a hobby where so many modern facsimiles are offered for sale on the open market. It is for this reason that I aggressively screen my sales and deny entry to any item I feel to be, shall we say, less than old. In addition, I enlist the aid of two experienced hobbyists in the vetting of each and every sale. However, it has become an impossibility to keep my head above water in an atmosphere where return privileges are open-ended, and based on the sage advice of a never-ending list of neighbors, co-workers, relatives and in-laws, barbers, butchers, drinking buddies, other hobbyists, artifact show-goers, friends, competitors, and the growing corral of Authenticators, who often disagree with one another. Everyone has an opinion, and someone, somewhere, at some-time, isn’t going to “like” the item you just bought. But that’s not the question. The question is: do you like it?
The service I provide -- and the service I need to be paid for -- is a platform whereby Indian artifact collectors and dealers; buyers and sellers, interact with one another in the never-ending pursuit of the coveted rock. Simply put, I can no longer have the proceeds of my business disappear based on a single opinion among a chorus of “referees”, AFTER THE GAVEL FALLS. There will always be a naysayer, and the naysayer cannot win the call.
Collectively as a hobby, we need to return to the notion that it is the BUYER, and no one else, that needs to be satisfied with what he or she buys. In the case of Rowlands Relics Limited, a full complement of auction lots, with multiple, high-quality photos is posted on-line five to six weeks prior to any sale. Likewise, the print catalog is in the customer’s mailbox’s two to three weeks beforehand. There is plenty of time for a frank conversation pertaining to any lot, or better still, a visit, as all merchandise is open to public inspection. Given sufficient notice, I will gladly arrange for, as I have done many times in the past, a second opinion from a neutral party of the bidder’s choosing. Did I mention that I also have a preview?
In short, collectors need to decide the suitability for purchase BEFORE the sale, not after. In the end, the hobby will be healthier if we return to the age-old adage that sales at auction are “As is, Where is”, which is the defining character of auctions everywhere, and which provides the primary factor in determining prices realized. Before the year is out I predict most, if not all, of the auction services that specialize in the sale of these Stone Age treasures will return to this as a matter of policy. The other side of the coin, of course, is that auction services will need to re-double their efforts, to the best degree possible, to protect their respective customers by refusing to sell questionable and problematic pieces.
David Rowlands, Owner and Manager
Rowlands Relics Limited