Tag Archives: auction

Small Traditions Delivers Big Results In Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11 Auction

August 7, 2013

6061a_lgDenver-based auction firm, Small Traditions LLC, successfully concluded its 11th consecutive Monthly Masterpieces Plus auction late Saturday night from the 38th Annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, and the results were big. “Our favorite motto is ‘Small Traditions, Big Results,'” said company founder, Dave Thorn, a former teacher and research writer for catalog auction companies like Mile High and Goodwin and Co. “We say it often, usually to motivate us through the long days and nights that go into preparing each of our auctions, but it’s encouraging to see so many of our realized prices standing behind those words.”

After concluding the company’s largest-ever auction in June, consisting of nearly 1,200 lots and 10,000 bids, and then preparing6072a_lg free consignor graded card submissions for last week’s National in Chicago and also next week’s East Coast National in New York, the company faced a serious challenge in pulling off its Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11. Thorn admitted that he had reservations about conducting the auction from Chicago on the last night of The National, the country’s largest and most attended sports collectibles show. However, the gamble appears to have paid off. The hobby’s newest and fastest growing auction company realized exceptionally strong results for the popular products around which it appears to have generated a niche, including graded rookie cards, autographs, oddball items, and, most notably, Derek Jeter cards.

5928a_lgA 2002 Bowman Chrome Joe Mauer Gold Refractor Autograph BGS 9 RC Rookie Card sold for $1,367, and a 1967 Dexter Press Roberto Clemente PSA 9 card sold for $1,242. A 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas Rookie Card and a 1991 Bowman Chipper Jones Rookie Card, both graded BGS 10 Pristine for their respective consignors at no cost, each sold for $846, strong prices for items from the so-called junk era of the early 1990s. But that’s nothing new for Small Traditions, one of the hobby’s leading sellers of ultra high-grade cards from the modern period, that is, the 1980s through today. A quick search of the company’s Results for these years from its first eleven auctions displays extraordinary price tags, and yet Small Traditions continues to also realize premium prices for high-grade cards from the 50s and 60s, such as these 1951 Topps Team Cards and 1955 Topps PSA Mint 9s from its recent auction.

The most impressive sales, however, came from the Derek Jeter market. Despite the Yankee Captain’s inactivity this season, demand for Derek’s collectibles has remained strong, a good indicator that demand will be even stronger when the 39 year old returns to play. According to Thorn, “Jeter has entered that rarefied air of sport nobility, with other world famous players like Michael Jordan and Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth, in which demand for his collectibles will always be strong, always rising. Even if Jeter never played another game,” continued Thorn, “he’ll be remembered as one of the most accomplished and beloved players, ever, and those heavily invested in his collectibles should expect serious spikes in demand when Jeter retires and then again when he enters the Hall of Fame. But for now, I think most fans are hoping Jete can teach himself to stop playing like a 20-year old and tough out another 3 or 4 years of play, taking aim at becoming baseball’s third-ever player to join the 4,000 hit club, behind Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.”

5728a_lgWhile a 1996 Select Certified Blue Parallel Pop 2 PSA 10 RC brought in $1,655 in Thorn’s most recent auction, and a handful of other rookie cards topped $1,000 in bids, what was most surprising about many of the Jeter sales from Small Traditions Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11 auction was that some of the strongest prices came from non-rookie card material. Among many other record prices, a 1997 Topps Gallery Peter Max Autograph Insert Pop 1 PSA 10 sold for $3,554, a 1997 Pinnacle Certified Mirror Gold PSA 9 sold for $1,504, a 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Titanium Fusion Pop 2 PSA 10 earned $1,242, and a 1999 Fleer Brilliants Gold Pop 1 PSA 10 brought $1,129. Thorn attributes much of his company’s success in the Jeter market to the strong core of Jeter collectors in his rapidly growing customer base and to the work he puts into JeterCards.com, but the math behind the big sales is pretty basic as well. The latter three cards listed above, for example, were produced in extremely limited print runs of just 40, 30, 50, and 99 total copies made, respectively, and Michael Jordan cards from some of the same brands and low-numbered insert sets from the late 1990s have been consistently selling for $5,000 to even $10,000 for years.

5710a_lg“I’ve been encouraging my Jeter customers to learn more about the late 1990s insert market because, just like the Jordan market, I think that’s where we’ll see the strongest numbers in the future.” According to Thorn, there are only so many Jeter rookie cards—about 330 different ones, to be more specific—and late 90s insert cards number in the 1,000s and encompass the Yankees so-called dynasty years of 1996 to 2000, and they’re also some of the rarest and prettiest cards ever made. “It’s the perfect storm,” says Thorn. “Younger collectors might not think anything special of cards numbered to 50 or 100, since you can pull one from just about every single wax pack these days, but it was a different story in the 1990s, when the manufacturers first developed the concept.

5881a_lgThe problem is,” continued Thorn, “this is also the period when baseball cards, a very simple collectible until that time, became incredibly confusing, with multiple parallels and various tiers of print runs, some as low as 20, 10, 5, even 1.” Thorn insists that for all the quality cards from the late 1990s in the market, there are 1,000 times more junk cards that scrupulous dealers will try to push on uninformed customers. “It happens every day on eBay,” he says. “Just because a card is a Pop 3 PSA 10, for now, doesn’t mean it is necessarily rare. More likely, the card is just so common and insignificant that no one has graded very many. So some sellers will try to charge $300 for a card like this, when any Joe could easily buy 30 raw copies and grade 20 of them Gem Mint, all for the same price.”

5884a_lgAs such, Thorn stresses caution and knowledge when shopping for late 1990s Jeter cards, and he encourages collectors to learn as much as possible before clicking the Buy-It-Now button on eBay. “I hate to see collectors I know paying absurd prices for common cards when they can purchase a PSA 10 card numbered to 100 in our no reserve auctions for the same price. In his final remarks, Thorn concluded that “the Jeter market is a true community. Most of the bigger Jeter collectors and dealers know each other, and most are very friendly and happy to share the information they’ve collected over the years. For most collectors, in fact, figuring out that information has been just as fun and challenging as collecting the actual cards. Got a question? All you have to do is ask. Start by contacting advanced collectors on the PSA Set Registry, try the Collectors Universe and Freedom Cardboard forums, or call or write Small Traditions. You’ll be glad you did.”

An alternative to eBay and to other high-priced auction services, Small Traditions conducts monthly internet auctions with $1 starting bids, no reserves, and free shipping on single graded card lots, whether you win one or 101 of them. Small Traditions also offers a 0% sellers fee for consignors plus free grading with PSA and BGS for cards valued over $100, and it is the only auction company in the hobby to offer both free selling and free grading services. Call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com to learn more and to see if your cards qualify. Currently, the company is aggressively seeking rare vintage and modern single graded card consignments for its August 31, September 28, and October (Nov. 2) auctions.

EXPLAIN IT TO ME: The 15 Minute Rule

A throwback to the earliest days of online auctions, the much maligned 15 Minute Rule is an automated method for ending an auction. It is the reason so many auctions last into the wee hours of the morning, and it is also the reason why some of the most coveted items in a given auction sometimes sell for multiple times their estimated values. At its simplest, the rule stipulates that the auction will not close until 15 minutes have passed with no bids being placed on any item within the entire auction. At that point, we assume, all bids are in, everyone has had a fair chance to bid, and so the proverbial gavel hits the sound block, the auction ends, and we all go to bed. I’ve been in the auction business for almost a decade now, and I’ve participated in hundreds if not thousands of auctions both as a buyer and as a consignor (or seller) and also as an auctioneer. On more than a few occasions, I’ve been kept awake until 4:00 AM to guarantee my winning bids. Other times I’ve set my alarm for 2:00 AM to enter my final bids, and still other times I’ve slept through an auction closing and completely missed my opportunity to bid. Today is the final day of Small Traditions Monthly Auction #6, and many of my customers have asked me to explain the 15 Minute Rule, so here’s an explanation of how the Small Traditions 15 Minute Rule works as well as a brief discussion of its pros and cons.

At Small Traditions, we’ve adopted the simplest version of the 15 Minute Rule. Our Monthly Auctions close on the final Thursday of every month at precisely 11:11 PM EST, at which time they enter into Extended Bidding. At that point, the 15 Minute Rule goes into effect, and each time a bid is placed within the auction, a new 15-minute timer begins to clock down to zero, and the auction will not close until a full fifteen minutes has passed with no bids being placed within the auction. IMPORTANT: All active Small Traditions bidders in good standing are permitted to bid on ANY item within the auction during the Extended Bidding period.

Of course, the primary reason we do this is simple: to generate more bids and to maximize prices for the lots within our auctions. For this reason, our consignors tend to love the 15 Minute Rule, while our bidders tend to hate it. The inevitable result of the rule is that most auctions last until 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM, or even 4:00 AM. But 4:00 AM where? 4:00 AM in New York is just 1:00 AM in Los Angeles, and while that’s still pretty late for a Thursday night, it’s just 10:00 PM in Hawaii and just 6:00 PM in Japan and Taiwan, where we have more than a few registered bidders. And so another primary reason we use the 15 Minute Rule is to give ALL bidders (east coast, west coast, far east cost) a fair chance to bid on the final night of our auctions.

The obvious complaint against the 15 Minute Rule is that it keeps bidders up too late, and several companies have developed alternatives to the rule to placate their bidders. Some auction houses apply the fifteen minute rule to multiple sessions within a single auction, while other houses apply the rule on a lot-by-lot basis, meaning that each lot closes individually after 15 minutes pass with no bidding activity. To the angst of consignors, a third alternative is to abandon the 15 Minute Rule and simply close the auction at an appointed time, but where’s the fun in that? In all sincerity, some of my fondest memories in this business have come on auction night, when bidding wars ensue and consignors realize record prices for items they were reluctant to sell, and when bargain-hunting bidders score incredible deals about which they brag to their friends the next day on chat forums across the internet.

A final note and a few suggestions regarding the 15 Minute Rule. Like all auction houses, Small Traditions reserves the right to use our discretion and to end our auctions at any time, especially when bids have slowed to a snail’s pace and the sky is paling. If you prefer not to stay awake until mid-morning, then consider setting your alarm for midnight, 1:00 AM, or 2:00 AM in order to check your status. The average ending time of our first have dozen auctions has been about 2:00 AM MST (Mountain Standard Time; we are in Denver). Alternatively, you can decide upon a price you are willing to pay for an item and use the Max Bid feature, available on all lots, or you can always call Small Traditions at 303.832.1975 and request a telephone bid up to a specific price before the auction ends. After all, more so than on other nights, on auction night, we work overtime.

Thanks for supporting Small Traditions, and good luck!

Dave Thorn