Taking the long view

My wife Susan and I got started in the autograph field over twenty five years ago. We were 36 years old, had two young children, and I was just completing my first book ("Blueprint For Franchising a Business") and starting to expand my law practice. There were knowledgeable and reputable dealers, and together they constituted a respected Supreme Court of sorts; they never had to urge you to trust them, and would have laughed out loud about the idea of having a third party authenticate what they offered. I would particularly like to cite departed and lamented dealers Robert Batchelder, Paul C. Richards, and Robert Tollett (among many others) and auctioneer Brian Riba. And I should mention my dear friend and mentor, Neale Lanigan, who remains very much with us but has left the field for a higher calling – the ministry. The quality of what these men offered was extremely high, and there seemed to be an unending supply, as they had huge inventories gathered from the 1960s forward. The problem when you were inundated with their catalogs (sometimes six or seven a day) was what to buy, not whether to buy. Their depth and variety seemed staggering. Today there is a notable decline in the caliber of autograph sellers, due in part to lower standards and the Internet; and seeing this, we have sought consciously to emulate the iconic dealers of yesteryear. This means a focus on quality and not quantity, a dedication to customer service, and a commitment to continue to issue fully illustrated catalogs that so many keep in their own libraries.

Taking the long view, we see that the collecting interests in the marketplace are not static, but rise and fall with generations of collectors. In the '80s there were plenty of people around who remembered the early years of aviation, World War I and silent movies. Most of them are gone now, and gone too are many of the collectors specializing in those areas. This is one trend that we need not speculate about continuing; it will, and has always been, the case that collecting interests change in part as the generations turn. But some interests transcend generations and are perpetual, such as collecting presidents or other major historical figures. We've always made a concerted effort to obtain pieces that have that characteristic.

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