Episode 125

How to Auction Off High End Collectibles w/ Alex Winter

Alex Winter is the President of Hake’s Americana and Collectibles Auction House. Alex got his start collecting comic books at the age of 8. He started working for Hakes in 1985 as a shipping assistant, working his way through the ranks to become President in 2014. 

Founded in 1967 by Ted Hake, Hakes became the first auction house to specialize in 20th century culture artifacts.  Hake’s specializes in political memorabilia, rare and unique toys of the 20th century, comic books, original art, rare sports memorabilia, items from tvs, movies and music. 

In 2004 the founder Ted Hakes sold the company to Steve Geppi, a long-time collaborating partner and owner of Diamond Comic Distributors (the only comic distribution company to my knowledge left) among several other companies he owns.

Some big ticket items that Hakes has sold include:  Captain Americas screen used shield from Avengers Infinity War for over $250K, a pair of Mickey and Minnie dolls for over $150K, and their most recent auction that closed on March 16th 2022 a Boba Fett Star Wars prototype figure that closed at over $204K.

Visit Hakes.com

Mentioned in this episode:

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Transcript
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Welcome to the business samurai podcast.

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I'm your host.

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John Barker as a lifelong collector is privilege that I have Alex winter,

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the president of Hakes Americana and collectibles auction house.

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Alex got to start collecting comic books at the age of eight.

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He started working for Hakes in 1985 as shipping assistant working his way through

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the ranks to become president in 2014.

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Hakes was founded in 1967 by Ted hake and became the first auction

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house to specialize in 20th century.

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Cultural artifacts, hake specializes in political memorabilia, rare and

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unique toys of the 20th century comic books, original art rare sports

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memorabilia items from TVs movies.

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In 2004, the founder, Ted Hakes sold the company to Steve.

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Jeppie a long-time collaborating partner and owner of diamond comic

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distributors, which I actually believe may be the only comic distributor left

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in the United States, to my knowledge, among several other companies.

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He owns some big ticket items that hates us old include captain America

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screen you shield from Avengers, infinity war for over $250,000.

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A pair of Mickey and Minnie dolls for over $150,000.

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And in their most recent auction that closed March 16th, 2022 but a week or

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so from a recording, this a Boba Fett star wars prototype figure that closed

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at over $204,000, which is insane.

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Alex, I appreciate you taking the time.

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I'm sighted to talk to you about collecting today and I appreciate you

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having me on that's quite a buildup, so I hope we can live up to that.

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Oh, you were there.

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Absolutely.

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Let's get back you, you've obviously to work in, in, in a

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collecting industry, I think you have to have some interest in it.

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So go back.

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You started out at comic books, but you personally, what

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are you collecting into now?

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So a little bit of everything.

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And I'll give you the trajectory of where things went.

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First of all, as a kid I took great care of my stuff.

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I saved the boxes and the packaging, and my mom encouraged me to do that right.

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To play with them, but don't ruin things.

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So I was born a collector that way.

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Comic books were certainly my first love, but when I started to

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read them, they were hand me down comics and I just had them as a kid.

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It wasn't really collecting, it was just procuring.

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And then in 1980, I went into a bookstore and on the rack was

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new teen Titans, number one.

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So I was already a comic fan and now I saw a first issue and

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something just clicked and I got.

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I'd rather come back next month for number two.

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Two now a lifelong fan of comics in general.

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And not long after that, then I started doing flea markets and local cook co-ops

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and things looking for comic books, but I would find a Batman lunchbox

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and a Superman game and several Devon Marvel, Slurpee cups, and, all of

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this kind of stuff that was related.

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And again, being a collector, I just started to buy this stuff.

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And that, that time I was helping out a guy named Dick Stigamire, who got

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me on the path of collectibles as a career, helping them at toy shows in

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his booze at flea markets and so forth.

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And he was the shipping manager at Hakes.

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So in 1985, I officially joined the staff at 16, 37 years

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later, my one and only job.

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But along that way, Higgs has always been about offering something for

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everyone where nothing was off limits.

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If it was historical.

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Pop culture collectible.

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So I would see pinback buttons.

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I would see original art.

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I would see all this other stuff, autographs, concert posters and just

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started buying whatever I liked.

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There were some collections that were much more expansive, and

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then there was some collections.

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I had just a few things up, but I liked them.

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So that's, and then as you can see behind me, it's what it is.

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It's now a hodgepodge of 40 plus years in this industry in total.

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And the things that I really like and enjoy.

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And as we talked before we started hearing also sports cards and there's

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very little that hasn't crossed my path, that I haven't added something to my

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collection, even if it's just one piece.

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There's just so much stuff that I like.

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And I unfortunately feel the need that I have to have it.

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All right.

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That's it.

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I was going to say, I think there's so for anybody that doesn't

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know me on the intimate level I've been in again, collecting.

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Mostly Chicago bulls basketball, and that has evolved over time.

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Cause I, I grew up during the Michael Jordan era, of course.

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When I was a kid even when, not from Chicago, but grew up on WGN, always a

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bulls fan, always diehard basketball fan.

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Appointment viewing no matter what the game it was.

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So I grew up in there and that evolved into Superman.

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I've got little pictures of me as a little kid dressed up as Superman, and that,

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so when the bulls steam, it ran out.

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I transitioned into Superman.

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Mostly partially because I like flying.

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But also because of some of the sentiment behind the character and what

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the character stands for is something personally I believe, but there's

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absolutely an addictive nature to it.

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So with you with a you're collecting and how other people collect you're

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you don't have a singular focus as far as I think primary focus.

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Okay.

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I didn't even touch on that.

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This is a music.

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Okay.

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Also, when I listen to radio, as a kid, fine was into kissing the

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late seventies, but more, as them being a superhero themselves.

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I didn't have, I didn't own that music.

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I was a little too young to buy music, but in 1980, again, with

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the new teen Titans back in black, comes out and changes my life.

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So I bought that.

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And then for the next couple of years, all I did was listening to everything,

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ACDC, but about everything that they had and everything new that came out

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and then finally broke out of that and started to listen to other bands.

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And in 1985, I got my first turntable and that's about 6,000 records later.

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Okay.

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And just had many CDs and I have wrote a real, an eight tracks.

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So my biggest collection is music.

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And one of the reasons is, listen to music all day long, keeps me going.

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That's what I bleed.

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But also it's a collection that I can use.

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So I don't just look at it.

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I can pull it any second record off the shelf and actually play it.

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So all of that adds up to it being my favorite of all my collections.

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But again I just branch out and it, one thing I have is this

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from Cilla Massachusetts early 19 hundreds celluloid match safe

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with a which one I like Halloween.

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It just was a neat piece.

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So I have nothing else like that in my collection, but

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that I do because I liked it.

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So I'm a little different in that.

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I'm as broad as I can.

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Many collectors are much more folks like you were just spools are Superman and

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Superman can be, I just collected comic books, or I just collect the action

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figures or just, paper memorabilia from the forties, the premiums and so forth.

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So it collector can be as focused as you want, or it can

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be as wide ranging as you want.

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And that's what keeps it fun and exciting in that there are limitless

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possibilities in what you can collect, and that also goes to value, right?

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You don't have a lot of disposable income right now.

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All you're seen as a million dollar comic and card, and that's out of range for

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most people, you can buy lots of comics and cards and everything, and any price

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point, and then just be happy with that.

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Do you know a master collection as it suits your needs and your.

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No I agree.

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And one of the things, cause I am part of a few groups matter of fact as that Curtis

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is maybe if he is not the world's premier Superman collector, he's got to be in the

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top three in my mind, I've actually been to Ohio and I've seen his collection in

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person and it's every, I mean he bought the estate of Kirk Allen and for anybody

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that's listening to this, Kirk Allen was the very first actor to a parade Superman

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in live action in the movie cereals.

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And so I've seen his collection, firsthand, and that's how

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I got turned on to hake.

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So he's very much a I would say he's got a volume collection of older and vintage

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memorabilia toys and games, but I also see the other side of the ones that.

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The part where I think the addictive nature can be in trouble at sometimes is

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when everybody goes and buy something, just has the logo stamped on everything.

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And so when you've got a character that's like Superman or Batman or

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star wars, and it's legitimately just smashed on every piece of paper, every

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piece of clothing at the dollar store.

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And then I see people focusing in on that.

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I see people focusing in and go, Hey, look what I got.

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I got 25 chocolate bars and they all had the Superman logo on there.

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And I'm like, great, what are you going to do with that?

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And so I sometimes think that, it's okay, that's where an addictive

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nature kind of comes into.

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And I don't know if that's something that it's just inherent to everybody,

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but I do see that it's pretty prevailing out there as well.

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Yeah.

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Look, it's not everybody right.

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For many years, for decades.

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I had to explain to everybody what I did.

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I would carry a catalog along with me to show them because

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they didn't get it right.

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They didn't understand.

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They understood, you hurt people because like coins or fine art,

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but this other stuff, it was new.

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It wasn't new to the collectors of Disney, Anna, and comic sense of what they've

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been doing it in sixties and seventies.

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But it wasn't as, as widespread wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now.

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And that every website, every TV show that collectors collectibles,

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all of this stuff is in our mindset.

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Now when you say I work at a collectibles auction house, okay.

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They know what you're talking about.

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So it, it took a long time to get to the point where it is now.

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And much of that has to do with the values of things, right?

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As values have risen, then you have places like ESPN covering when a

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cartel happens, what that didn't happen 10 years ago, they didn't care.

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So again it's great for the collecting industry that it's

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has the exposure that it does.

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But it also reveals to the true nature of some collectors and that we're obsessive.

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So when it's in enough and I'm not talking about just one, one Superman,

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I'm even saying, I know collectors that have five and six copies of the

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same book of the same item it's yup.

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Then it crosses over into quarter territory.

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So there's a fine line between collecting and hoarding.

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And you just have to, I can't pick and choose what makes you happy.

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And if you have a significant other, make sure that they're

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okay with what you're doing too.

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Cause that can become.

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No, absolutely.

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I would periodically get my wife, got what are you going to do?

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Or put with that?

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Because there's a point, like I said, I've seen those there's wine collectors

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because I used to get probably like you, when somebody knows you're interested

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into something, it can make it easy.

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If somebody wants to get you a gift at your birthday or Christmas or something

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like that Hey, you like records.

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I'm going to go, get you some records.

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And in my case, particularly when you've got something that's relatively

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mainstream now it's still ongoing.

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The bulls obviously still play and you get a bunch of stuff that I went through.

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I call it the purge.

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Everything that you know was just that I hesitate to use the term junk

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stuff, but the dollar store item type of things, it's I gotta, and then you

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stick it all together in a couple bins.

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Cool.

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This stuff's got to go, like I need to make this stuff go away.

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And then I have a mindset again, having a bunch of stuff from the

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forties and fifties with Superman in particular, where I go.

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Hey, these things to me have a little bit of a historical con con content to it.

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And I'm trying to preserve these things.

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From my, from my vantage point, I don't necessarily we talked

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about this in email before.

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It's not that I'm not aware of what something may cost or the, if something

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now has a value risen to it, but that's not the main driver for it.

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I looking at something going.

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I'm trying to preserve this piece of, American history in a certain way

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of something that, I identify with and enjoy, but are you seeing now?

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And something I've seen with COVID in particular with big auctions and its

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prices, spiking and cars selling like crazy that people aren't necessarily

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collecting for the love of collecting our love for a particular property, but

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because they may have more cash or may have more assets are really purchasing

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these things, thinking they're going to turn this around in a year or two

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with a 25, 50%, a hundred percent return on investment versus the, but I

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consider that, that collectors mindset.

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Yeah.

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Wait, one thing you said that's very important is you said

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your awareness of value, right?

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There's never been a collector in history that didn't buy something

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and know it has some value intrinsic value, but also monitoring.

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And price guides have been round for decades.

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Overstreet, started in 19 69, 19 70.

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So collectors have already been aware that there's a value to things and

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it can increase, but that's never been, the driving force is great.

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If we find something for a bargain and we know it's worth more and

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it's nice to see your collection increase in value over the years.

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But that a collector's main thing is I have it.

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I'm holding it.

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I've got it on my walls, my shelves, whatever that's shifted

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in the last number of years as collectibles have become commodity.

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And we have to look at it that way.

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It's just a realistic thing.

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These days, much of it has to do with the grading companies.

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So coins, again, we're always looked at as something of value, the investment.

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It's still a collective one in many ways.

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It's a historical artifact, but it's now encapsulated and it's got a grade on it.

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So that's when the big price jump happen on everything.

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You saw that in cards you saw that happened in comics action figures,

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stories have been selling for many years.

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We sold our first store was in 1985 before anybody knew what star wars was

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going to be a collectible right now you see the price that we're getting

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because these things are encapsulated.

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So collect, just bind it for the item.

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What is in that case for sentimental reasons, for whatever reclaiming their

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childhood, they just liked the character of the film, the card, whatever events.

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I just say the nostalgia.

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I wonder Sasha peace.

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Yeah, for sure.

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Investors are buying that tag that says 9.0 9.5 10 point.

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Oh, okay.

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They may not know who Mickey Mann with.

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They may have never seen star wars.

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They may never, ever of.

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I don't come from collecting from that standpoint, but that's me.

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But the reality is that our many people investors to now getting

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into this and they are seeing big returns on their items so far.

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Now, again, you can predict a future and I can say two words,

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Feeney babies, wait at the top.

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And now look at it.

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So if you're coming at it from an investment standpoint, just be

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aware Hakes will never say buy this.

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It's going to be worth X.

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We will say, buy what you love what you buy.

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That's a collector mentality, but yes, especially says COVID hit and people

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were at home with nothing to do.

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They couldn't leave their house.

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We have seen dramatic increase in the number of bidders and dramatic

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increase in prices across the board.

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And I'm talking about one area I'm talking about all areas of collecting,

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much of this has to do with collectors who do have more money or time.

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Enhance their collection.

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But at the same time, this industry is infused with a whole new group of

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investors who are spending whatever they want on these items, much of it based on

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what they perceive it to be one day it's reality these days with collectibles.

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Yeah.

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No.

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And I share a couple stories with this.

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Again.

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I have been, man, I've been collecting Chicago bull stuff, since the early

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nineties, of course, and a buddy of mine runs a sports card shop.

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And I met him when I was 14 and he S he still has it to this day.

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And he hit me up last summer and he said, Hey, man, if there's anything you wanted

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to get rid of, of your Jordan collection.

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Cause I, he goes to.

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It goes, cause I've got, I had parsed everything down to where I've got signed.

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I've got signed jerseys that are framed.

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I've got I had some basketball cars, but for the most part, the bulk stuff

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I got rid of, but I've got a whole, a shoe boxes that were literally just, and

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I'm going to hold one up for anybody.

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Just listen to the audio of, Michael Jordan.

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I know how you know, there's, Beckett's out there.

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There's online price guys that are out there.

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So I flipped through there and say, is there anything I

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actually want to get rid of?

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Because I had so many of them and to me, what I saw, I came across two cards.

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This is actually the second one.

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I haven't done anything with yet.

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I couldn't figure out what was driving the price up.

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And I consider myself being, having been in the community, talk to other

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people that collect all the time.

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I could not figure out there was nothing special.

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There's nothing special about this Michael Jordan card I'm holding up.

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It is not limited.

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It is maybe an it's a insert to something, but there's no number.

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There's no Jersey.

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There's no signature is just a card and I cannot figure out what makes

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this card go from something I got out of a pack for two bucks that, should

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be a $20 card that I could go throw this online and sell it for $400.

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I sold one last summer that I kid you not.

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If I was just going, I want to go buy a Michael Jordan card,

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which I've not done in years.

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And flip through a bunch of them.

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I sold one last year for 800 bucks that I would have passed over.

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That's how plain Jane it was.

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And I can't make it Ted's or tales of what's happening in the market space.

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Other than people think they're just in, they're investing for the

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they're buying things for the sake of the investment and don't really

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know what they're buying correct.

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And the Jordan is a great example.

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Look at his FLIR, rookie.

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That took a meteoric rise over the top of a card that was

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stagnant for decades in the.

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20 $30,000 range COVID hits the ESPN special comes on and

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it goes up to two to $300,000.

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That's a tremendous increase in very small amount of time.

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And in 2019, middle of 2020, beginning of 2021, it hits

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$700,000 multiple times at auction.

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And now it's come back and it's two or 300,000 still way above

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what it was pre COVID, but you can see, giant ups and downs.

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So you're going to have that.

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There were plenty of other things that have kept going up.

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Nothing has come down.

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But talking about not being plentiful, this was a mass produced car.

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This wasn't a one of one.

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Yeah.

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But it is, Michael Jordan there's star 1 0 1 is the rookie, but

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everybody wants to your card.

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So what I want, I actually don't have I got the sticker card.

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I got the rookie sticker.

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I don't have the, it's like a man.

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Everybody wants 52, top 51 bones, his work, he went 52 top.

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But that's the.

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So then when you have lots of people that want that card, even

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though it's mostly plentiful, but there's enough on the market, right?

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That's going to drive the price up.

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And right now there's still a lot of people want that card and even more

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so now the LeBrons and Luca, Don shits and all these wonderful ones.

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And, you're seeing extraordinary prices on those and where it goes, who knows I could

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have, keep going up short, could go down.

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Sure.

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So again, if you're a collector, just stay within your means.

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If you're an investor, then what you want, but you're aware of well, and

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that's what I guess that again going back to what I experienced last year,

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when I was going through stuff and saying, oh, what's this stuff going for?

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I forgot.

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I had a gym mint, 10 a Jordan.

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It was a Coca-Cola car from UNC.

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There was a set there, their 10 cent cards.

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They were super mass produced.

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I happened to have a gym mat tank graded that must have came in

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a box with a piece of Jersey on there, but he played in 50 bucks.

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Was the going price, this random insert card that I, I do not know

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what makes it special or, and the one that I sold, I was just going to, it.

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Just, everything seemed out a whack to me.

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Yeah.

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As far as the, as far as the collecting goes, cause I'm concerned about their

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getting into that really over what was the company's over mass producing

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everything and those early nineties.

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And you can still go buy on open wax boxes in 1991 tops and

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upper deck and fleet Skybox.

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Yes.

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Yeah.

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I was there to trust me.

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I was there at the time and that's what really got me out of car.

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Cause like it was, there was so much, and there were all these chase cards and all

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this stuff that, that now everybody wants.

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But back then we all got burnt out on it.

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I remember chasing after the Kimba.

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Set of 10 cards, ridiculous prices just to get that Billy Owens auto, we have

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card, I paid like $150 at the show, and that was a big deal with the short show.

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Now sell this Billy Owens sign card.

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So you have that of you, you just have to watch.

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And again, for me as a collector, I just buy what I like.

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So it wasn't about the value.

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It was about me completely new sets.

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And to your point, who knows what someone wants to, if one card that one item at

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all, that, that really wasn't looked at favorably sells for a big price,

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then there was going to line up for the neck one, just because of that price.

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Now, again, not from a collector's standpoint, but now we're talking about,

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this looks like a good investment.

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It was here now it's here.

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And where could it go?

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Do you think that the grading companies yeah.

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Helped or hurt the industry and with subjectivity.

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And I'll give you an example.

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I want to say a buddy of mine that owns a sports car shop.

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I want to say it was a United rookie.

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I can't remember what it was but it was, you're a high end and he sent

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it off to be graded by I forget which one it was, it comes back.

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He thought the grade was too low.

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They gave him a six and a half.

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He goes, if I sing this back in and spend a hundred bucks and it comes back even

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at a half, a point higher, that makes the price of this go up another thousand

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dollars that I can go sell it for.

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And it was all subjective on whoever received the item in, puts it through

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whatever their process is and he comes back and he actually gets it another point

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higher after he sent it a second time.

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So I don't know if that's, if I like it from the protection

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standpoint I got with me right here.

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It's a Superman number.

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It's a night, obviously you're talking 1940s comic.

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I like it in the protective.

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This came from Hakes.

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This is actually a Hicks auction.

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I got the sticker on the back.

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I like the protection of a 1940s comic because I don't want it to deteriorate.

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But I don't know, from the collector standpoint, people sitting there chasing

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out and this is only a one and a half because the cover has been ripped

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off that people are chasing these grades and keep sending things off.

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And then you get subjectivity out of it if it helps or hurts.

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So there's no right or wrong, you're going to get 50%, like 50% don't

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from an auction standpoint, it makes it much easier for us that we

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remove ourselves from that grading.

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And we don't have to worry about someone then second guessing or

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questioning what we graded this at.

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They may not like the grade and we think it's higher, low of the third

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party grading company, but they don't complain to us about that.

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That's they take that online and write complaint on message boards.

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Yeah.

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But I think it's a good thing exactly from your standpoint is again, even as

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a collector, I'm buying these things.

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I don't want them to be in lower grade than when I bought them.

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So having them encapsulated like this certainly helps.

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The biggest thing encapsulation has done is again, raised the prices on things.

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So we could have a comic that we call fine, and we could have

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a CGC comic that they call.

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There could be a huge difference in price.

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And obviously third party is the reason why it's always going to bring more.

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We remove art, just like a autograph authentication.

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We used to do that all ourselves.

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And then there were lots of questions we've removed ourselves.

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Does everybody like every authentication company for autographs?

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No.

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Is it a good alternative to separate to auction house, to seller, to buyer?

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Absolutely.

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You can spout negatives about any third party authentication

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or grading, but in the end it really is better for the Indian.

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In my opinion as a collector and as an auction house, no, you did touch

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on something that I think it is good is the authenticity of an item when

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you send it to some of those things.

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I definitely have looked at that with autographs that I have purchased in the

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past, gotten burned a couple times as well as, being able to get the validity

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that something is true, but I want to pivot to, we've talked about our

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personal collecting history and what we think of the state of the market,

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but to actually about Hakes itself.

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You guys do, it's just I know you have little small auctions, cause I, I can't

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remember if I think this, the comic that I've got sitting next to me, that I showed

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was from one of the big ones that you do, but that's just three times a year.

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Correct.

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And then a little right now you were doing three premiere catalog auctions of Marvel

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categories that will do about 6 1 9 only auctions in between that are more themes.

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One will be sports memorabilia.

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One will be comic books.

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A comic and action figure one coming up.

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We are going to start doing smaller catalog auctions, and we're going to

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start with star wars in a couple of months because we have that much material

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in that much higher end material.

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So the lesser value stuff, we tend to just do the online auctions.

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It's quicker, easier.

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We don't have a high print cost for the catalog in postage.

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So those would make our premier events three times a year, but you will

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see other catalog auctions coming up throughout the year as well.

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No, and I want to tell anybody that's listening or having to be watching this.

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I it's, I don't like having an overhead camera flipped through.

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I enjoy I've been getting this catalog for years.

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And even though I'm very narrow-focused, I thoroughly enjoy flipping through.

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Every page of this there's history, particularly when you're talking

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most of the catalogs, start out with the the political category.

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So you see buttons from old election campaigns.

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You've had stuff from George Washington on there.

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I think some Abraham Lincoln sign letters like I said, it's, there's,

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it's American history built in baked into this, and I know they say print

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is dead, but this catalog is fantastic.

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And I look forward to every year or every auction getting through it.

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And I legitimately flip through every single page in there just because I like

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looking at the historical stuff in there.

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And I think other people would see me and there's a lot of time and

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effort that goes into that catalog.

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But again, while I would like to get rid of it from a cost standpoint, right?

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No doubt.

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It's tangible.

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So again, we're dealing with.

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Customers collectors that want tangible objects, help your argument.

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Trust me, that the owner of the company, Steve is the same way

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he loves the catalog, right?

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So it's just how it is.

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And a great selling tool to, we can say, look at this catalog, we

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will treat your items properly.

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And one thing that stems from is we've done 20 some price guides

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and reference books, right?

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So we are historians as much as we are an auction house and sellers of these items.

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So when we catalog an item, we do it from the mindset of how we do things

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and price guides and properly present it give it the right photos, give it

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the right description, put the bitter bitters mind at ease that they're going

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to get exactly what they are seeing in the catalog or online or wherever.

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So we take great time and great pride and making sure.

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As far as we're concerned, we get it right on these items.

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So talking about auction houses in general, what w how would

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you characterize the difference?

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If I've got my Superman graded 1.5, I'm ready to part with it of having

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you guys sell it versus throwing it up on eBay or something like that.

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What's the key differentiator from the business perspective, number

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one, we take all the work and headaches away from you, right?

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You want to deal with eBay.

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Okay.

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I can give you a whole list of things you're going to have to deal with.

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So in the past with them smaller and stuff, but, and, th there's a massive

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worldwide audience on eBay, but there's also millions of items at any one time.

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So what we do, especially in the premier auction, We used to curate that option.

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So we personally make sure there's not what we feel too much of anything.

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It doesn't do justice to the bidder who then has too many choices.

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And what do they do?

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Certainly doesn't do justice to the consigner who then competes

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against someone else's items.

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So we walk a fine line.

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We have two very different sets of clientele.

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A bidder wants to get the item as cheap as possible.

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Again, signer wants to get the most they can for that item.

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How do we make them both happy?

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You don't, you try as best as you can.

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But from that standpoint again, the catalog is just so critical in conveying

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the message of, here's the items that we had to present at this time to you.

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You don't get that with eBay here, scrolling and scrolling.

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We organize it on our website.

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We have everything categorized.

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We make it as easy as possible for.

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Consumer to decide what they really want and then they go after it.

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And again, a minimal fee, as far as I'm concerned for all the work

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that we do versus what you're going to pay on eBay and do all the work

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and auction houses in general.

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We'll just say, Hey, cause essentially every auction house has the same

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clientele give or take, right?

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So you could go to any auction house and if you got the right idea,

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you're going to get the right price.

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Any given day could fluctuate a little bit but what we take to heart at Hakes

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is that we make sure we do everything we can for the consigner to make them happy.

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And at the same time, we make sure that whoever wins, that item is going to

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be happy with that as well in the end.

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So we take great pride, great time in what we think is presenting

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things better than any other auction house that's up for debate.

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I'm buying.

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At the same time though, but nobody's done it longer.

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That's the one thing we can say, 1967, we are the first collectibles auction house.

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So w with the items that you receive and you talked about curating them

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is there a period, do you have a year cut off, particularly for newer items?

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I will say where you go, Hey, cause I, if you flip through the

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back, you start getting into the action figures, the graded stuff.

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Because these are things from my childhood where I go, Hey, I used

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to have that when I was 10, I got, I see the transformers and the GI

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Joe's and stuff like that in there.

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Is there, do you have a cutoff on the new stuff where you go, Hey, we're

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not ready to bring this in here yet.

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This isn't aged enough or this is not popular enough.

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It used to be that way decades ago.

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It did take a bit of time for somebody to want that item back in, in their

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life, in their collection, whatever nowadays, no with the cards, right?

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You can have a pack of cards and here's a hot plate.

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We'll sell that now.

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New comic books off of the rack, there's all these variants that are happening.

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So no, there's no timeframe.

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It's more of what are the collectors looking for?

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Okay.

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For the most part, it is vintage.

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I'm not saying vintage, even now, I'm talking to at least 10

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years old, but 2030, I laugh.

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I again mentioned exac again, I've been as soon as little personal auctions and if

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he'll go, Hey, this is vintage, it's 1995.

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And I'm like, I'm older than that.

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Does it mean

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There's so much stuff being produced that is new, but he went a couple of years old.

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You can call it vintage.

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So no, we don't discriminate against any thing.

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As long as it has some kind of collective value.

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Now the vast majority of the new stuff being produced, it does not

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it's overproduced, it's mass produced.

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Sure.

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But there's still, like I said, limited edition cards and these

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variants, and so there's no timeframe.

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It's really a matter of, do we have customers.

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And if so, then we have to learn it, right?

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Just like Pokemon and video games.

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There, there are things that are in the here and now that just a few years ago,

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we certainly w was not in our vocabulary.

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And now it must be because people are asking for that.

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Now that you said that I can't recall seeing the, I know graded video games

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now as a hot thing, particularly Nintendo and stuff like that.

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I don't recall seeing those in the magazines or not enough at a volume

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that I, it jumps out at the, in my record, not in the last we had some

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in the one before that again, the thing that we try to do is offer what

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we have at any given time, right?

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So sometimes it's going to be more common, extended his cards or vice

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versa, or, political, we always have 500 items cause we have so much in house.

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In the main catalogs anyway it is, we never go with the mindset

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of, we have to have these items.

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It's just, let's look at what we have, what's the best.

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And let's put those into that catalog auction or one of the onlines or whatever.

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Again, we take a lot of time and effort into making sure.

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We don't overload anyone at any given time.

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And from what I saw from from evaluation standpoint for it to be worth you

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guys to even list it in there.

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I think I've seen minimum bids are never below a hundred bucks currently.

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Yes.

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Years and years ago is gonna be $5 was a major.

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Okay.

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But yes, now for the catalog darken, it should have an opening

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bit of a hundred value code.

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Then a estimate is two to 400.

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So we're hoping nothing sells for below 200 that goes into catalog adoption.

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And we're certainly moving towards increasing that as well as the cost

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of Kellogg and just overhead goes up.

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But that's what makes the online auction so great.

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And I don't want it to sound like the online auctions are just lower and stuff.

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We have some really good pieces and all of those auctions, maybe we have two

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or three of the same exact thing and.

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Consigner doesn't wait the three or four month period between the premier auctions.

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We can now slot it in anywhere and it will do what it should do.

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So it's, again, it's a balance of how much do we have star wars?

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That's one reason why we're going to have some in an upcoming April may option and

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then a June option of just star wars.

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And then more in July, we have that much stuff right now.

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And as you saw in the last auction, the prices that things brought

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now's the time they would been putting that out on the market.

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I laugh a little bit because one of the things I'm to get on the spring

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right now, I was actually able to win it at the opening auction bid.

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And which is actually the thing I'll tell you, this is my tactic.

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When I'm tracking something on your.

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I go on there the first day and throw it just the opening bid and what the

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low thing is just so I get the alerts, later on and I had forgot and I'm

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standing there about an hour before.

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I'm like, I want to win that.

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Sorry for again, going back to your analogy, sorry for whoever

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just sold that to me, but I was pretty messy, pretty heavy.

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No concerns have to look at the broad picture too, in that every auction,

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no matter who it is, the biggest auctions in the world, there are

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going to be some things that are.

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And then some things are going to set record prices and are going to

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be playing stuff right down the line.

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So you of kind of balance it out of, high, low, medium and ended up not something.

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So it don't mean bit and that's okay.

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Again, you're happy you got it to that price.

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So we have a customer that's ready to cut back and yeah.

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So you're getting an email later.

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Sorry about that.

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Do you have people searching you out and say, Hey, this is what I collect.

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I'm looking for these items.

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I had the time for you to guys to go home.

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Yeah, no, we do.

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And again, that plays into what we offer.

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Sometimes we may have something that we think is better for an upcoming

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auction and we have some people that are looking for it and then we'll put

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it into the next upcoming auction.

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So yeah we have constant, we constantly people asking us, do we

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have this many times we don't, but we'll say, I don't know, what's

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going to show up today or tomorrow.

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So it could.

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And yeah.

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A very mindful of what people are looking for and we seek that out for them as well.

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Okay.

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So I imagine you probably have relationships then with other

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people, other large collections.

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Cause there, there are people for, if people aren't aware, there

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are certain, I know comics think publics in particular where you've

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got a very high end collector.

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Their collection is actually called the named person.

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This is the comic collection from them.

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And every single one of those things is completely vetted.

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And I've seen it, I think with artwork as well with pedigree is a

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big thing in independent pedigree.

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I couldn't think of that.

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Sometimes you can get a third-party grater to put that on the label.

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If it's a established, known a big name, and then there are

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other pedigrees day that we sell.

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Like we just had a problem with Penske baseball pinback collection that we've

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been selling well, it's not something that some baseball buttons have.

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Great about PSA, but it's not to a large extent.

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So this was basically sold as is raw, if you will.

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But we associated that name with it because those are the person

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that wrote a book on the subject.

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He was the foremost collector.

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We did that with the Richard merkin baseball collection.

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Some of the cards did get a pedigree on their label if they were graded, but there

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was tons of other things that we sold that were not able to be encapsulated.

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So a pedigree is important, even if it's not a big name or no name,

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if that person, as you alluded to earlier, took the time to put this

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together for a specific reason.

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So we like to call that out.

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We like to do write ups on that feature collection section of our website, when

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an option goes in line, that shows that somebody took years and many times a

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lifetime to put this collection together.

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So it becomes much more than just them putting items on the show.

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They become historians, right?

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They document this stuff.

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In many cases, they have one of a kind items that they didn't have it.

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Nobody else would.

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So pedigree to me is important from a collector's standpoint, because I know

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there was a lot that was put behind getting this collection assemble.

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I want to say you actually had one of a, was a bill buyers.

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I believe had somebody.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I had some stuff.

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I'm like, Hey, it was when I saw his name pop up.

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I'm like, I knew him.

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I've talked to him, I've talked to him before and I'm going, oh,

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he's getting rid of the GI bill.

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In his case they request it and rightfully sometimes we suggest it

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and the, if the person is alive, they decide they want to go with it.

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If they're not, we talk to the state.

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Sometimes they don't want their name revealed.

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So it's really a case by case basis.

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But I certainly like to be able to say we offer pedigree

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collections because of the reasons.

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How D how do you get I'll use the Boba Fett example for the last one.

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That's the prototype was, there's only a handful of those in the they exist.

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Is that just a random collector that you don't know that pops up and says, Hey,

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I've got this, I'm ready to part with it.

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Here you go.

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Sell it for me.

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Or, yeah it comes from all different ways, right?

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There'll be known collectors that come to us and we already know what's

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in their collection, but they're ready to part with some or all.

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There are plenty of collections out there that we all know of,

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and everybody is waiting for the time that they come up for sale.

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So we always keep those on our radar.

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We have a number of pickers to scour the country, if not the world for items

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and bring them to us, we will have a family that inherits or a person

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inherits in the state and they will find us and say, we need to liquidate.

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And it can be somebody who just finds one item in a desk drawer, which just

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happened this week with some baseball buttons, they found three great St.

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Louis Cardinals pin backs that we had sold from the Pullman Penske collection.

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A few times ago, they found our results, contacted us, send them to us.

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A variety of ways.

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And that's, what is the most interesting part of this job is we really don't

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know what's going to happen on any given day and good and bad, we

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could be offered the most incredible item and it seems like it's a lock

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and we're ready to do the deal.

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And all of a sudden it falls apart for whatever reason.

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And at the same time, the most amazing I ain't going to be offered to us.

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And next thing here it is in front of us and it's in the next catalog.

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There's plenty of stuff that is in-house that we always work on for each auction,

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but every day, anything could change.

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If something else comes up.

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And then we just thought, what are we going to do with this piece?

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What about like the the captain America shield?

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For instance, it was that coming straight.

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Straight from that movie was only a couple of years ago.

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I was, is that like a Marvel studios?

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Hey we built six of these things and we're going to part with three of them.

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That's a long involved story in that it was actually in a charity auction.

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Okay.

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And the person that won it declined it for a specific reason.

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And so the people that had offered it originally didn't

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want to do that format again.

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And they sent it to us.

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It did come straight from Marvel studios to prop me as their verified, everything.

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I When you talk prompts you above and beyond comics and cars and autographs,

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you have to vet this stuff like crazy.

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And even then sometimes you don't know, but this had ironclad, provenance.

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It was a killer piece.

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And that's why it was the focus.

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It was the single item on the front cover of the catalog.

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We did incredible promotion for it.

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We were at Baltimore comic con with her own.

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So that was the kind of piece that every auction house once and actually

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when we got it and posted a line that we had it, there was some chatter as

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it happens on social media these days.

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I don't know if you've noticed or not, but lots of people like to talk.

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I can't find you on social media, actually.

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You won't.

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I know on Facebook, I've got to have a Facebook page because of Hicks, but that

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Facebook page is run by people at Hakes.

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I am not a social media person.

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I don't want to be a social media person.

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So anytime you see Alex winter on social media is not me.

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If someone else is doing it for me, I go in front of them then anyway.

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So as soon as we got this, there was chattering.

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They said it should bring this, but Hakes, isn't really, isn't the place

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that I know for props on and so forth.

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And I defended ourselves and said wrong again.

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We've been doing this longer than anybody.

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If you have the right piece, they right.

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And we did the right promotion and we did, and we got a record price for it.

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So again, that was one that was exciting to get.

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We certainly had a price in mind.

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It exceeded even that expectation.

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The consigner was thrilled when he binner was thrilled.

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So that was a win-win for everyone, but those pieces are few and far

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between, a $260,000 item like that doesn't appear every day.

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Unfortunately I would love it to buy 10 or more, and that would make the

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catalog much easier to put together.

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Yeah.

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I just wondered if that would start getting cause I actually

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know I don't, I use the term.

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No, it's somebody.

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I am familiar with that.

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I've gotten a television like screen.

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Huh.

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And props from, because they worked on the production studio in Canada and we're able

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to like, Hey, they shut this stuff down.

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So we gathered that up that, that you would particularly with captain miracles.

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That's also a matter of fact, prior to us recording this, I've been saying,

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Hey, I'm talking to, Alex winter, or they sold this and that made

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some people go, oh that's awesome.

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Because it's an attention.

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Getter is absolutely in the kitchen.

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Get her to sit there and go, okay, you've done this with them.

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Now you're going to go get the new Batman movie and you're going to sell the Batman.

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They won't sell the bag.

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I'm using it as an example.

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To start getting, formalized relationships with some of those guys, because

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they're ready to shut down production on popular items and cause there's a whole

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subculture of the movie prop stuff and.

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I, to me, I think comic books are dying if not dead.

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And the stuff the way pop cultures has moved to movie and television shows

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and things of that nature, you're going to see maybe a wider appeal

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for people wanting pieces of those shows and pieces of those movies.

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And just this from a comic guy, can you come and join dead, come coming so less

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than they used to in many cases, but it's been just to a viable community and that's

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supported by primarily comic cons, right?

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So when you want to get something signed you hand them a digital, something, your

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HANA airport, a comic book, so yes, the heyday of what we had million dollar or

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million print run comic books for every title, lesser extent, but the comics.

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Yeah, comics are what's driving everything.

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You don't have

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a Daredevil TV show without the origin.

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Exactly.

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Yeah.

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And collect, just look, there are plenty of people you didn't buy

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that comic off the rack as a kid.

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But you wanted that issue.

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So there are plenty of collectors that know of comics now and are gravitating

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and going back and collecting issues from the past because of an importance,

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that's where the character started.

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Are they like the storyline or so on and so forth?

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Comics or comments are very important to the landscape of pop

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culture past, present and future.

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No, I, and I've always said everybody's got their thing.

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Somebody listening to this going, oh, you're crazy.

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You like Superman.

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I guarantee you've got something in your life.

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Whether you actually actively know what or not that you're collect, you're

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interested in, everybody's got their hobby with those things that they they

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accumulate knowledge or accumulate items with some of that stuff.

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Do you have trouble with stuff that comes in and you go, ah, crap.

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I don't want to, I don't want to, I want this one myself.

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Yeah, look we stayed in the catalog.

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It, employees can bid if they white we're all collectors.

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So yes, there are things that I bid on this last auction.

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I want nothing.

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That's how robust the bidding was.

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I that, I like some things I let them go to somebody else.

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But, and I've been in other auction houses and I go on eBay and, again, I don't

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have a room of stuff like this, just so I'm actively, always seeking things out.

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But yeah, the other, the one good thing.

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I don't have to own everything across my path, because for

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a short time I did right.

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It's in front of me.

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I help catalog it.

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Or the shield.

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I saw it, I got to hold it.

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We took it to the Comic-Con.

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So that's also the beauty of this job is that while you can physically

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obtain these, I getting bad to your collection, if not for brief

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period, they were were in your life.

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So it's cool.

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Just to think of all the things that I've seen at Hakes over the years.

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It's just an unbelievable amount of stuff.

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It's, it, the museum has passed before my eyes over 37 years here.

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Oh, I know.

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I have no doubt.

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And how, when you're talking about switching back, this is sometimes

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circular conversations to a degree talking about when you get one of those

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one-off items and you sit in there.

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Do you know, looking at your team of experts that kind of work there, that

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specialize in something, when you go, how do you start putting it in.

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Somebody comes in.

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I want to sell this.

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We think it's going to go within this range.

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How do you start identifying that when you're dealing with one offs or something

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that's 60 years old and nobody's seen it in 30 years, it's very difficult.

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And some auction houses give no estimates, some give a price, plus,

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so a thousand up, we've always been about a very structured here.

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Here's a number range.

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And we use cops.

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We use our past sales, who's other sales.

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We use all kinds of different factors, but when it comes to those one of a

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kind pieces, there have been a few that we put an open estimate on because

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it just was really that unknown.

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I saw that once.

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I can't remember what it was.

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I do remember that Martin Luther king document, we did one of the

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babe Ruth has out a couple of babe Ruth buttons that have never sold it.

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So we did, but for the most part, we try to put some kind of range on it.

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And that's an educated guess.

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There are plenty of things.

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So well above that, as we saw again, go back to star wars, Hey,

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keep going back to star wars.

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But that's the case in point, this time to so many things went above estimate.

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And a lot of that was even apples to apples.

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Sometimes it's apples are just sometimes it's apples to doughnuts.

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There's such, such a wide range that it is hard to do that, but we feel

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that it's important to put that out there, just to give some kind of

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idea of what we think the value is.

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Ultimately it is up to the bitters to decide.

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So there's, again, there's no right or wrong to any of this.

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It's just what works for you, talks in house.

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And so we've always done estimates and tried to hit the market as best we can.

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Do you ever get where imagine tracking other auction houses and stuff like that?

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Do you ever see something you're like.

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I'd like to get one of those over here and try to sell it

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myself and see what it goes for.

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So every day I take everything into heart.

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Every time I see an argument, another auction house, and I think

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we could do as good or better.

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I don't like that.

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Okay.

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So yes, I'm, again, in this business, in the state with things you've got

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to watch what's going on everywhere.

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So all of us here that handled items and consignment managers and so

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forth, we all watch every auction.

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We've got to keep our finger on the pulse.

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And many times that we are in the running with an item for another

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auction house and it goes there.

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And again, that doesn't make me happy because I want it all.

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Do you got to D do you have a grill item that you're like, man, I like

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to get my hands on one of these and have it come through here.

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We've never offered an action one.

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Like we had a detective 27 a few years ago.

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I would like a nice copy of action.

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One.

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That would just be cool because.

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But, there's so much artwork that I love and there's so many I could go on

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for five days of what I'd like to, I'd like to offer Mickey mantle, rookie.

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We've never done.

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I don't know some of the key pieces and the good thing with that is

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again, with so much competition in the auction world, you got to prove

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what you can do to get the items.

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So when we don't have that, even sometimes people aren't sure about

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trying it with us, but you look at some of the things that we have

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sold for rec captain America shield.

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We had a few props here and there.

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No, never anything of that caliber and we shattered expectations.

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So if we get it, we're going to do a good job with it.

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Cool.

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Yeah.

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Funny story.

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You talk about action one and he's talking about action.

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One is the first appearance of Superman.

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So there was a, another site that I sometimes track, but they annoy

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me with way too many emails.

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So I don't pay attention to them.

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You're talking about, it's not you guys.

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And they actually.

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I laugh at this because I actually put a bit on it to see what would happen.

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And I forgot what it went for.

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Somebody had taken an action comics, one that was in very bad shape and it started

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selling them by the page, which is common.

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I'd seen that before.

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The thing that I had not seen though, then this is the first time they

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had taken the remove staples and the trimmings from where they cleaned

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up the edges and stuck them in a bag and said, we're selling well, I

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call it a bag of trash, essentially from action comics, number one.

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And the opening bid was 20 bucks or something like that.

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I know I put 20 bucks in or 30 bucks in I'm just because it was stupid.

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It went for several hundreds of dollars and it was you're talking.

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It was legitimately rusted out staples and some essentially paper

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trimmings that somebody had cut.

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And that may be the weirdest thing I've seen related to that you triggered that.

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But again, somebody wanted it.

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I got into this industry.

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One of the first thing I did was I would go through, at that time, there were

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lots of trade publications, and I would go through all those and look at the one

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ads to get names, to send Kelloggs to.

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And one guy said, I collect barbed wire.

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He collected 12 inch pieces of BARR wire.

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They all look the same to me, but again, to him, this was, so I thought even as

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a collector, I thought it was unusual, but yes, he would think that's unusual

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that you wanted an action figure, right?

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So it's all relative to what you like, what you want to me.

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I would rather have a full copy of action one than just pieces.

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But again, I was trying to get a couple of the pages until

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then it went through the roof.

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I used to joke when this all happened with the pages, because again I

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get it, but it stopped for me.

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I wouldn't want a page from a comic.

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I went the whole comic card or nothing at all, but I joked at that time, with

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some by half of a homeless Wagner, guess what it, not that long ago, someone

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bought all this swagger for $400,000.

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So yeah, these days nothing surprises me.

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It's all fair game.

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Yeah, no, that's crazy.

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One last question just on the the bidding process and the time, like most auction

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places you get that at, I would imagine the initial surge of bids on the first

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day or so that your auction goes live.

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It goes very quiet until the last several hours.

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And you guys do real, roughly what?

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A A two week opening close period, three weeks, three weeks.

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Yeah.

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Three opening.

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The closed period.

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Is there a particular reason of a three weeks versus two or a month or?

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I think it was a long time ago before the internet.

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We used to actually do four weeks.

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We cut that down to three.

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That just seemed like the right time period that once

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you go online, that's when you.

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Everybody looking at your auction, not only bitters, but from a PR standpoint.

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So it gives us plenty of time to get our word out there and build things.

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But you're right.

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The first day, the first few days, lots of people come in bed.

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Some of them do exactly what you do.

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They put in a token bid just to see, or they, we have plenty of people that

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believe it or not, they don't even want to mess with this auction game.

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So they will say here's my max bid, put it in and walk away and they

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won't have to think about it again.

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So that happens.

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And then for a couple of weeks, bidding is it's back and forth.

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It can be lighter days, heavier days.

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It depends.

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But yes, then we come into those closing days and I would say as much as 40% of

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our bidders in any given auction, only bid on those days, they wait that long.

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Some of them also wait to the very final hour.

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So at 9:00 PM on, we usually have two closing days for

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the main auctions at 9:00 PM.

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On the Tuesday at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday, we started a 20 minute

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clock on every item and when 20 minutes pass with no beds, those items close.

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So it ends in stages nine 20 and so on and so forth.

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It takes us a couple of hours past that until the final item closes.

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A lot of people wait until nine 19 to put their bid in because

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they have the eBay site mentality.

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All that does is it starts it over for another 20 minutes.

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So there's no happened with the bulb effect this time.

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It was at a hundred thousand going into the last minute and we thought

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maybe that's where it's going to end.

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Then a little bidding war happened.

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And, but these guys were going back and forth and waiting 20 minutes, maybe

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hoping the other would fall asleep.

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I don't know, but nobody did lead auction as long as it's been for quite some time.

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And that's fine because it's a 200,000 or even the end.

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But yeah, so the last day is really when the most action happens.

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And especially in that last hour, so you can see things just go crazy

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that were sitting there for so long.

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So you sit there and so on closing days are like you and the team sitting around

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the computers and you've got your, you got your like hot button items.

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You're like, I really want to see where this goes and what happens, where

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you're like watching it in real time.

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We're watching real-time and we have to, because we're not only taking

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internet beards, we have plenty of people to still call on the phone.

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Oh, really?

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Okay.

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Yeah, we do.

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And we also have a callback service.

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So if you were outbid, we will call you back.

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So we've got a monitor, all the bids that are coming in just for those reasons.

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So that's another reason why we have 20 minutes restart because we're

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not just taking bids on an internet.

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It's not any one at a time.

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We have other variables, we have the factor in, and it also gives the a bitter

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time to think about it, so maybe they didn't put their bid in and walk away, but

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now they see it has exceeded that price.

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And they'll think about it.

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And again, consignments, like the fact that we don't close so quickly

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and definitively so that they have a chance to get the most for their item.

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And again, it's fair for the, some bitters may not like that.

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It starts over again for 20 minutes, but Hey, this is an auction and it's fair for

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every bidder to have every opportunity to get their bid in and some do some

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think about it and we'll come back in.

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And again, the 20 minute clock, it's not like it's extended forever.

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Usually 10 30, 11 after starting at nine auction is over 1130.

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This last time.

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It was ready after midnight that's long, but the longest it's gone in a while,

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but it's not like it keeps happening in the very old days when we were just

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doing foam bids, it really would go 24 hours plus continuously because

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we have east coast bid west coast bid overseas bid starts over again.

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So we would be there 24 hours before.

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At that point, we had a 10 minute clock between items and it would

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take 26, 28 hours sometimes to have it finally wind down.

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No, that's I liked the 20 minutes.

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Cause going back to that EBASE night thing where somebody gets something in

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there at the last second as it just ends.

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And then you get potential delays.

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Cause I've been on some stuff where people were doing like the live auction,

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like you're sitting there, you're legitimately auction off an item, but

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there's a major lag where I see it.

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I see something five minutes before you or not five minutes,

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but 10 seconds before you.

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And that made the gigantic difference, and so having that clock, I think also makes

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it, like I say it's fair on all parties.

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Yeah.

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And again, I want anybody listening to the bids with us the longest.

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The more chance there is some type of technical issue too, right?

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So since it is no sniping and you won't get in there and don't

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take a chance on each other so I can cause anything could happen.

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So I'm not saying bid on the first day, if you don't want, but that last

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day we a little more proactive and don't wait so long to put the bids in

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because a lockup could happen and could happen on your end RN with computers.

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And then what, and that's why we have so many phone bidders.

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There are people that still don't trust technology.

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And Alex told me leading up to this, he goes, I don't do technology.

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I don't do, I don't do hi to, to me.

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I take a nice turntable.

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So Adam was that don't like technology thing.

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And it's, that's not my back.

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I've got to stay up.

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There, can handle it against social media, got to stay up there, can handle it.

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And that's all well and good.

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And I'll do my thing.

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Yeah.

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That's awesome, Alex.

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All right.

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I appreciate the time today.

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Normally what happens?

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I usually go Hey, where do they connect you with on social media?

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I'm not going to do that in this case, and I'm just going to say

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everybody needs to go to hicks.com.

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How's that sound simple for me?

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thanks.com.

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I'll make sure the links on the, in the showdowns we do.

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Do we have Facebook?

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We have Twitter.

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We have Instagram, the company does.

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Yes.

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Does, but me personally, no.

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Send me a letter.

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That's how that's awesome.

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Again.

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Appreciate the time.

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Yeah.

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Thank you so much.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for The Business Samurai
The Business Samurai
Skills and Stories to be a Well-Rounded Leader in Business

About your host

Profile picture for John Barker

John Barker

20+ years of technology, cybersecurity, and project management experience. Improving business operations to create a culture of better cybersecurity and technology practices. John is the Founder of Barker Management Consulting and the creator of the Business Samurai Program.

MBA, PMP, CISSP