Dig deep into your sub conscience and you will agree that the web has been pushed sideways for phone “Aps.” The growth of the web is flat. I’ll argue that E-bay as an auction house for toys is steadily eroding. They are evolving into a store front with little interest in proper auctions (in my opinion). Sniping should not work in a true auction (last second bids just before time runs out).
Auction houses are definitely capturing some premier inventory; often at a 20% buyers premium, sometimes on both sides. Then there are the small guys like independently owned AntiqueToys.com and small shops on the web. Do we have a toy marketplace evolution that will still come? How will toy buying, especially antique toys, be handled in the future? I’ll itemize some trends, look towards the future, and then show how I believe with the right reputation, independently owned dealers can shine bright going forward.
Wired magazine declared that the web is dead as it “was.” We have lost the independent feel of the web from the late 1990’s. Geocities and the “we can do anything and meet anyone” feel has gone away. Fast forwarding to today, many of those independent free-thinkers, collectors, and dealers, have produced less and less material. The sizzle and excitement of web searches has faded. It was sobering to read that over 50% of sites are now stagnant.
E-bay has taken one on the chin with the competition; sellers are a bit put-off by fees and return policies. Without naming too many names, companies that distill real auction house events have dug into the EBay “auction” profit model. There are just more outlets for toys out there. Setting outlets aside, the fees seem to steadily rise to 15 and 20% depending on the hidden “value” fees and electronic transfer costs. Lately one must check mostly statements where fees get plowed in at a later date. Oh, let us not forget return “cases” where buyers make disputes. All power rests in the hands of the buyers; if they want a toy sent back for any reason, it is best to take it back and eat shipping costs.
Auction houses have been in a sweet spot for the last two decades. Service is superb, but fees are rising. I am personally a fan of auction houses and their excellent services as a seller, but have concerns about trends. There is absolutely a place for the gloss and excellent customer service. There is a need for collections and a single payor when liquidating. I say this though as I just read a buyer “fee” of 25% in a recent auction. I now note fees have crept to 20% often. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the sellers also brace for fees from 15-20% also. 30-45% of toy value money is being left outside of collector’s hands. I get it, I just wonder if the balance has tipped with so many hands in the pot of sweets.
In-person toy shows have been drudgery and the overall volumes of buyers and events are shrinking. Some gems, though, are bucking the trend and still exemplary. I’m looking forward to the Chicago Toy Show. I’m looking forward to a York, Pennsylvania show in the near future too. For instance St. Petersburg and Tampa shows dried up to nothing. The wonderful Orlando FX event (with limited vintage toys) went away. Countless others across the country have gone away with the down trend.
On a positive note, in my opinion, independent toy shops have plenty of future. As e-commerce, photo capabilities, and hosting updates will offer great possibilities and store value. Service will always be key though. At my shop I work to find value in consignments and purchases, ideally via large collections. With the value, I strive for very fair prices and work to keep stellar toys available for a person via personal touch. Write, call, or see me at a show.
All this said, AntiqueToys.com will need to keep growing. How are we doing? Please sign up for our news-letter to get superb toys at fair prices. Also, please email feedback on what you think. What do you suggest for a adjusting the site and inventory? Please write to Toys@AntiqueToys.com with your thoughts, we love to hear from you!