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6.29.02 Selling

Inevitably, I will become an art and book dealer. Jim loves finding treasures but is less interested in selling them, so our house is full. Available space for display and storage can be counted in square inches. Myself, I'm bad with books -- for every new interest I buy three... and before long I have a shelf full. (Yesterday, books started spontaneously falling from a shelf with a double row. Crisis.)

Space is one issue, but the question of how to wisely pass along great stuff to other people's collections is the greater challenge.

When J decides to sell, it is swift and intuitive. Meet up with a guy, have a conversation over a couple bottles of wine, exchange some cash. Occasionally he gets screwed when his good heart extends credit to someone, but on the whole he makes out.

We used to set up at photo shows. My merchandise -- 19th century photos -- was packaged to die for. I made archival mats, invested in archival plastic bags, had everything labeled and inventoried. I had business cards and a tax number. Jim set up whatever, whatever -- photos, cameras, books, bric-a-brac. At a typical show, he'd score $800 and I'd make $20.

The difference? (I'm really trying to think about this as I write.) I took throwaway photos -- crap from beat up old albums -- cleaned them up and displayed them to their best advantage. It was a little business for me and I had all the marketing processes in place. Jackson had variety and sold from his own collections. That is, he loved the whatever enough in the first place to possess it himself. He has great taste and a great eye. When he got duplicates or began to upgrade, he decided to sell. Who needs marketing polish when your product sells itself?

My work associate Matthew has just completed business school and is going off to start his own consulting business with a classmate. His pal is interested in the company name, the business cards, the "brand" they are establishing. Matthew is just interested in showing the world they can do a great job -- getting some successes under their belt. "Quality trumps brand every time," he says.

I think Matthew is right, at least in very quality-intensive businesses like management consulting and collectibles selling. You can't sell what people don't want. People who collect learn quickly what they are looking for and the rest falls outside their radar.

6.30.02 Selling, Part 2

Actually, I started out the last entry with a phrase in mind, but never got to it. The phrase: "clearing out the underbrush."

This feels like phase 1 of our future joint dealership. Get rid of all the distracting, room-clotting energy-sucking STUFF. I put about 60 books up on Half.com and got about 10 auctions going on eBay. I keep reminding myself that it's not the money, it's about getting rid of the STUFF. Okay, it's a little bit about getting the money, else I'd package up everything and give it to the Volunteers of America. And I can't deny the thrill of selling something, even if it is only a $4 book.

I've sold 5 books in a week. Unfortunately, I also bought 5. Stay tuned.

 

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