Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lang's: Final Thoughts by Tim Clancy

Not to flog a dead horse, but the discussion that the recent Lang's auction (which for those who don't know actually finished at approximately $1.4 million, or right in the middle of the auction estimates--almost exactly at the same place as the last three Lang's auctions) caused more people to write long, detailed emails than any subject in recent memory. I guess only repaints inspires as much discourse as the variable price of fishing tackle...I've said my peace here and on Joe's and ORCA and Clark's and other boards about how I think this auction does NOT indicate a seriously weakened market, but you can respectfully disagree with me.

I'll leave the last word to Tim Clancy, as he is one of the few people who can actually speak about this last auction with real clarity as he consigned an important collection to it. Again, the "sky is falling" club will be surprised to learn Tim's overall assessment: "I was more than pleased with the overall results." But read it for yourself as it is a wonderful piece and I thank Tim for taking the time to write this, and to share this with all of us. It is exactly why I started this blog in the first place--to have a frank and open dialogue on issues of importance to us and to share information on the history of fishing.

Thoughts on Lang's

by Tim Clancy

I saw some of the discussion on Dr. Todd’s blog concerning the results of the recent Lang’s Auction and what some folks thought it meant for the future of our hobby. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the economy and it is going to affect the values of collections as more people find themselves with less discretionary income.

I don’t know rods, reels, art or books very well, but I am a long time (12+years) lure collector and feel I understand that arena fairly well. Plus I had about 60 lots in this recent auction and have had some time to analyze how my stuff performed. Some may wonder why I was selling some of my collection, because we have seen some large very advanced collections come to Lang’s over the last few years. Everybody sells for different reasons and mine is probably different than most.

I’m not getting out of the hobby (I just picked up a real pricey piece a couple of weeks ago) but I have acquired an interest in another field and was thinking about selling off part of my collection so I would have some money to pursue that….I was also aware that some very extraordinary stuff was going to be consigned by other collectors and that this auction would likely draw a little more attention than usual. That can be a double edged sword though because with so much high quality stuff in one auction some people could run out of money before my stuff even came up. It takes at least two bidders to drive the price.

John Ganung, from Lang’s, came to my home a few months month ago to pick up my items, and even then the economic landscape was not looking real rosey. But I decided to sell most of the better stuff I was bringing to shows that just hadn’t sold. Maybe I had them priced too high or maybe since I basically just do the Allentown Show not enough collectors were seeing them. I also had some neat items that I had found in the field, not really fishing related but of things you often see in Lang’s and generally go for a fair price. I had no idea what they were worth and the only way to find out was in an auction. I had bought stuff like this myself at Lang’s many times over the years. So off they went, along with my show baits.

The next group was the scary part. I put one of my four major or what I felt were my permanent collections in auction. It took me awhile to decide which one would go on the auction block but my goal was to raise some significant money for this new hobby. So something good had to go. The collection was what we all call a mature collection and probably in the top three of what is known to exist. But there are always some secretive closet collectors out there that have some real gems that no one even knows about. But this would be the largest collection of its type to ever go to auction. When a John Ganung is sitting in your house and holding a bait in his hand and says, “I knew this was out there but I never saw one or held one my hand” you know you got some good stuff.

But this is how it all worked out for me. Believe me it was nerve wracking, I did not have one reserve on anything. It was all going to sell for what the market would bear. But, it seemed each week as we got closer to the auction more, more bleak economic news came out.

The first group were 11 lots of those odd wall hanging type items I mentioned and they performed miserably. In the past these type items had always done well, because what’s a couple of hundred dollars for something that is really great looking, when you’re spending thousands on baits. But I realized less than 50% of the appraised values on this group. The only good thing was that they were not real valuable so the dollar amount was not too painful. But I was getting off to a bad start.

Next came eleven early rare misc. baits that covered different value ranges but averaged about $600-$700 in appraised value. Four fell in the range but seven came in about 40% below the low appraisal amount. This was starting to hurt. I was now over $3,000 below the average appraised amount and I had a long way to go.

Next group were eleven, I guess mid range misc. Heddon baits, that were appraised on average in the $300-$400 range. Just over half fell in the appraised range and for the most part the ones that fell short realized about 80% of value. There was one outliner that fell way short but I think, that while it was an extraordinary bait, the appraisal was a little too generous and I was actually fine with the price realized. So things were starting to look a little better.

But next up was that mature collection that took me 12 years and quite a bit of money to assemble. This group was nearly thirty different lots, some with multiple baits. There was no real pattern here. Some real great conditioned things went cheap, some fell right in the range and some went over the high end of the appraisal. But what made the day for me was that more than a handful of the rarest baits went way over the high appraisal range. Since this was all very high end stuff the dollar amounts more than made up for some of the earlier losses. Everything I had in auction was appraised at between $20K-$30K and when everything was said and done I fell just a little under the mid range. All things considered, I was more than pleased with the overall results.

But what does this thumbnail sketch tell us about the direction of our hobby in these uncertain times? Well first there is still a lot of interest in this hobby, 2400 lots in two days, is pretty remarkable. Next, the rarest of the rare will always command a good price. When you own baits that there are only a handful known to exist, you’re not going to get hurt if you ever decide or need to cash out. Also if you are true collector this is a great time to buy because there are some great opportunities out there. I know right now some of the folks that bought some of my stuff are still looking at their newly acquired baits saying “I can’t believe I got this so cheap.” Enjoy them like I did. It took me over ten years, and several upgrades to put that group together. But don’t worry about me because those ultra rare ones left me just fine.

To the folks that stepped up and now own those toughies enjoy them because you probably won’t see another opportunity anytime soon to add baits that rare to your collection. And to whoever got my Donaly Weedless, please really enjoy that one, that is one of the rarest misc. baits out there…But most of all only collect because you truly enjoy it and not for some future anticipated profit and spend within your means and you’ll never be disappointed. If 12 years ago my real passion was golf and I joined a prestigious Country Club, or if I wanted to fish the pro circuit and bout a spanking new Ranger boat, I wouldn’t expect to be getting any money back after enjoying my hobby for a dozen years. This is a great hobby and we never really own any of this anyway, we’re really just temporary caretakers. When you’re long gone I suspect those baits you cherish today will be in someone else’s collection where they’ll get to enjoy them for a while.

What’s the future hold? What are the values going to be? What Clyde Harbin said so many years ago rings just as true today. “something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay." So just enjoy collecting for collecting's sake.

A thoughtful article and one that should give everyone, regardless of their position, food for thought. I want to personally thank everyone for taking the time to write me personally or who posted on the many active boards on-line about the subject. This is a sensational hobby and in trying times like this, we need to gravitate towards those things that are the most rewarding. I can't imagine another hobby as rewarding as this one.

-- Dr. Todd

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