As to the unindicted co-conspirator, the Internet listing sites that are transforming collecting, Peter Luke, the Albany dealer offered, the volume isn’t always a bad thing. The not-so-long-ago unobtainable can now occasionally be found. “It makes the search more exciting.”
Among the dealers there seemed agreement that prices move both ways although I neither sought nor found any consensus on how this works. I have seen dealers reducing some prices but for most things they may come down only by discussion. That leaves it to the buyer to ask for price justification and I know, from discussions with book buyers that the majority is uncomfortable to negotiate. That isn’t a good thing in a period of declining prices because the would-be buyer may simply move on without a purchase or discussion.
I also asked all for their sense of the future. Those on the information side seem relaxed, if harried, by the billowing demands for help with “where do I look.” On the collector and collectible side it’s more complex. Fair value is a moving target, the rare, unusual and important moving up and the more common and the unappreciated, coming down. For years an underlying assumption was that even if one overpaid, in time the price would rise and make the purchase ‘right.’ Today everyone on the ‘object side’ knows the world has changed. Prices, for some material, are definitely coming down, a reality more daunting for dealers than collectors because collectors have two hundred items and dealers ten thousand and more. For collectors the short-term answer is increasingly: buy at auction. For dealers the challenge is to somehow reflect the declining fundamentals in the broader market so to remain competitive with auctions. Today auction realizations, with some notable exceptions, are barely running half of what listed prices suggest.
That answer is for another day. After all, the discussion and dinner was only three hours.