A Look at the ADA Online Antiques Show

Ebay has been around since 1995, but it took the current pandemic to bring about an online antiques show.  The Antiques Dealer’s Association of America (ADA) hosted an online show this past weekend and it made me long for a physical show. 

It’s not because I didn’t enjoy the online show; I did. It’s not because I had the choice of going to a physical show; I didn’t. It’s the interaction I missed. 

There are Differences.

The number of items in the online show is a fraction of what you might find at a physical show. Maybe you don’t want to provide so many choices in an online show anyway. I’m not sure.

When something catches my eye at a show, if a dealer is available or paying attention, there’s a short conversation, followed by a statement like. “If you’re interested, I can do x on that.” In other words, the price is not the price. In most cases, we return to review items at the end and knowing the actual price helps. Of course, sometimes you just have to grab it.

In the case of the online show, I could express interest through email. But that’s slow and with an online show the dealer may not be watching the queue. 

While there is more upfront work involved in the form of writing descriptions and taking photographs, the expense has to be considerably less than space rental, transportation, lodging, etc. It can’t be a flush time for people in the antiques business, but it isn’t a flush time for anyone outside of the grocery business and there should be room to move on prices.

A Lot to Like

The descriptions provided at the ADA show are more substantial than what you find at an in-person show, so that helps. But in the end, I didn’t inquire on the items that caught my eye, probably because the posted price was considerably more than what I would consider and nothing gave me a nudge to do it now. 

I don’t expect physical antiques shows to come roaring back anytime soon and I think the ADA example shows great potential. 

I love the fact that the ADA show had a fixed timeline just as a regular show would. I hope the listings do not linger. That creates a sense of excitement and some of the sparkle a real show would. It’s the interaction that is missing. I also like the selection of items. Many real-world shows are forced to lure a lot of “stuff” to help fill physical space. That can be a downer to a collector.

So how can we boost the interactivity and experience?

I spent part of the weekend becoming familiar with an app called House Party. It’s a “drop-in” kind of experience where you can meet up with friends to video chat or play games. 

What if there was some sort of cyber room you entered similar to that in House Party. The dealers would be in the room for the duration of the show, at least during daytime hours. You could click on a little hand symbol next to an item and chat in real-time. The dealer could present you with additional information or an “if you’re interested” price.

In short, do everything to make the online show a limited and interactive opportunity just as an in-person show would be. This is part of why online auctions have found online success to a greater degree.

I know the antiques business isn’t known for its future forwardness, but it does seem like another swim or sink moment for the industry. I’m glad we got to this milestone with the online ADA show. It’s a taste of a future I hope arrives sooner than we expect it will.

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