George Glazer was one of three experienced map and book dealers invited to be a lecturer and panel member in a seminar on The Past, Present, and Future of the Sale and Purchase of Cultural Materials at the 47th Annual Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (RBMS) Preconference held June 20-23, 2006 at the University of Texas at Austin. The RBMS meeting took place prior to the American Library Association's annual conference.
Moderated by Daniel J. Slive of William Reese Company, the topic, as stated in the Preconference Program, was how "[t]he world of buying and selling rare books, manuscripts, archives, artworks, and cultural artifacts has in many ways changed dramatically over the last two decades. The Internet has created an expansive, global market where an immense quantity of cultural materials can be listed for sale and described. How has this affected the dealers in such materials, what other factors have recently influenced the trade, and what, if any, predictions can be made for the future?"
George was asked to bring his perspective about the market for maps, prints, works on paper, globes, and cultural artifacts. He focused on the effect of the Internet on the market as pertains to dealers and auctions and explained that the main effect has been to increase the available information about items and therefore make information much more accessible. It makes the marketplace for books, art, and antiques much more efficient inasmuch as more items that are for sale are known to more people. Also more information is available about the items themselves and their price points. This has caused a shift in prices within a complicated economic system. The Internet also has international reach -- opening up markets, research and potential customers worldwide.
George also discussed how the Internet has affected the role of the dealer. "The traditional role of the dealer was to locate valuable and desired items, have them restored, identify and research them, market them and make them available to the museums and private collectors and provide information and service in selling them. In the largest sense this has not changed. But some of the methods are shifting":
• Dealers now use the Internet to locate and research items, bringing to light obscure objects and information that otherwise would be difficult to find. Nonetheless, other aspects of the dealer's role, such as having items restored, have been little affected by the Internet.
• Dealers have traditionally relied on having their own retail stores or selling at antique shows or book fairs. Now dealer web sites are an important part of the mix. Georgeglazer.com now offers an extensive selection of items for sale, with images and descriptions.
• Dealer web sites now serve as sources of information for others doing research. Thus, a dealer greatly expands his role and reach as a scholar. The George Glazer web site has an archive of sold items available for online research.
With respect to the issue the relationship of auctions and dealers, George stated that auctions and their increased reach through the Internet, provide healthy competition, but will not render the dealer obsolete. As compared to auctions, dealers can provide many services beyond what most auction houses or online auction sellers efficiently can provide. Auctioneers cannot hold a broad selection of items in inventory to be available at any time. They usually do not restore items. Generally, it is only cost effective for auctions to extensively research the most expensive items. Dealers often have unusual specialties (such as George’s expertise in American globes), thus dealers might provide more information to the buyer about esoteric items.
On balance, George asserted, he can do his job better with the Internet, ending up with more and better items, and more and better information about them. Also, with the Internet he can more readily match the right buyer with the right item. Indeed, due to the Internet, the George Glazer Gallery now has far more international buyers who would not have known about the gallery otherwise.
George concluded his presentation by stating that the dealer as amalgam of finder of items, buyer and holder of them (pending finding a purchaser), researcher, marketer, and agent will continue to develop, change, and grow as the marketplace continues to adjust to the multitude of economic factors of the Internet.