The year 2010 ended with a bang for the rare coin market, as a
merger of Bowers and Merena Auctions and Stack’s was announced, to
form a new company, Stack’s-Bowers Numismatics.
The merger will create a firm with a substantial presence on both
coasts, with Los Angeles-based Bowers and Merena Auctions and New
Will this new company be able to better equipped to gain market
share away from Dallas-based Heritage Auction Gallery, which currently
has the majority of the coin auction share in both volume of lots and
total dollar value?
One would think that the combined firm should have a greater shot
of gaining market share than either Stack’s or Bowers and Merena
Auctions had individually.
As the auction business moves more online, and as collectors
become increasingly comfortable with using auctions as a retail coin
buying venue, an auction company’s resources to develop bidding
platforms and collector-centered tools like searchable archives on the
Internet are more essential to a firm’s success than ever.
But, as anyone who has built a Web site knows, it is neither easy
nor cheap to develop user-friendly resources on the Internet.
The combined resources of Stack’s and Bowers and Merena Auctions
should allow for greater innovations that can only benefit collectors
in the long run.
Where does this merger leave independent auction firms like Ira
& Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles in Beverly Hills,
Calif., or Scotsman Auction Co. in St. Louis, among several others?
In the fine art field, the two dominant players are Christie’s and
Sotheby’s. Each firm sells several billion dollars worth of fine art
across multiple categories each year.
Yet, despite the two firm’s dominance, many major cities have
their own regional auction houses.
Many collectors prefer the personal touch that they get from these
smaller houses, where a mid-level object or a more specialized
grouping can be the “star” of a sale.
Simply put, a merger of two major firms in a given market shakes
things up. But the likely result is that collectors will win because
competition should prompt innovation.
Enterprising smaller auction firms will seek to fill in the gaps
in service and offerings of the market share leaders. ■