Community Forums & Message Boards: Problems With No Easy Answers
by Fong Sam
Before the Dreier Collection auction last month, I had known only one person who collected cereal boxes. Trust me, we gave him plenty of grief for it. Then imagine my surprise when everyone of the vintage cereal boxes sold, one as high as $3,500. Were there really that many cereal box collectors out there? The answer apparently is yes, as I stumbled onto a cereal box collecting forum called cerealbits.com.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really, because I should know that people collect everything in this world. Yet, as I read through one topic about Profiles in History’s Dreier Collection auction, I find misinformation blatantly spewed throughout. One user with the handle, andycohagen, seemed intent on tying a connection between the Profiles Dreier Auction to the federal indictment against Mastro Auctions/Legendary Auctions:
“Drier also had quite a collection of Charlie and the Chocolate factory props and Gene Wilder Willy Wonka screen used hero costumes up for auction. The taint is the guys (formerlly of Legendary Auctions)auctioning this stuff as they have been recently federally indited for price fixing,shilling and docotoring the T206 Honus Wagner (by triming the edges to make it look better than it was thus driving up the price.) that supposedly belonged to Wayne Gretsky and was auctioned for 2.8 million.”
Even when another member pointed out the error, andycohagen never acknowledged it. As posted by a member called toysfortheages:
“Most of what you posted is likely true, however, there is one glaring exception. Profiles In History auctioned the Dreier’s collection of Hollywood memorabilia/toys/cereal boxes NOT Legendary Auctions, who is handling their sports memorabilia collection.”
“Dreier had quite a bit of stuff auctioned through the guys associated with Legendary/Mastro, namely the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory stuff. Check jasons candyblog for some details.
This kind of hustle is the norm with big ticket collectables,auction houses and grading services like PSA who gave the 2.8 million Wagner a card a PSA 8 rating even though they admitted to knowing it was doctored. A lot of flak is directed at CGC also with there funny comic grading.”
toysfortheages, this time in bold:
“Once again, only the sports memorabilia was being handled by Legendary. The other pop culture stuff is being sold by Profiles In History, a completely separate company. Incidentally, what element(s) of this particular auction did you consider a ‘hustle’?”
andycohagen, nothing seemed to slow him down:
“Anytime big money is bandied about without a care in the world theirs a 99 percent chance of a hustle. If people will pay thousands for a cereal box then are people who will make and sell as original top quality fakes just like sports cards. Not saying the ones auctioned were fake mind you.
The lengendary/mastro guys were federally indited july 25th 2012 if anyone wants to know.”
There were no subsequent posts from toysfortheages. He likely gave up at this point is my guess. But JasonLiebig, an administrator for the forum, chimed in at this point:
“Yeah, you say all sorts of things. Some are helpful and interesting – some are plainly obvious – and still are others are patently wrong or just made-up.
But nothing slows you down – I’ll assume that’s because you have no shame.”
This exchange highlights one thing for me, that while message boards can be a useful medium for sharing, they can also be a vehicle to propagate misinformation. I have seen discussions degenerate into insults and name-calling. Trolling is a huge problem as well.
A few months ago, Jason Debord and I lobbied a few exchanges (via our respective blogs) about transparency in the collectibles industry, specifically regarding Profiles in History’s auctions. At the time, I had mentioned my plan to reboot Profiles’s website and to include a way for clients to post questions in a public platform. Jason offered some tips based on his experience with public forums.
Now even though I have left Profiles, I still think about how to create a productive public platform to address issues within the collectibles community without bias and free of trolls. I am not particularly a fan of message boards. Since the early 1990s, message board technology has seen little innovation, if at all. The forums still look the same, which is to say they are painfully outdated. With social media sites like Facebook, Quora, Twitter and Pinterest, discussions can be more dynamic, open and secure. Available APIs allow developers to embed social into any website. The technology tools are here, so with a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking an updated 21st century message board platform can be had.
So why are the old message boards so stubbornly refuse to update (or die altogether)? My guess is it has much to do with issues of control. After all, the utilization and limitation of any tool lies in the intent of the wielder.
In searching for alternative forms of message boards, I did find these: