Yesterday I had a chat with a young man of long acquaintance, whose vocation as a business journalist means that, as well as knowing a collateralized debt obligation from a credit default swap, he’s also inquisitive. And inquire he did about what we colloquially term ‘the trade’. Over several beverages, I perhaps not waxed eloquent but yet always sufficiently loquacious, what we discussed elicited insights into the dynamics of this business that were certainly a surprise to my young friend- and as they are to me in the repeating.
Perhaps most surprising of all is my supposition that, while the trade captures the attentions of millions, those involved- sellers and buyers- amount to maybe 100,000 people on the planet. No question, the ranks of those who sell within the accredited trade have shrunk in the last decade, but those who are left- either through luck, trading skill, or depth of pocket book- have themselves had to make certain that their stock, their trading platform, and their palaver are consonant with and responsive to the small cadre that constitutes the buying public. And those buyers have never, ever been abundant. In our little business within this rarefied stratum, one’s inventory has to constitute an investment into the 7 or 8 figures. We are not, though, selling to ladies and gentleman with comparable net worth- we would, of course, but our material finds its way to high 8, and more likely 9 figure folk, whose acquisitive sense, we’ve come to discover, is through to their very marrow. They have money because they make money and are wont to let it out of their grasp. Not surprising, then, the sale of a 6 figure artwork or decorative item is always the subject of a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and requires a fair old bit of finesse on our part. What we’ve found, to our chagrin, is that our buyers find it very, very easy to walk away from a deal. They do it in their everyday lives- when a punter can walk away from a billion dollar gas lease upon which millions have already been spent in development costs, can one really expect it would be any less easy a matter to close the book on the sale of a $175,000 early Georgian bureau cabinet?
With all that, we have come to understand that despite a stratospheric net worth, everybody has a budget- and I do mean everybody. We have never, ever seen anyone encash an investment to make a purchase from us. Purchases are always made from cash on hand, and, if the sale extends beyond the buyers’ immediate cash limitations, we have never seen anyone reluctant to ask for a bit of time to complete the sale. Mostly we can accommodate, sometimes not, but I suppose the point of all this is, given the limited pool of buyers, if one can’t roll with the flow, one had better exit the trade.