After 40+ Years, Robert Lifson of REA Auctions Planning To Retire – Kind Of

rea1-26-16(Posted by Robert Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions Jan 21, 2016) – I have been at this now for 45 years! The time has FINALLY come for me to make plans for retirement from the baseball card and memorabilia auction business. The reason? Simple: I’m realizing that I am getting a little older. I’m 55 years old now (I know many of you who have never met me probably thought I was even older just because I’ve been around so long), and I want to do some other things before it is too late.

If I’m lucky, I’ve probably got another 20+ years to do exciting things, including other creative and business ventures I wish to pursue. But if I stay chained to a desk doing nothing but working on auctions, there just won’t be time to do other things. We only have one life to live! And now that my parents and my kids are getting a little older (and anyone with elderly parents or teenagers will appreciate this), they all need a little more time and attention if possible. And it is!

All businesses eventually need a transition plan. Same with REA. So the time has come for me to “pass the baton” of assembling baseball auctions to the very capable hands of Consignment Director Brian Dwyer, who will lead the REA team (all of whom I have personally trained) and will continue the traditions of great REA auctions, an uncompromising commitment to integrity that is our trademark and has always been my top priority, and REA policies that promote education, help collectors new and old, and promote the hobby itself.

I want to make clear that I’m not going anywhere right away. I’m still here! I will continue to work alongside the team, but in the absence of a change of heart or perhaps an unbelievably huge collection to pull me out of retirement, 2016 will be my final year (or should I say “season”, as I feel very much like a retiring ballplayer as I write this!) of assembling and working on REA auctions.

Most important for me here is to communicate my most sincere thanks to all the bidders and consignors and personal hobby friends who over the decades have helped me enjoy the field so much and have helped to make REA so successful. I could not even begin to thank by name all the people who have provided support that has taken so many forms. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to have been entrusted with the responsibility of presenting at auction so many special items and collections over the years, worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars. And it has been very satisfying to know that my work has had such a positive impact on so many aspects of the field.


The documenting of so much material, putting it into historical context, and sharing the information with the collecting world online and in the pages of hundreds of thousands of free catalogs, of course, naturally provides value to the collecting community, as intended. Sharing my enthusiasm for collecting and learning about the history of baseball and America through objects has always been one of the prime missions of REA. As many of you know, I have also considered an equally important contribution to the field not just making the hobby more accessible and hopefully more enjoyable to all, and providing a safe haven at REA for good business practices, but shining a light on all the problems in the field: issues such as the subjectivity of grading, the positives and negatives of authentication, the dangers of fake items, shill bidding, card and memorabilia alterations, irresponsibly ignored leaps of faith regarding memorabilia, and all types of conflicts of interest in the collecting and auction worlds.

Being an activist for protecting the collecting public and promoting awareness of fraud in the industry has always been a top priority and a personal mission I have insisted on pursuing, even when, occasionally, I’ve “ruffled” a few feathers. Helping to educate collectors, keep them out of harm’s way, and in any way possible contributing to the greater good of the hobby has fit in perfectly with the ideals of REA. It has always been a goal for me to try to make the hobby a better and safer place for collectors, in some cases simply by promoting better practices and setting an example, in other cases by personally working with law enforcement to thwart the efforts of specific con men, forgers, counterfeiters, and fraudsters.

I am extremely proud that I have had the opportunity and privilege to work as a consultant (paid and unpaid) in countless endeavors and cases with so many areas of law enforcement (including the FBI, the Secret Service, U.S. Postal authorities, the IRS, the Justice Department, local police departments across the nation, etc.) spanning three decades and counting. Long after I am gone, I’d like to think that my commitment to being on the “front lines”, battling for an even playing field for all collectors, big and small, and battling to protect the collecting public from fraud will be recognized as among my greatest contributions to the hobby, as much as the rich tradition of successful dealings and exciting auctions. Those that could read between the lines of REA’s policies and verbiage over the years know how incredibly longstanding the crusade has been, and know that our “banging the drums” about conflicts of interest and shill bidding and fraud in the field has made a huge difference that has and will continue to benefit all. There is still work to be done! But I take great pride in knowing that my efforts in this area have been far more successful than I could have ever imagined possible.

One final note: I am just retiring from auctions, not dying! My health is great and I am fortunate to have been very successful financially for many decades. I still enjoy the field very much and may actually expand my involvement in some ways, as well as become more involved with other types of collectibles (I have a special interest in political and civil rights collectibles, among other areas, for example). I am working on a book with what I think (or at least hope) are interesting hobby history stories that when finished I plan to somehow distribute free (online and/or in print form).

I am very excited about the spring REA auction and am particularly thrilled to have the privilege of working on the Dan Gantt Collection, which item-for-item is one of the finest collections ever assembled, and, all the better, by one of the hobby’s true gentlemen. I’m glad we have the incredible Dan Gantt Collection now, because if it came at a later date, it’s so great I might have had to come out of retirement just to work on it! In summary, even after this year, I will always be around to help my collecting friends with advice and feedback, and discuss collecting, just as always in years past. I just won’t have to rush off to write consignor checks, write up auction lot descriptions, or take care of any number of auction-related emergencies. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the field in many ways hopefully for decades to come!


Robert Lifson

Robert Edward Auctions LLC.