In 2005, the sluggish Japanese economy convinced Takashi Hishiyama, president of electronics company Maspro Denkoh, to sell a collection of French impressionist painting companies. These include the main Cezanne landscape and inferior works by Sisley, van Gogh, and Picasso. Both Christie and Sotheby gave presentations to Hishiyama who heralded their expertise and ability to reach the highest auction price. In Hashiyama’s assessment, the presentation was equally convincing. To solve this problem, he proposed playing a rock, paper, scissors.
“The client is very serious about this,” said vice chairman Christie Jonathan Rendell, “so we are also very serious about that.” The money is also serious. Maspro Denkoh’s collection is worth $ 20 million. Both Christie and Sotheby quickly agreed to the game.
If you never rest at school, rock, paper, scissors (RPS) is a playground game that is as popular in the US and Britain as it is in Japan (at least until the 18th century). In a signal, two players simultaneously make one of three signatures, chosen at will: rock (a fist); paper (hands open, face down, with fingers together); or scissors (partial fist with the index and middle fingers). Easy to remember rules determine winners: “Rock break scissors, paper cut scissors, rock cover paper.” In other words, the player who chooses rock beat is the one who chooses scissors; scissors in turn beat the paper; paper beats rock. This generates a winner every time the two players choose differently. When they choose the same sign, it is a series.
“There is some discussion” about strategy, said Blake Koh of Sotheby’s. “But this is a coincidence, so we really don’t think too much about it. We have no strategy in mind. ”
In contrast, Kanae Ishibashi, president of Christie’s Japan, began researching the RPS strategy on the internet. You may or may not be surprised to learn that many bad things have been written on the game. Ishibashi rested when Nicholas Maclean, director of impressionist and modern Christie art, said that his 11-year-old twin daughter, Alice and Flora, played games at school almost every day.
Alice’s advice is “Everyone knows you always start with scissors.” Flora supports this, saying, “Rock is too clear … Because they are beginners, scissors are definitely the safest.” The two girls also agreed that, if there were scissors, the next choice would be scissors again – precisely because “everyone expects you to choose stones.”
Ishibashi went to the meeting with this strategy, while the Sotheby’s representative left without any strategy at all. People at the auction house sat facing each other at the conference table, flanked by Maspro accountants. To avoid ambiguity, the players write their choices on a piece of paper. A Maspro executive opened the slip. Ishibashi had chosen scissors, and Sotheby’s representative had chosen the paper. Scissors cut paper, and Christie won.
In early May 2005, Christie auctioned four paintings for $ 17.8 million, resulting in a $ 1.9 million auction house.