THE larger auction houses which have their own in-house live bidding are also seeing online bids becoming increasingly significant to their business.
Online bidders made up 29% of total bidders
in Christie's sales globally in 2011 (not including the online-only
auction). Last year Christie's Live, their online bidding platform,
attracted 25% more bids than in 2010.
In December last year Christie's held their
first-ever online-only sale as part of the sales series dedicated
to the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, running parallel to the live
auctions in New York.
It brought in more than $9.5m in total
sales, with bidders from 25 countries worldwide.
US-based Christie's senior vice president,
digital media manager Michael O'Neal toldATG: "It has been this
huge acquisition tool. For people that are afraid of the brand or
have reservations about participating in 'online' fashion, those
barriers have been broken down."
He feels that the key to online sales is in
getting beyond the 'mystique' of auctions.
"It's about saying 'listen, you may not have
a PhD in our history, you might not have come from this family of
blue bloods... those are the misperceptions of participating with
Christie's, you don't need any of those things. If you come in
we're open, you can come in like a museum and get pretty close to
the art, you don't need an invitation.
"You can be anonymous, you don't need to be
dressed in a certain way. So many people have these misperceptions,
that all auctions are these black-tie evening sales, with
multi-million dollar pictures. It is either that perception or
eBay, and I think it is that middle ground people don't really
"We've seen the take-up rate improve year
after year as that message has come be a part of this."
While Christie's accepts absentee bids left
through 'mobile platforms' - such as an iPhone app, iPad app and an
android app for example - Mr O'Neal said this year they would be
looking at the possibilities of real-time bids for 'the mobile
Matthew Girling, CEO of Bonhams UK, Europe
and the Middle East, said: "Over the past year there has been a
dramatic increase in clients who have registered for online bidding
and Bonhams is committed to the development of this online
"Early indications show that our investment
in online bidding is increasingly successful. It will doubtless
play a key part in the future of the auction industry. An indicator
of this is evident from one four-month period last year where we
had 12,000 new bidders register to use the system."
The top lot successfully bid for online to
date is $650,000.
A Sotheby's spokesman said: "Online sales is
an important and growing part of Sotheby's business and we will be
adding new features to accommodate the increasing demand.
"Other than the Declaration of Independence,
which sold for $8.14m in 2000, to date the highest winning bid is
just shy of $1m and the highest underbid exceeds $15m."
The US document - one of only 25 known
copies from the first printing and one of the best-preserved - was
sold in an online auction.
Figures released in January by US-based
auction house site HA.com, run by Heritage Auctions of New York and
Dallas, showed it was now ranked as one of the top 3000 of all
sites in the US (to put that into perspective, there are over 150
million American websites), according to Compete.com, a website
devoted to monitoring web traffic.
HA had nearly 725,000 unique visitors to its
site in that month, which the company says is "nearly double the
combined total number of unique visits to the websites of Heritage
Auctions' five closest competitors".
Co-chairman James Halperin said: "Our exact
number of unique visitors in January was actually 724,931. No other
major auction house came close to those numbers. We put a
tremendous amount of research and time into making our website
comprehensive, customer-friendly and easily accessible. Collectors,
historians and art aficionados alike have responded with great
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.