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In many ways, German auction house Nagel’s sale of 350,000 items recovered from the wreck of the enormous junk on the sea bed was a watershed.

Most remarkably, it was a sell-out – yes, a 350,000-piece sell-out. The marketing was a dream, what with press coverage, exhibitions and a fascinating documentary on the discovery and recovery of the vessel’s contents on prime time British TV the week of the sale.

It was also a triumph because although many pieces were individually interesting, this was largely an unexceptional cargo, whose chief attraction was its historical context as part of the Tek Sing wreck. In other words, Nagel and their colleagues at ICollector, who took commission bids prior to the sale and online during it, and ibidlive, who ran the live link during the sale, managed to ignite huge interest in what was to all intents and purposes for the trade, a fairly mundane offering.

But the statistics tell the real tale of Internet success, particularly in the context of the sale as a whole.

In total some 5,000 bidders participated on the auction floor in Stuttgart; approximately 4,000 customers sent their bids in writing and around 300 phoned in their bids. More than 500 customers placed their bids via ibidlive on the Internet – many more than anticipated.

In all, 13 per cent of the lots went to Internet bidders, much more than has generally proved the case until now.

Internet bidders came from all over the world, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and even Uzbekistan; but the majority of the Internet bidders sat in Germany, the UK and in the USA at their personal computers and placed their bids.

We know that the sale was well marketed, but although many of the pieces had some damage, there were enough low price items to attract Internet bidders hoping to capture their own individual slice of history. The attraction of the low value items can be most readily appreciated when one compares the total by value of the lots sold on the Internet (seven per cent) to the total by volume (13 per cent). Condition was not such an issue with the ceramics in this case as the provenance was all, so there was little at risk for those bidding online.

It was the perfect recipe for Internet success.