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Not everything the auctioneers had to to say was favourable, however, but those consulted by Internet expert Bill Meyer seemed to have developed a clear picture of how Internet bidding will continue to fit into their portfolio of services.

The findings come in the wake of a decline in the availability of online bidding services in the UK, where demand and use is far less well developed.

Those consulted in the US favoured auction software providers icollector/eBay Live Auctions, Realbidder.com and LeftBid.

Access to eBay subscribers through icollector’s service was seen as being of major importance for those conducting general sales. Comparing the service providers, one auctioneer said: “I think all of their technologies are the same, basically, but icollector has the connection with eBay and that exposure is hard to beat.”

However, one auctioneer, who conducts specialist sales via RealBidder.com, is not convinced that eBay bidders would dramatically increase his sales because his property is so specialised.

The attraction of the icollector/eBay partnership shows the US/UK divide, with icollector closing their UK offices – although continuing to offer a service – within the past month and consolidating their operations Stateside as the UK has simply not generated the same level of activity from bidders.


Meyer was also able to draw other conclusions from his survey, showing the advantages and disadvantages of an online bidding service.

On the downside, the auctioneers found they had to deal with a great many more queries via email. These tended to divide into two camps: those generated by new bidders who did not understand the auction process and those generated because bidders could not see the items “in the flesh”.

Returns have also increased, with all concerned advising that this means clear catalogue descriptions and, where possible, images, are vital. The worst problem, according to at least one auctioneer, was non-payment. He estimated that he had lost $1000 on every sale conducted so far via the Internet as a result of this.

Two issues of less concern are that Internet bidding tends to slow down auctions and some bidders in the room resent the online competition.
However, there are clear advantages to Internet facilities, the auctioneers agreed, the most obvious being increased interest and bidding and, as a result, better prices.

They also agreed that it was easier to attract consignments when they could offer a global audience for them.

One of the greatest attractions has been that many of the new bidders coming online are scooping up middle-market material that has been moving slowly at live auctions. There are some auctioneers, such as Antiquorum, who are so confident in the future viability of online auctions that they have developed their own software systems. This also helps them get round issues such as eBay’s buyer privacy policy, where the auctioneer is not given the buyer’s personal details, a policy that leaves some auctioneers feeling distinctly uneasy when they are overseeing transactions for large sums of money.

What is clear is that the US now seems to be bedding down some sort of workable Internet bidding service. The question is whether the UK, which has always been at least two years behind the US in online developments, will be able to follow suit.