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Masterclasses on various collecting areas are just one aspect of a wide-ranging online service just launched by Drummond Read, the valuations, recruitment and training specialists.

Those logging on to www.drummondread.com will be able to listen to pre-recorded seminars and will have the option to sign up for courses with Sotheby’s afterwards, should they wish.

Philippa Jarvis, business development manager at Sotheby’s Institute, said that the online masterclasses were “the first service of its kind to offer this sort of insider information”.

“Drummond Read are doing what we are also trying to do. There are a lot of areas in the art world where the uninitiated fear to go. This, along with some of the courses we offer at the institute, gives people a less intimidating way in.”

The site also includes an online valuations service operated by well-known specialists as well as facilities for selling items at different levels.
Aimed at both the trade and the private buyer/seller, Drummond Read have kept pricing structures simple, operating a low-level, one-off fee-based system rather than charging a percentage on sales.

Selling options

For the private vendor, the idea is that they can email a specialist details for a simple valuation and then have the option to sell the item on the site if they want. If the item is of particular interest, specialists may recommend consignment to an auction house rather than selling on the website. Otherwise, the vendor has several options: targeting specialist interest buyers in an exclusive subscriber-only collector room, widening the net in the subscription-based Club Lounge for items that have been in the collector rooms for five days, and then widening it further in the general access Marketplace after another ten days.

Colin Read, who has been leading the Web project, believes the strength of the tiered marketing system is that it requires only low-cost, short-term commitment, offering an opportunity for the private individual to dip their toe in the market as well as providing dealers and collectors both with a new chance of sourcing goods and selling to a targeted clientele.

With a relatively low set of fees for using the various services, success will depend on building a high turnover of users in the short term. Not all of the collecting areas being promoted are yet covered by specialists, but Mr Read is confident of filling the gaps quickly.