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Christie’s initiative makes them the latest in a growing number of service providers, including ATG’s sister brand, the-saleroom.com, that are enabling prospective purchasers to bid via a computer with the click of a button from their home or office as if they were in the saleroom.

In an increasingly global marketplace, the Christie’s view it as the latest step in their strategy to grow their business by offering new and existing clients an easier way to access auctions.

One of the main features of their programme, which has been developed using software provided by Tampa, Florida-based Auction Management Solutions (AMS), is that it combines real-time audio and video. This allows the online bidder not only to place bids, monitor their progress and hear the sale, but also to see the auctioneer in action on the rostrum.

Those wishing to use Christie’s new facility to bid will have to register for each sale two days before the auction. Access is via their christies.com website, from where clients can download the customised software free. They will then be given the customised bidding number that will enable the auctioneer to distinguish online bidders.

Christie’s have been testing their new system and training auctioneers for several months and went live last week in New York at their July 12 House Sale with a small group of 20 online bidders. They registered their first online sale – $1400 for a late 19th century hardwood banquette – at 11.15am local time and sold 11 items online in total.

They are introducing online bidding to London through the Interior sales at their South Kensington rooms and will move on to collectors sales such as the Star Trek auction in New York in October, but the longer term aim is to extend the online bidding to all their auctions.

By Anne Crane