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The fixed-time, online format will debut on May 3 as part of the Massachusetts firm's Fine Wine auction.

CEO Karen Keane described the new initiative as "part of a renewed vision for Skinner's online business" and "a direct response to customer demand". She added: "Timed auctions allow us to offer more lots than is possible in the live auction format, providing benefit to both consignors and buyers. It also allows us to engage prospective buyers with the increased flexibility that internet bidding affords."

The inaugural online sale will immediately follow the live Fine Wine auction being held in the Boston gallery on May 3. Bids on more than 500 online lots will be accepted until 8pm local time on May 13.

The new initiative has not yet brought about the end of the printed catalogue: descriptions for both the May 3 live auction and the online portion of the sale will be presented in a single catalogue available by mail.