I would draw the author’s attention to an announcement in Antiques Trade Gazette, published online on January 22, 2001, where it was correctly reported that icollector.com had signed a deal with eBay to offer live bidding technology and related services to auction houses.
That was over five years before the auction named in the ‘The Key Moment’ article. As manager, and then director of auction house services, at icollector in charge of running the deal with eBay at the time of the announcement and for a while after, I can assure you that those five years were full of auctions that used eBay’s live bidding technology.
They were conducted regularly, both regionally in the UK and internationally.
Furthermore, there were also other companies running online live bidding facilities at auctions in the UK, Europe and the USA during those five years – such as LiveAuctioneers.com from 2002.
The live-bidding proposition became increasingly technologically viable and successful year on year after 2001 due to the learnings and experience gained by all parties involved, the roll-out of broadband, and a growing number of auctioneers changing their businesses to adapt.
I think it is fair to say that it is actually this great number of auctions with live bidding technology held across those five years and the experience derived from them – using platforms other than thesaleroom.com – that really “launched the modern era of internet bidding among UK regional auction houses and paved the way towards the world of online auctions as we know them today”.
ATG replies: The article was not intended as a full history of live online bidding but rather a focus on the first such sale on thesaleroom.com to mark its 15th anniversary last month – which coincides with a period when online bidding generally has been the most prominent way of buying at auction due to the current lockdown.
As you point out, ATG had documented those earlier years and the article included a mention of a live online auction attempted during the dial-up era.
Based on their decades of experience, the auctioneers involved in the sale at Dreweatt Neate recall it as a pivotal moment in the market’s development – no sale until then had prompted the auction house to get a new broadband line installed – and it was quickly followed by other UK regional auction houses holding successful sales in the same way.
Reviewing a video shot inside the Dreweatt Neate premises on the day, we were struck by how similar it looked to today’s sales, albeit with more people in the room that day than there has been over the past 12 months.