Friday, January 15, 2016

Traditional Auctions in the internet age..................Is there such a thing?

     Ok we're all familiar with eBay, love it....hate it.......we all know what the deal is when you visit such a site.  Today I want to talk about something that's not eBay , but perhaps owes it's existence to it.
     Today I want to talk about a new breed of auction house... I call a hybrid auction house.  What do I mean by this well places like Dallas based Heritage Auctions, Denver Pa based Morphy auctions and Virginia based Old World auctions.  These are auction houses that derive most of their business from online and telephone bidding, but also are overwhelmingly Internet centric in their marketing, and bidding process. Each of these three and they are by no means the only 3 employ extensive Internet only pre bidding before their "in house auction" events.  Utilizing 3rd parties such as Proxibid, Liveauctions, and even eBay itself as advertising/ and bidding platforms.
     I recently had a successful interaction with Morphy Auctions and I couldn't hep notice how differently I had to approach bidding.   So let me explain my experience and maybe we can learn something collectively.  I was browsing on Liveauctions as I do from time to time, and I came across an item I was interested in ( the J Chein globe from an earlier post)  I noticed it was being auctioned via Morphy Auctions, so I headed next over to their site.
     At the Morphy site I found the online catalog, and registered to bid, all very easy.  Now came the bidding;  we were still weeks away from the live event, but I could already bid via the Internet, or even schedule a phone bid. I noticed that Internet early bidding was highly encouraged, in fact some items i this auction already had multiple bids.  I bookmarked the auction, why didn't I bid then?  Well I surmised that the closer to the actual auction I bid the less chance I had of tipping my hand so to speak.
     Now fast forward 2 weeks I'm on eBay ( as I am every day...)  and low and behold I see a listing for the item I want, so I immediately click on it.  Sure enough it's yet another way to bid on this item, right through eBay; it clearly states that this is part of a live event happening in the future.  So this item shows op on Liveauctions, I go to the Morphy site , then it pops up on eBay, there are at least 3 Internet avenues towards bidding, not to mention the old fashioned sale room option.  Wow confused yet.....?
     Heritage Auctions run in a similar manner, advertised on Liveauctions, as well as Proxibid, early Internet bidding encouraged, and of course live sale room bidding the day of the auction.  Heritage gives one more wrinkle as I discovered this past June.
     I bid on and lost a great Holbrook hinged 3 inch school globe, I was the under bidder ( the first loser) so that's how it goes right, game over..........well not quite. About a week after the auction ended I was contacted via email and offered a chance to "make an offer" to the new owner!  Heritage offers no guarantees, but they will ( for a 10% cut ) pass along an offer to purchase to the new owner.   Wow what a gimmic!!  I'll tell you that I almost did make that offer, in the end I decided against it, but I'm sure people take advantage of this last gasp option all the time, and I'm sure Heritage loves it to the tune of 10%.
     Liveauctioneers, and Proxibid are interesting , if complex ways to bid on auctions from large and small auction houses all over the country. They offer a way for a very small auction house to expose their items for sale to an incredibly wide audience.  This, as an audience member makes for some interesting opportunities.  Just this past week I made my first successful bid through Liveauctioneers.  I bought another 12 inch table globe ( that's another story, but I have no more space for these !! )  well anyhow this purchase was made through a rather small auction company that I would not have even discovered if it had not been for the powerful aggregation that these auction sites provide.
     Of course Live, and Proxi need to be paid so I can only imagine that buyers premiums ( already at 25% )  are only going to trend higher to pay for this convenience.   These sites also open small auctions up to " regular people" like myself who have a different sense of price than pure dealers.  Some of these very small auction houses have probably been " dealers best kept secrets" for a long time.  Great fishing spots where deals are easily obtainable.  Well with the mass advertising effect that brings in the retail crowd like myself and cuts out the dealers.   Is that good for collectors.....?   Price wise in the short term yes, but just like Wal mart drowns out the competition, could online auctions of all sorts pinch dealers so much that they can't survive?   How then does a new collector find their way.....?   Are new collectors then harder to come by?    

Let's discuss this further email, or comment below!

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