Art Auctions of America

Online bidding and auctions

The most significant development in art collecting in the past ten years has been the emergence of online auction bidding. Collectors can actively bid at hundreds of national and international auctions. Although there may be only a hundred bidders in the auction room, there may be thousands at their computer terminals.

Although the major international art auctions such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s maintain traditional live and telephone bidding, most of the secondary auction houses provide online bidding. Some of the online auctions have developed their own dedicated bidding technology, but most have subscribed to services offered by online bidding technology firms such as Live Auctioneers and ArtFact.

Not only do these firms provide technology, but they also provide client auction houses with promotional services to attract more bidders to the client auction sites. A distinction must be made between auctions offering online bidding and pure online auctions. There are very few successful pure online auctions for art. eBay is the most recognizable and popular auction, but the preponderance of the art is from working artists selling inexpensive pieces. Others selling art on eBay include minor dealers here and internationally. There are few investment grade pieces offered on eBay, and they come with much uncertainty since there is no third party evaluating the pieces.

ArtNet has developed an online auction offering higher grade artwork, but the auction has generated mixed results. There are handful of other online auctions, but again the investment quality of the art is lacking.

Bidding on line with established auctions is a fairly simple process. The prospective bidder registers with the online bidding service, which transmit’s the information to the art auction. The art auction approves or disapproves the prospective buyer, and an email is sent to buyer indicating their status. In must cases, there is little financial information required of the prospective bidder, and most are approved. Of course, there is a possibility reneging by bidders, but this is a fairly rare occurrence.

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