National Jeweler Network

Jewelry Auctions

Sotheby’s, eBay partner to offer online auctions

July 16, 2014

New York--Consumers soon will have the ability to more easily bid on art, antiques and collectibles at Sotheby’s auctions, thanks to a recent partnership between the auction house and e-tailer eBay. 

The two companies are developing an online platform that will allow Internet users to browse and bid on a number of Sotheby’s live auctions in New York through a soon-to-be-launched website that will offer real-time bidding from anywhere in the world.

Both eBay and Sotheby’s said collectors increasingly are purchasing high-end items online, including on-the-go from their mobile devices. 

By the numbers
According to number provided by Sotheby’s, online bidders competed for 17 percent of the total lots offered in the auction house’s 2013 sales, and the number of lots purchased online last year increased 36 percent versus 2012. 

The number of visitors accessing Sotheby’s website via a mobile device, meaning a smartphone or tablet, doubled in 2013 as compared to 2012, and mobile traffic in 2014 now accounts for 25 percent of the auction house’s total website traffic.

In addition, a new record for an online purchase in a live auction at Sotheby’s was set last April when a remote bidder purchased John James Audubon’s elephant-folio (an enormous book of paintings) The Birds of America for $3.5 million. 

EBay, which has 145 million global active buyers in 190 countries, closes more than 3,500 auctions on its site daily. 

The company brought in $20 billion via mobile devices in 2013 and said 40 percent of its sales volume is “touched” by mobile. 

In addition, last year collectibles, which would be the type of items Sotheby’s sells, accounted for nearly $8 billion of its gross merchandise volume through 36 million active buyers. 

“The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” Sotheby’s Chief Operating Officer Bruno Vinciguerra said. “We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.” 

The auctions
Sotheby’s will present 18 collecting categories in the auctions that will be offered on the new online platform, with a plan to explore themed and time-based sales in the future. 

Although evening sales will not be included, the auction house said they may consider adding live auctions from its other global salesrooms, in Geneva, Hong Kong, Doha, London, Milan, Paris and Zurich. 

Both companies will focus on growing the market at price points where they expect their collectors to converge in the future, particularly in the jewelry, watches, prints, wine, photographs and 20th century design segments.

The global art market currently is estimated at around $65 billion, Sotheby’s said, and projection shows that online art sales could reach $13 billion by 2020.

“A Sotheby’s-eBay partnership is a significant milestone in our efforts to expand the live auction market,” said eBay Marketplaces President Davin Wenig, adding that Sotheby’s is a respected name in the world. “When you combine its inventory with eBay’s technology platform and global reach, we can give people access to the world’s finest, most inspiring items, anytime, anywhere and from any device.”