Volume 60, Number 5, May 2022
Highlighting an issue RECENTLY a reader got in touch asking why we hadn’t reported anything about Spink’s E-Auction back in January in our Auction Highlights section. Conscious of the fact that the company was holding another such sale in April (as well as their live auction on April 27) the reader wanted to know whether we felt E-Auctions weren’t in the same “league” as a standard “live auction”; the answer to that one is simple— they are different but that doesn’t mean they aren’t equal! The reason we missed the auction is easy to explain, we work in an old-fashioned way when it comes to “Auction Highlights”—we sit with a catalogue and a print-out of the prices realised and we check through to see which lots interest us, which lots made well over their estimates and which are of particular importance. These are the “highlights”—at least for us. Unfortunately with an E-Auction, a sale that is conducted completely online and is usually a timed auction over a period of days, there is no catalogue, nothing for us to refer to and peruse, and as such no physical reminder that an auction needs to be covered. Traditionally we haven’t covered E-Auctions, mainly because there are so many out there. Since eBay came along with an online format of a lot starting and finishing at a set time (chosen by the seller) and people placing bids at any time during that period in the hope that their bid will be the highest when the lot finishes, there have been dozens of other companies that have done something similar. Some are traditional auction houses that have live “in room” sales on so many days a year and then E-Auctions at other times, and others have been timed auction specialists whose entire business model is based on the eBay style format. Some have survived and done well (like Wellington auctions) others, like the much missed Speedbid, have fallen by the wayside. Of course, the timed auction format is nothing new in the medal world, postal auctions have had their place for years, but the internet has allowed such sales to flourish, and multiply, and, to be honest we simply couldn’t keep up! When we first started what was “Market Scene”, oh, so many years ago now, we decided to just cover big London auctions; they were, after all, where the big ticket items got sold and besides we didn’t get to hear about the smaller, so-called provincial, auctions that much . . . not back then. The Internet age has changed that: now online bidding has meant that even the smaller auction houses can get big money for things and are duly finding more items consigned and, of course, they are able to get the information about those sales out to us so much quicker. Some time ago we realised we could no longer just report on the London houses as some serious pieces were being sold elsewhere and so, gradually, Lockdales, Woolley & Wallis, Wallis & Wallis, Warwick & Warwick (you’ll note there are a lot of Ws outside London) and others started appearing on the “Market Scene” pages too. As they appeared so space got more and more limited and so we recently morphed our reports into what we have now: the “Auction Highlights”, in an attempt to cover more ground—but we still weren’t covering E-Auctions! Now though, in this post-Covid world, where the live auctions had to take a back seat for two years, more and more of the traditional auction houses are looking at holding internet-only timed sales (and the printing of glossy catalogues seems to be a thing of the past for many anyway), we realise that we cannot carry on as we were. The days of sitting down with the catalogue and the prices realised sheets are gone (or at the very least they don’t encompass everything). Times have changed and so must we—but how far will that change take us? Now we simply cannot report on every single sale that goes on across the country, of course, we can’t and whether we like it or not something like eBay will be impossible to cover—we don’t have the time to scan the site every day for what might or might not be of interest and then remember to check up on what it sold for, so that I’m afraid is out straight away. But what of other E-Auctions, should they be covered? Well yes, we think they should and so from now on we are going to be including such sales in “Auction Highlights” but only if they are run by an auction house that also puts on live “traditional auctions”. If the company in question is not a traditional auction house but only runs timed internet sales then we will try to include anything that is of particular interest in “News and Views”. Ultimately though, the choice is yours. What do you the readers want to see? Do you want us to report on more sales or only stick to the biggest? Do you want us to report on all E-Auctions no matter who runs them or do you think such an approach will just swamp us? Do you want to see us report on the smaller items as well as the big ones or is it the Victoria Crosses and Army Gold Medal groups that keep your interest? Do let us know, there’s no point in us taking a look at this afresh if what we’re looking at isn’t what you want to see.
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