With Help from eBay, Sotheby’s Expands Online Auctions

Courtesy Sotheby’s

The international auction house augments its digital reach, making purchasing one-of-a-kind items online even easier. 

In an effort to expand their online reach, Sotheby’s international auction house launched its first-ever collaboration with eBay on Wednesday with two new live-stream sales. The first, a photography sale, included 188 works by Helmut Newton, Man Ray, William Eggleston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and other greats spanning the 19th century to the Post-War era; the second, a New York–themed sale, hosted 91 lots of city-inspired ephemera and memorabilia, such as the iconic sign that sat atop Yankee Stadium from 1976-2008.

The new platform, which will coincide with all future Sotheby’s auctions—save their upper-tier evening events—offers online buyers an alternative to Sotheby’s proprietary online bidding system, BIDnow, which was introduced on sothebys.com in 2010. The new interface hosted on eBay.com includes a number of elegant features that enhance the shopping experience and streamline the bidding process: A running list of bids as they happen plus a live-stream of the sale (a first for eBay) lets the user participate as if they’re in the room, while the “museum view” takes an online user's experience to the next level with functionalities like enhanced zoom to zero in on the details of an antique or an artwork’s brushstrokes, images of items in context (to see a work’s dimensions in a room or on a wall), and informational videos created by Sotheby's experts about specific lots.

“We were trying to bring the world of the Sotheby’s auction room to an eBay audience,” explains Megan Ford, director of emerging vertical and live auctions for North America, of the site’s design.

Sotheby's x eBay Online Live Auction Collaboration

Overall—and despite the occasional connection glitch—its safe to say eBay has brought a new set of players to what was once one very exclusive table. “Thousands of people tuned into the sale from all over the globe,” Ford says. “We were very excited to see some very big bidding from eBay,” including a Robert Longo that sold for $40,000, and a Yousuf Karsh portrait of Georgia O'keeffe for $27,500. Both are solid price points for the California-based e-commerce company that got it’s start 20 years ago dealing in second-hand, personal obscurities. “It’s great to see such intense bidding between Sotheby’s online bidders and eBay’s bidders. This is changing how auctions run, with online being a much more prominent player in the room.”

While eBay has already collaborated with 200 houses around the world on their live auctions platform, Sotheby’s is now officially the site’s anchor partner.

Stay tuned for more upcoming auctions from Sotheby’s, including Important European Silver, Vertu, and Russian Works (April 16), private collections of English, European, and 19th century furniture (April 18), and Magnificent Jewels (April 21).