Boom times for online classic car auctions

Last year, the Bring a Trailer auction attracted nearly two million comments and the site registered more than 200,000 new users. An active legion of commentators pepper each auction entry with insightful dialogue. The “observers” follow the auctions by e-mail and can intervene at any time with their own offers. In 2020, for example, a tiny – and rare – Austin Mini beach car attracted over 500 reviews and 1,000 “watchers” before selling for $230,000 to a collector in Germany.

In addition to small competitors such as the Sackeys site and Brand, a recent venture from Porsche Digital, Bring a Trailer can expect bigger challengers in the coming year. An imminent rival: Bonhams, the British auctioneer founded in 1793.

After having acquired The market in Britain, an established auction platform, Bonhams unveiled own auction site Last year. (Established auction houses like RM Sotheby’s and Gooding & Company were already offering online events and public sales.) A European website was added last fall, and on January 24 the company plans to introduce an American site.

“We will be the first traditional auction house to offer a continuous global online platform,” said Caroline Cassini, managing director of the American site. “We will be ‘live’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week, around the world.”

Users enter the main Bonhams site and then select their auction location.

“We have so much heritage and the massive Bonhams database, so we’re not starting from scratch,” Ms Cassini said. “But we’re also not going to start by trying to sell 500 cars a day. We want to grow organically and provide top-notch service. »

Like Bring a Trailer, the Bonhams site promises to put every car up for auction, checking accident reports, originality claims and engine and mileage numbers. The site will also help with writing vehicle descriptions, providing photographic services, and arranging transportation after the cars are sold.

At least initially, Bonhams plans to include informed commentary from regular contributors. “We’ll see how it goes,” Ms Cassini said. “We want to make sure the section has serious discussion.”

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