How eBay has influenced the auction industry

Incredibly, online auction site eBay has now been running for almost 24 years. However, far from posing a threat to traditional auction houses, it has helped the industry to evolve.

Anderson and Garland’s John Bullock-Anderson has worked for Anderson and Garland for over four decades. Here, he looks at how traditional auction houses remain flexible and relevant in the digital age.

The auction industry has transformed almost beyond recognition over the past 40 years. Of course, one of the most influential changes to the auction industry – and the world – was the internet.

When eBay was introduced as an online bidding platform, many auctioneers were wary of what it might mean for the industry.

However, by remaining fluid and responsive to cultural shifts over time, Anderson and Garland Auctioneers turned a potential threat into an incredible opportunity. Therefore, the emergence of online auction sites like eBay actually revolutionised the auction house and enabled modern auction houses to prosper like never before.

Changing auction audiences

Traditionally, auction houses were frequented by a defined, specialist audience which primarily consisted of antiques dealers. Buying and selling at auction was considered prestigious and complicated, and members of the general public wouldn’t generally feel at ease in the company of the type of people who attended auctions.

However, when eBay became more popular and the process of bidding and selling at auction started to become mainstream, we began to witness a transformation of the auction house and how it operated.

The introduction of eBay, in fact, enabled buying and selling at auction to become more accessible to the general public by encouraging a wider audience to become familiar with the industry.

Ebay helped people to begin to understand how to recognise potentially valuable objects, gave the wider public access to data about sale prices, opportunity to practice bidding strategies and in turn, it spurred an enormous interest in antiquities and collectibles.

Ebay and other online auction platforms created a pop culture movement that now defines the auction industry, with a buzz developing around antiquities, fine art and valuables like never before.  

The growing popularity of TV shows such as the long-running Antiques Roadshow and, more recently, Bargain Hunt, brought the idea of auctioning to the forefront of pop culture. They helped drive interest about collecting and it made the auction house accessible to everyone, not just antique dealers. People began buying lots at auction and then separating the items to sell on eBay, signalling an immense growth period for the traditional auction house.

Adapt or become obsolete

This shift was exciting for auctioneers, but it of course meant change. Changing expectations meant that auction houses had to adapt to modern techniques or risk becoming obsolete.

Running an auction house for 140 years has meant that Anderson and Garland’s traditional auction house has had to respond to many cultural shifts throughout the decades. We have learned to always be fluid and responsive to change, and this was one of the largest changes our auctioneers have experienced.

We pride ourselves on understanding the industry and have excelled throughout transformative decades. We have upheld traditional aspects of auctioneering while adapting to become a progressive, modern auction house fuelled by expertise and heritage.

Today, our website and the functionality that allows our members to bid online via our secure network means that our North East reputation now spans the globe, with international sales achieving world record prices.




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