While the traditional auction room is still alive, we are seeing huge growth in online bidding by wealthy young people say Barnebys, the worlds biggest auction search engine, covering 1,600 auction houses globally, selling 500,000 works of art and antiques and collectables at any time.
Today, more than 50% of auction browsers and bidders aged 18-24 years use their mobile devices – phones, tablets, laptops to browse, compared with only 5% five years ago, says Barnebys Online Auction Report. This shift in attitude has opened up the auction room to a wider audience. One of the most challenging problems facing auction houses – how to get a new generation to walk through their imposing front doors has been solved. They walk in now online.
Pontus Silfverstolpe, one of the founders of Barnebys, says:“One of the unexpected benefits of mobile phones and the internet is the avalanche of young newcomers to the auction world. For decades auction houses have been concerned about the growing age profile of their clients and the problem of getting younger people into their premises which are seen as not very welcoming to younger people. But now that problem is solved thanks to IT and the whole profile of auction buyers and sellers has changed. The Millenial Generation has discovered auctions big time. And they love the hunt, the stock, the fact that buying at auction is another form of recycling, so very green and finally, that the buying process is so transparent.”
What are the top things young people are buying?
Watches; Jewellery (diamond rings); Motorcycles; Cameras; posters; celebrity memorabilia; furniture – sofas, tables, lamps, chairs; prints.
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Find unique items
Auction rooms are a treasure trove for one-off pieces, making them an attractive alternative to the High Street. Why invest in a mass-produced couch or a handbag from the rail, when an auction may lead you to a sumptuous Chesterfield, or a vintage Louise Vuitton case? Brand names sit alongside established artists and the new undiscovered artists are all part of the mix that makes the auction world so intoxicating for anyone remotely interested in collecting anything.
Upcycling is a big trend and online auctions offer the perfect solution to sustainability. Buying vintage is a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to shop. Barnebys research shows that younger buyers see buying previously-loved items as an investment in a more sustainable tomorrow, and value this over investment potential, although they might have that too!
One of the main concerns about buying branded pieces through online auction sites is authenticity. For your peace of mind, auction houses conduct brand-specific and detailed authentication processes before putting items up for sale in the form of condition reports. This high level of detail means customers have the confidence to buy even if they have not seen the piece in person.
The price is right
Two-thirds of online shoppers claim that price is the factor that draws them to buy at auction. After you’ve done your research, don’t forget you can set reminders with Barnebys for when a desired item is coming up for auction.
Younger buyers are drawn to auctions because: they find it easy to place a bid, the transparency of the process, the right to cancel the purchase and the knowledge of the auction house brand.
Top tips for buying at an online auction:
Do your research, take advice from the professionals at the auction house or other specialists in the area of art that interests you. Establish what similar items have recently sold for (Barnebys offer this service)
Check details of the object carefully; read the auction house condition reports; register for a bidding paddle or number; set yourself a limit as it’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of the auction; bear in mind additional auction fees i.e. buyers premium, VAT etc and factor these into the final price.
What’s it worth? – Valuations
What if you have something to sell yourself? Barnebys offer a free service which connects you to auctioneers who have the potential to sell your item. Start by signing up with an email and password, and then add some information about the piece you’d like to sell. They will then let you know if they feel they can sell your item and for how much. Items sent in to the valuation service include everything from a Picasso vase to a Kurt Cobain guitar.