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Six Renowned Auction Houses Launch Bidsquare.com

Six high-end auction houses have banded together to launch a live-bidding platform called Bidsquare. The move comes just 3 months after eBay announced it was launching a live-auction platform in partnership with Sotheby’s and with live-auction platform Invaluable (formerly Artfact), but the new Bidsquare platform has been in the works since last year.

Bidsquare’s coalition consists of renowned auction houses with cachet only slightly less than that of powerhouses Sotheby’s and Christie’s. They include Brunk Auctions, Cowan’s Auctions, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Pook & Pook, Rago, and Skinner.

Kerry Shrives, Vice President and Senior Appraiser of Skinner, explained why the competitors formed the new venture. “Brick-and-mortar auction houses want more control over what direction they go in, and want to work directly with collectors without a middleman,” she said.

Using a third-party platform such as Live Auctioneers, Invaluable, Proxibid, or eBay, comes with a price tag. “We want to grow the auction houses, rather than grow the aggregators,” she said.

Bidsquare is also launching with a free, searchable database of over 600,000 auction records (and counting), and four of the founding auction houses provide appraisers who appear regularly on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.

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Bidsquare promises to deliver a vast array of exceptional property, “from fine art to estate jewelry and from high design to historical artifacts, all vetted by America’s foremost auction houses, much of it unavailable elsewhere.”

Shrives said Bidsquare ensures items are antiques, fine art or collectibles, unlike on third-party platforms that can include government surplus goods, or include auctioneers “with a gmail address selling new jewelry, offering little transparency.”

Other advantages of using their own platform, Shrives said: using third-party platforms does not allow the auction house to vet bidders and block bidders with bad track records. And it gives auction houses access to unsuccessful bidders – that’s just as important, she said, but is not available on third-party platforms. The value to identifying unsuccessful bidders is to help match them up with items they might be interested in.

Bidsquare will welcome other auction houses in addition to the six founders. The platform will host live-bidding and online-only timed auctions. Each auction is siloed – bidders on one auction house’s auction will not be shared with competitors, for example. And each auction house will set their own buyer’s premium.

Here’s a blurb from its announcement with more information:

For fellow auctioneers, Bidsquare is setting a new standard for what is expected of an online marketplace. In addition to the stature of being in the company of esteemed colleagues, auction houses that join with Bidsquare immediately gain new prospective clients from the Bidsquare customer database while paying fees lower than those of competing sites. Bidsquare is the only platform that provides all auctioneers free and fair access to their own data on bidders and underbidders, as well as a shared databank of non-paying bidders and the promise to go after these individuals. It also offers auctioneers many ways to use its services, including listings, a flat-rate and percentage-of-sale fee for timed or live auctions, banner ads, e-blasts and more.

It’s been a big year for high-end online auctions (could it be due at least in part to Amazon’s entry into the art market last year?). Christie’s announced its decision to invest $20 million in “technological and digital advancement” in May, and Auctionata raised another $30 million in funding in April.

“The market is changing,” Shrives said, “and great objects drive participation.”

Check out Bidsquare.com here.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.