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eBay Welcomes Sotheby’s Auction House to Live Bidding

Unique art. Live streaming auctions. Exclusive content. That’s what Sotheby’s says it is bringing to the eBay marketplace in a partnership announced last summer that’s now live at eBay.com/sothebys.

Why eBay? Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby’s COO, said in July, “We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.” And much of the art and collectibles to be featured will be valued at under $25,000. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much museum-worthy artwork has the same price as a designer handbag,” Sotheby’s said in its announcement on Monday.

Prior to the Sotheby’s announcement last July, eBay had announced in May that it was reentering live auctions after a 5-year absence through a partnership with Invaluable(formerly Artfact).

Invaluable could be described as an aggregator of catalogs from many auction houses ranging from jewelry liquidators to premium houses. The eBay live auctions launched in October and can be found at eBay.com/collectibles-liveauctions.

Sotheby’s listings on eBay feature a “sign up to bid” button rather than a buy or bid button. When clicked, visitors who are signed in to eBay are taken to a page that displays their name, address, most of their email address and phone number, with a message that eBay will send the information to Sotheby’s – “They might contact you for more details.” The page also displays a message stating eBay will use the shopper’s credit card to confirm their identity.

Reaction from longtime eBay sellers last year included skepticism about whether Sotheby’s would put up with some of the challenges of selling there, such as non-paying bidders and chronic returners, or whether it would be required play by the same rules as regular sellers. “Does anyone honestly believe Sotheby’s will be forced to adhere to the same seller exterminating policies we do,” commented one reader.

eBay had shut down its Live Auctions platform at the end of 2008, explaining it was aligning its resources with its priorities as it worked to improve the buying and selling experiences. “In the case of Live Auctions, maintaining and improving this platform falls outside our immediate focus, and will, therefore, be retired at the end of the year.”

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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.