Join The Hoarde Vintage today
Login / Register Sellers Clients
An auctioneer holds a gavel at a live auction. Buyers can be seen in the background.

What is an online auction, and how does it work? 

Online auctions bring antiques and collectables to buyers worldwide without them having to be there in person. These auctions have ramped up in popularity since the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, Sotheby's, Christie’s and Phillips held 481 online-only sales, a significant increase on pre-pandemic levels. 

Read on to find out how online auctions work.  

What is an online auction? 

An online auction is held over the Internet rather than in person. Popular online auction platforms include Heritage Auctions, The Saleroom, and I Bidder. There are two types of online auctions: 

Live online auction 

A live online auction works in a similar way to a traditional in-person auction. Registered buyers watch the auction in real-time from wherever they are in the world and place their bids via the Internet. The catalogue is typically released two to three weeks before the planned auction date. 

Timed online auction 

A timed online auction works in a similar way, but buyers have the opportunity to place their bids over a longer period of time (typically two to three weeks). There is no auctioneer, and bids can only be placed via the buyer’s online account. 

At the end of the period, the buyer with the highest bid wins that lot. 

How do online auctions work? 

To participate in an online auction, you must be registered with the auction platform. Leave yourself plenty of time to do this so your application can be processed before the start of the auction.

Once you’ve been approved, you can start placing bids. If you’re outbid on a lot at any point, you’ll receive a notification (usually via email). Like a traditional auction, the highest bidder wins at the end of the bidding period. 

You won’t be charged until you win an item, but be aware that you may be required to pay additional fees, such as a buyers’ premium (this is a percentage of the final sale price added at the end). 

Consider also delivery, import VAT, and ARR (artist’s resale rights). 

The benefits of an online auction

With a live auction, you can bid on antique furniture, art, collectables, and even plant machinery from anywhere in the world. Removing the need to be there has opened the market up to a wider and more diverse group of people. 

This added competition makes auctioning even more thrilling! And it means you can get a better deal on what you want. 

This isn’t just confined to buyers – it also benefits sellers. Greater accessibility means more people in the market to buy, opening up the possibility that you might find the person looking for your one-of-a-kind item!  

The key takeaway on live auctions

Auctions are underpinned by a participant's willingness to pay for items. Online auctions are the most cost-effective way of connecting buyers with their dream lots, a win-win situation for buyers and sellers.