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Most in the art-auction world don’t think so. Given the lack of live auctions, many prominent art auction houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, and others) are selling online.

However, just as we’ve held over the years, live auctions produce more in proceeds when selling very high-dollar property. Not that people can’t or don’t bid online, but the live environment (see, touch, smell) usually results in the best results for the seller.

Julia Halperin, Executive Editor of Artnet News wrote this article in March: https://news.artnet.com/market/online-auctions-march-data-1841205 where she notes those in the industry are not optimistic the online auction volume will make up for the lost live volume.

For some auction venues, there is also the consideration of auxiliary income. You can attend a collector car auction (or even a wholesale car auction) and pay to park, a hat, catalog, VIP treatment, food …) which doesn’t count as income in the online environment.

Too, live bidders have equity — they are already there on-site so they tend to buy more contrasted with when they don’t have that skin-in-the-game. It also seems quite reasonable that the higher the value of the property, the more a buyer would want to be there to better inspect.

It will be interesting to watch now that more of the population has been exposed to online auctions, but the experts in the art-auction world think it’s doubtful even with that increased awareness, that it will make up for lost live auction revenue.

Most prominent auction venues will likely reopen when they can to again hold live auctions. As well, any auctioneer selling property that benefits from personal inspection will also likely reopen for live auctions.

For those auctioneers who sell commodities or low-dollar items, the question will continue to be — is it worth the expense of selling live versus in an online environment.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.