eBay and Sotheby’s strike auction deal

Some weeks ago it was announced that the grand old dame of British auctioneering Sotheby’s had struck a deal with eBay to enable joint enterprises.

In the first instance, it seems, that Sotheby’s and eBay will collaborate to increase the online bids on the sales from the ancient auction house. But, if I am very honest, having read quite a number of articles about the deal, I am not entirely sure what the nature of the collaboration is. And I guess that’s why I haven’t written anything about it until now.

It’s not very exciting, it’s not very clear and it’s probably quite peripheral to anyone trading online as a business.

To garner some outline, you might find this article in the Guardian useful and this from the BBC too.

The deal might, however, say two important things about eBay.

Firstly, they are clearly becoming much more keen on tailored and specialist buying experiences. It has long been true that the Marketplace alone is not eBay’s only future or platform.

They are increasingly dabbling with specialist experiences. That’s no bad thing. This Sotheby’s deal marks another step in that direction. I can only wryly think back to my earliest associations with eBay in 1999 when people from Sotheby’s I knew were utterly contemptuous of both eBay and the internet in general as a sales medium.

Secondly, eBay people don’t seem to remember that they tried something like this before. Back in 1999, eBay acquired Butterfields, and later let it go in 2002. The idea was similar but I am willing to accept that the technology makes this a different deal.

It is perhaps testament to the success of eBay, and indeed the web, that Sotheby’s is now doing business with the formerly untouchable upstart. But I struggle to see the immediate synergies in the deal. Maybe we will find out more with time.