Dallas’s Heritage Auctions reached a major milestone the week of April 20-27 reporting a total of $41 million achieved across 23 online sales spanning multiple collecting categories including rare U.S. coins, historical manuscripts and modern and contemporary art. The collectibles auction house reported an overall one-week sell-through rate of 97% across its online sales with 16,000 bidders participating and almost 30,000 clients tracking 16,000 lots via their digital platform.
Among the sales this past week were offerings in design, modern and contemporary art. Those auctions exceeded their pre-sale expectations realizing a total of $2.6 million. The rare manuscripts division, which sold a set of President John F. Kennedy’s campaign notes, brought in a bidding total of $1.1 million on April 22. The rare coins sale, originally slated to be held as a live sale in Chicago drew $33.6 million.
According to the annual 2019 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, Heritage has been dominant in the online secondary marketplace, establishing its foray into the digital sale sector in 1999, early in comparison to its commercial counterparts. In 2018, Heritage reported a total of $487 million in online sales, a leading figure in the global online sale sector that brings in a reported $4.64 billion annually according to the report. The data collected in the Hiscox analysis also indicated that while the digital sector growth was not seeing a major increase in in the past 36 months— projected to reach a growth total of 15% in 2020, as it has in previous years— the buying preference between live and online among the collectors surveyed was up from 16% in 2018 to 21% in 2019.
Prior to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the online sector was a key division for sales across auction houses, but still in development among larger firms. The Hiscox report noted that underinvestment in technological advancements is likely a contributing factor to the overall results. Yet, also published in its key findings that while the online sale sector had plateaued in growth from its 2018 and 2019 figures, three houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions exhibited an increase in online sales between 11% and 17% in 2018. “What were once concerns that participation in the middle of a pandemic would hurt the auctions turned into a record-setting number of online bids by more than 16,000 clients all over the world” said Jim Halperin, Co-founder of Heritage Auctions.
Halperin found the trends around online collecting to be veering in the right direction, despite the toll of the pandemic across the industry. “Almost all of these sales came from online bidding, and the final price total exceeded our pre-sale estimates by over 10 percent,” Halperin said. “That tells us our clients trust our platform and are very comfortable placing online bids for very valuable objects.”