By Sharon Manos

Auctions have been around for a very long time…thousands of years, in fact. The word auction comes from the Latin, “auctus,” defined as “increasing.” Back in the good old days, in 500 B.C. ancient Greece, families auctioned off their daughters for marriage. Their worth was based on their beauty and even came with a money back guarantee! The Romans auctioned off their captives as slaves, and citizens of the Empire could seek debt relief by auctioning off their household possessions. In America, the odious practice of auctioning “slaves” existed between 1655 and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865.

However, not all auctions were associated with the evils of slavery. In the late 17th century, art auctions in the coffeehouses and taverns of London became popular. The first official auction house, Stockholms Auktionsver, was founded in Sweden by Baron Claes Rålamb in 1674! In England, Sotheby’s, held its first auction in 1744, and Christie’s, established around 1766, ranks after Sotheby as the second largest auction house. So, has anything changed since the days of gladiators, tricorn hats, and tavern gavels? Yes, indeed!

Auctions, once the pursuit of the wealthy, are now a popular option for purchasing everything from collectibles and household “doodads” to cars and antiques. Unlike the last several thousand years, the old paradigm of in-person auctions had already begun to shift toward including internet sales. This was prompted by the rise of social media, and online giants like Ebay, and a host of other sites including Live Auctioneers, Auction Zip, and DealDash. While online auctions have been trending for many years, auction veterans agree that the pandemic has accelerated the inevitable changes that were already underway.

The pandemic restrictions have caused local auction houses to either expand their online sales or to consider the necessity of internet sales in these extraordinary times; and there are definitely

benefits to selling online. For one thing, buyers may not be restricted to a time specific auction sale, and that helps to attract and expand participation. People who are interested in purchasing only one item, or stay at home buyers, will be more likely to bid online and they can “attend” more than one auction at a time. Another advantage to online sales is the ability to reach a wider audience; more bidders can translate into more buyers.

Despite the trend to online sales, though shipping remains an option, most local auction houses still prefer or even require in-person pickup of purchases,. This is usually done by appointment and pandemic precautionary requirements, such as masking and social distancing are observed. John Pappas, of Keene Auctions, is following these guidelines to provide a safe environment for his customers. He has had an internet presence for years, and while not holding in-house auctions, he continues to hold auctions online, utilizing Auction Zip, or Live Auctioneers, or Invaluable. In-person previews of items can be arranged by appointment and are limited to no more than 10 people at the 96 Dunbar Street location. If you have any questions or want to arrange an appointment for a preview or to discuss consignments, you can visit Keene Auctions on Facebook or call: 1 800 352-5251 or 603 352-2313.

Kevin Cretelle has been an auctioneer since 1994, and along with his partner, Barbara Cohen, enjoy a loyal following at B and K Green Mountain Auctions, in West Brattleboro, Vermont. The pandemic has created opportunities as well as challenges for these auction veterans. Kevin and Barbara have expanded their internet presence and conduct online auctions, on the Auction Zip site, while they have suspended in-person events. They continue to offer a wide variety of items that include furniture, paintings, musical instruments, lighting, and a comprehensive assortment of antiques and collectibles. You can make arrangements for in-person pickup of purchases at 220 Old Ferry Road, in West Brattleboro, Vt. You can visit them on their website at: or call 802-384-9609 for information concerning upcoming auctions or to discuss consignments.

It appears the online auction trend is not only growing but thriving during the pandemic. “Monsters” like Amazon have had an explosion of sales from stay-at-home buyers, and auction houses seem to be riding those button-pushing, online coattails. Eventually, the pandemic will cease to be the motivating issue, so can the shift to online auctions continue to grow when life returns to “normalcy?” Most experts agree that online sales are here to stay and predict continued growth. That bodes well for the auction industry. However, it’s doubtful the computer screen can ever totally replace the “paddle-in-hand” adrenalin rush that in-person auctions provide.