Personal Finance: Spice up the auction house

Bid-from-home auctions kick-off next Saturday with

a sale of pop memorabilia. How is it done and what

impact will it have on collectables?

The first live televised bid-from-home auction takes place next Saturday. Pressing the star key on your telephone could secure any of 72 lots of pop memorabilia as they come under the auctioneer's hammer - including a pair of signed knickers from each member of the female All Saints pop group, estimated to fetch pounds 200-pounds 300 each.

About 6.5 million homes will be able to watch the bidding, to be broadcast between 5-6pm on the cable and satellite channel Living. There will be about 120 bidders, who will be registered beforehand by the London auctioneers, Bonhams, and supplied with pin numbers to gain electronic access to the sale.

"They will be effectively in the saleroom", says Dr Andy Billington, project manager of The Auction Channel which has signed exclusive contracts with Bonhams, Brooks - the classic-car auctioneers - and the Swiss-based auctioneers, Antiquorum, giving rights to 1,700 forthcoming auctions. The dream is of three televised auctions a day - and 10 a day on the Internet.The computer screen will show digital images of the lots and record bids.

Bidding "live" from home could add another 800 bidders to each sale. At present, bidding is either in person, in the saleroom or by phone to an auction- house employee who signals bids to the auctioneer. It also is done with commission bids where a single bid is left in the auctioneer's "book" before the sale.

Phone bidding has been restricted by saleroom phones available and by the fact that - to guard against hoax calls - auction houses insist on telephoning the bidder by arrangement. This is costly, so the big auction houses allow person-to-person telephone bids only on lots estimated at lots of pounds 5,000 or more.

The new system is expected to appeal to established telephone bidders and commission bidders prevented by distance from attending sales. Participating auctioneers will be under pressure to publish accurate condition reports in their sale catalogues so that distant buyers feel confident in bidding sight-unseen.

Although push-button bids take only a 10th-of-a-second to register on the auctioneer's computer screen, Bonhams auctioneer Alexander Crum Ewing says it will not be as feverish as traditional forms of bidding.Billington has devised software that mimics the etiquette of the saleroom. Not only does bidding proceed by fixed increments of 10 per cent but bidders' identity numbers disappear from the screen after each round of bidding. Moreover, it mimics the auctioneer's etiquette of repeatedly asking the leading bidder if he wishes to bid more.

Saturday's auction - in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust - also will be attended by up to 300 live bidders at its venue in the BAFTA headquarters in Piccadilly, west London. Electronic auctioneers should note that the new system will make it difficult to"take bids off the wall". It looks fishy if bids from hundreds of electronic bidders disappear from the screen during bidding.

The Independent Television Commission expressed concern about electronic "enticement" - especially with a sale of fab-pop memorabilia - hence the limited issue of pin numbers for this sale, and the insistence of pre- sale registration, which highlights lots the bidder will compete for and a credit check.

But is pop memorabilia the wow it used to be? Without safeguards, would pop-eyed youngsters be likely to run into debt by bidding madly for John Lennon's shopping list, Madonna's bra or, on offer in this sale, Spice Girl Mel's silver ball tongue-stud, estimated at pounds 300-pounds 400?

Hardly. A year ago - when some London pop memorabilia auctions were becoming clogged with cheap Beatles' merchandise - a Bonhams pop sale that sold a pitiful 25 per cent of its estimated value raised fears that the bubble had burst.

Today, pop auctions are leaner and meaner. Provenance is all-important. Auctioneers have learned that a pair of Buddy Holly's jazzy swimming trunks, even if lotted with a letter from his widow confirming that they belonged to his estate, will be unsold at an estimated pounds 700-pounds 900 - if the letter omits to confirm that he wore them.

The bidding pattern at Bonhams' last auction, last month indicates that, despite its success, bidders are cautious. Elvis still sells well. The acetate recording of "That's All Right, (Mama)" of 1954-55 fetched pounds 16,500 against an estimate of pounds 5,000-pounds 6,000. Bob Dylan still sells, so do the Rolling Stones and Elton John. It has become a nostalgia market for those advancing in years and income.

Beatles' merchandise has been selling better than ever. A drum of Margo of Mayfair Beatles talcum powder ,fetched pounds 100 and Beatles jigsaw puzzles have become a sound investment, also fetching about pounds 100. The slightly moth-eaten, green wool Mod jacket that John Lennon gave to Madame Tussaud's, estimated at pounds 800-pounds 1,200, was snapped up for pounds 200 at Bonhams last month, having been unsold at the previous sale.

Ex-Spice girl Geri Halliwell is selling some of her stage costumes and memorabilia for charity at a Sotheby's auction on 16 September (11am). Previous prices for Spice Girl gear indicate that it will sell well. Like the markets for Elvis and Elton memorabilia, Spice Girl prices are a reflection of popularity.

Bonhams auctioneer Ted Owen is trying to encourage his surprisingly cautious clientele to buy into different areas - such as New Wave rock posters which are the current craze in San Francisco. The artwork combines strains of comic-book, Hollywood and punk. Posters by the New Wave rising star Alan Forbes are regularly ignored at estimates of pounds 100-pounds 200 in his sales of "High Art". He has had 1,000 copies printed of Forbes's commemorative poster for the Teenage Cancer Trust televised sale. They are available at pounds 15 each and the original artwork is estimated pounds 800-pounds 1,000 in the sale.

It is hard to understand why such a seemingly loony market can be, at bottom, so conservative but it often takes several auctions to establish a new collectable.

`The Auction Channel': sale catalogues (01179 349292); registration by 2 September; Forbes posters pounds 15 plus pounds 3 p&p (0171-393 3952)

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...