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In the last Salcedo Auctions show, about 80 percent of bids were done online. 

It took a pandemic to dismantle the global retail structures across various industries, auction houses included. Moreover, the scenario served as the incubator for a new beast on the auction block—the web-bidder.

READ ALSO: A Reflection of Preferences and Personality: Three Independent Digital Booksellers

Just like the traditional paddle raiser and the phone or absentee buyer, it shares a love for the finer things in life. 

Unlike its predecessors, though, the web-bidder is much quicker on the draw. So how, in the wake of the massive shift to digital buying, did the traditional bidders fair in Salcedo Auctions’ recently concluded The Well Appointed Life (TWAL)  2021 edition?

p.p1 O.schnell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Based on a sample of TWAL 2021’s 15 top lot buyers, phone bidders still dominated the sale claiming 58.86 percent of total revenues, more than half of which was generated by Jose Joya’s “Blue Harbor” oil on canvas. 

Web-bidders were not far behind at 40.91 percent. A lone paddler raiser made a defiant stand for his ilk, winning a Larry Alcala illustration.

Fast and furious

Overall, however, online bids accounted for approximately 80 percent of Salcedo Auctions’ recent sale. 

The auction house’s chairman, Richie Lerma, describes their new online buyers, which includes some who’ve never stepped inside Salcedo’s gallery, as “generally young,” in the 24 to 45 age bracket. 

“But most of our senior clients who used to bid traditionally (either live or on the phone) are now bidding online using our exclusive auction platform,” Lerma continues. He cites one example of Salcedo’s digital converts, a senior lady determined to square off with all collectors for Fernando Amorsolo’s “Lavanderas. 

“She said that she sat through the entire sale and excitedly pressed the bid button to beat out all competition to win,” Lerma shares.

In just the past two years, collectors have elevated their bidding game to new levels, with gadgets and software enabling a faster turnover. At the recent TWAL sale, where he also served as auctioneer, Lerma wasn’t even finished introducing the lots when “the online bidders already charged out of the starting gate once the lot number came out on screen.” 

Ang bilis naman,” commented a phone bidder, whose offer—yet to be announced—was quickly surpassed by a flurry of online clicks. 

The brisk pace was unprecedented, surprising both phone and paddle bidders. But it also electrified the mood. “Such fun and excitement to watch the gusto that all our clients were hitting that ‘bid’ button on their devices,” Lerma exclaims. 

Jose Joya’s “Blue Harbor”

Digital shift

Much like other businesses that just recently activated their online commerce sites, Lerma was initially apprehensive about the change, especially in a sector accustomed to physical viewings and sales. 

But the year-on-year statistics showed a traditional market’s swift transition, as well as the power of the web to find new audiences. “From last year’s figures, we saw an almost three-fold increase in registered bidders,” Lerma discloses. 

“I would say, firstly it’s the Salcedo name, the reliability and the trust that the public has which we have cultivated over the past decade,” he continues, “so they easily embraced our online shift.” 

The quality of our pieces, the availability of this calibre of works online, and their  virtual gallery, the only one of its kind locally Lerma points, visually transports the bidder to their expansive NEX Tower galleries. “Like you’re actually there,” he says, “and that even allows you to ‘walk up’ to a piece and zoom in to inspect its finer details.” 

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Why go virtual

While some collectors might miss the social aspect of a live auction, or being witness to a furious battle of the paddles, there are advantages to online bidding. 

For one, you can simply click ‘bid’ from anywhere in the world (even without getting out of your pajamas or doing your eyebrows) so long as you have your dependable gadget and a stable WIFI connection. Collectors can attend Zoom meetings, check their gardens, or watch their favorite Netflix series while following the auction’s progress. 

Younger bidders steeped in RPGs need no introduction to the world of virtual auctions, where they hunt for treasures and cancel rivals with one mighty click. Why, they can even form their own bidding armies. Like what a family of collectors did, exactly. 

An online bid also won one of the auction’s highlight, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo’s “Marina”

“We noticed that several members of one family would register,” Lerma recalls. “At times they would bid on different lots, but at times they would be bidding on the same lot.” 

He says that if one gets outbid and “in case they are unable to react fast enough (such was the volume of the bids coming in), one other family member would come in to try to win it. That was a delight to see this level of online family camaraderie in action at auction!”

According to economic forecasters, the growth in online buying will continue beyond the pandemic. If that’s the case, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine more collectors buying from home. 

Or, perhaps, a kasambahay will be trained in the ways of online bidding. That comes with a crucial caveat added by Lerma in jest: “O, hanggang 10 million lang tayo ha.”

Banner Photo by Sora Shimazaki, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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