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Christie's Steps Further into E-Commerce

Bids being taken at the Christie's auction of Elizabeth Taylor's belongings, 2011
© AFP/Don Emmert | Bids being taken at the Christie's auction of Elizabeth Taylor's belongings, 2011
With its 250th anniversary approaching, Christie's is polishing up its 21st-century credentials.

International auction house Christie’s will launch its first-ever online-only wine sale in August, with a collection of fine and rare wines. 

As the first in a planned series of online auctions, the sale marks "the next major step" in Christie's "global e-commerce strategy," according to the firm. The online auctions will be held in addition to the company’s traditional saleroom-based activities.

Christie's is by no means the first fine-wine auction house to sell its wares online. (slogan: "fine wine for the privileged many") launched its internet presence in 1996. Today, the Napa Valley-based firm has more than 68,000 registered users worldwide. Other companies conducting auctions online include Wine Gavel and Acker Merrall & Condit.

Christie's "Signature Cellars" sale will open for bidding on August 6 and run through August 20. The auction house has already run two pilot internet sales to test the market. An online-only component of its "Collection of Elizabeth Taylor" sale brought in $9.5 million, smashing the pre-sale estimate of $1 million. More recently, an online charity auction of couture handbags by Hermès raised $229,000, triple the expected total.

“The success of these two pilots demonstrates our clients around the world are eagerly embracing online-only sales as a regular addition to Christie’s calendar of traditional live auctions,” said Steven P. Murphy, chief executive officer, Christie’s International. 

The "Signature Cellars" sale will bring together a selection of wines from both the Old and New Worlds. At the top end, collectors will find everything from 1982 Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour, to cult Napa Valley wines from Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle.

There are also more unusual lots, including imperials (six liters) of Bordeaux and magnums from Bandol’s Domaine Tempier. Together, the 301 lots are estimated to achieve in excess of $750,000. The e-catalogue for the auction goes live on July 9.

Christie's was founded 246 years ago by James Christie, who held his first sale on Pall Mall, London on December 5, 1766. It included two chamber pots, a pair of sheets, two pillowcases and four irons. The company now has 10 salerooms around the world, including London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong.


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