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Auctions Are Crimped as the Pandemic Forces Them Online


On the positive side, moving big purchases online could drive greater advance research, Mr. Sleeman said. Some art fairs are requiring dealers to publish their prices online, he said, adding a level of transparency that wasn’t there, or at least not as easily accessible, before the pandemic.

Part of the thrill of buying a collectible car is strolling among scores of polished, perfect automobiles. Once they leave the auction grounds, most of these cars will be parked in climate-controlled garages, shielded from the sun-dappled fields where they are shown, driven and coveted.

Next month would normally send some of the world’s most expensive cars to the Monterrey Peninsula for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where rare automobiles are parked for a day on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

That’s not happening this year. Both Gooding & Company and Bonhams, two auction houses with large automotive departments, will present about half the cars they would have in a live auction, and rely on video and limited in-person viewing to drum up interest. Both houses are upbeat about the online demand.

“People are getting in touch with things that make them happy and that they love,” said David Gooding, president of his namesake company. “If they’re passionate about cars, they’re tapping into that passion. We’re seeing demand and interest as strong as ever.”

There is far less ambivalence now than ahead of a typical live auction. Sellers really want to sell their cars, and buyers are focused on getting the car they want. A few cars are priced in excess of $2 million, but many are in the $50,000-to-$100,000 range, he said.

To assure the cars’ condition, the auction house is maintaining them in a Los Angeles warehouse. “It’s critical for us to know what we’re selling and representing,” Mr. Gooding said.

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