Last year, Bring a Trailer auctions drew nearly two million comments, and the site registered more than 200,000 new users. An active legion of commenters pepper each auction entry with informed dialogue. “Watchers” track the bidding via email and may jump in at any time with bids of their own. In 2020, for example, a tiny — and rare — Austin Mini beach car attracted more than 500 comments and 1,000 “watchers” before selling for $230,000 to a collector in Germany.
Besides smallish competitors like the Sackeys’ site and Marqued, a recent venture by Porsche Digital, Bring a Trailer can expect bigger challengers in the year ahead. One looming rival: Bonhams, the British auctioneer founded in 1793.
After acquiring The Market in Britain, an established auction platform, Bonhams unveiled its own auction site last year. (Established auction houses like RM Sotheby’s and Gooding & Company already offered online events and public sales.) A European website was added last fall, and on Jan. 24 the firm plans to introduce a U.S. site.
“We’ll be the first traditional auction house to offer a continuous global online platform,” said Caroline Cassini, general manager of the U.S. website. “We’ll be ‘live’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week, worldwide.”
Users enter at the main Bonhams site and then select their location for auctions.
“We’ve got so much heritage and the massive Bonhams database, so we’re not starting from zero,” Ms. Cassini said. “But we’re also not going to begin by trying to sell 500 cars a day. We want to grow organically and provide a premier service.”
Like Bring a Trailer, the Bonhams site promises to curate each car up for auction, verifying accident reports, originality claims, and engine and mileage numbers. The site will also help in writing vehicle descriptions, providing photographic services and arranging transport after cars are sold.
Initially at least, Bonhams plans to include informed commentary from regular contributors. “We’ll see how it goes,” Ms. Cassini said. “We want to make sure the section features serious discussion.”