Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The deal, which comes into effect immediately, will mean EBay promoting the service – and thereby ICollector’s site – to their 22 million subscribers worldwide.

Potential bidders will be able to visit the ICollector site and scan the catalogues. If they wish to bid in a sale they contact ICollector and must then sign up for the event online as a registered EBay user, and comply with the auction house’s user verification requirements. They need to give at least 24 hours notice before the sale so that all the relevant credit checks can be completed.

James Corsellis, of ICollector, explained that dealers and collectors would be able to follow a number of sales online at any one time with split screen technology. As well as bidding live online, they will also be able to leave absentee bids or take advantage of the bidding agent system, which bids on their behalf up to their stated limit. Guarantees, shipping, insurance and so on will be arranged between the bidder and the auction house, with ICollector and EBay simply providing the platform for business to take place.

So far 110 of ICollector’s auction house partners have signed up to accept bids online, but they expect to increase this number dramatically with the news service.

Auction houses who do sign up will pay a service charge and five per cent on any item sold online, a fee that EBay and ICollector will share.

Mr Corsellis acknowledged that the service needed to prove its commercial viability quickly by turning over good levels of revenue and by convincing auction houses that it will work well. They are looking for a 20-30 per cent sale rate by the end of the year and expect to be servicing more than 100 online auctions a month if they achieve this target.

Initially, they will concentrate on US auction houses and hope to spread activity to the UK and Europe within the next few months.

ICollector are also confident that EBay’s customer base will bring those interested in mid- and high-value antiques: “EBay are already achieving high-value transactions in volume on their site,” said Mr Corsellis.

The worldwide exclusive contract between EBay and ICollector is open-ended but it is clear that the window of opportunity for the service to prove itself is not. Its first test was due on Sunday when the service was being made available on an experimental basis for a US-based sale.