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On top of that, they have secured a deal with Bearne’s auctioneers of Exeter in Devon to run the Internet side of the outstanding sale of photographs headlined by the Earl of Craven’s album (see News section for full story).

Back to the Dargate sale: there are several points of interest here, not least that this was not a specialist but a general sale. Specialist, themed or single owner sales are far easier to market and, to a certain extent depending on the nature of the items being sold, more Internet friendly. Here we had a broad selection of low to medium-priced goods and some impressive statistics to go with them.

The March 17 sale (17.5 per cent buyer’s premium) brought in Internet bidders from as far apart as Poland, Germany, Croatia, Italy, the United Kingdom and the US. With 599 lots on offer, ICollector registered 1089 approved Internet bidders through EBay Premier. Between them they secured 109 of the 566 lots sold, 18 per cent of the total number on offer, but 19 per cent of the actual take by lot.

Successful Internet bids were topped by the $13,000 (£9090) paid for lot 5357, a bronze sculpture of a seated woman holding a baby, 2ft 2in (66cm) high (estimate: $5000/7000).

The range of other successful Internet bids is illustrated by the following: a Steinway grand piano, c.1918 ($4,500/£3150); a Steiff Bear on Wheels, c.1910-20 ($1000/£700); a 19th century Palissy ware box ($1,700/£1190); and a Field Telescope Gadget Cane ($600/£420).

There were 1003 Internet absentee bids and 80-90 per cent of the sale received Internet bids with a large proportion of these being underbids. Several lots were bid on solely by the Internet bringing down BI rates.

In total, the value of Internet purchases was $68,100 (£43,215), with the average hammer price to Internet bidders at $625 (£435).

So far, ICollector have wisely concentrated their efforts in the United States and, if results so far are anything to go by they should have no difficulty in picking up more business. Whether their fees from these sales are enough to keep the wolf from the door over the short term remains to be seen, but it does show is that there is an active role to be played by the Internet in that most difficult area of trading in antiques on the Web, the auction. How far that envelope can be pushed is still not clear and won’t be for some time, but one gets the feeling that what ICollector is doing here is central to that process.

Exchange rate £1 = $1.43