Ever wondered where all the unsold items of an auction go? There are hidden treasures everywhere, and the unsold lots of an auction are no exception. Now there’s a platform tailored to this very concept.
If you’ve ever attended an auction, you would know that not everything sells.
It’s extremely rare that an auction would ever get a 100% sell-through rate, wherein everything that goes under the hammer ends up finding a new home. Most of the time, given the sheer number of auctions taking place every day and all over the world, a significant portion of each auction goes unsold. This isn’t necessarily a testament to a ‘bad’ or ‘unwanted’ lot however; rather, it’s about the right exposure and pairing an item with the right owner, wherever he or she may be.
This is where LastBid comes in.
No, we haven’t misspelled it. If you don’t recognise the name, that’s simply because it’s new (to be exact, LastBid opened their ‘website doors’ at the beginning of April 2019). And even if you haven’t heard of them, it’s a name you’re going to remember – because it’s a smart concept that fills a gap in the auction market.
LastBid is website platform that conveniently groups and lists items that have gone unsold across various auctions, therein giving each item additional exposure to a broader market along with a second chance of finding a new home. And before you ask, no it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s rather simple really:
Simply jump onto LastBid and, after registering, search the auction categories for whatever you’re looking to purchase, then place your bid. If it’s too low, you might be outbid by others, however there’s also the opportunity to increase your offer up to five times. And because it’s done online, you’re able to place bids 24/7. If you’re successful, the auction house will notify you by email along with precise details regarding payment and delivery. And you’re done.
LastBid co-founder Peter Wallman describes it, “a bit like a trove of missed opportunities": as a buyer, you’re able to find all sorts of items – art, motorcars, watches and jewellery, musical instruments, wine, design, and so on – under one roof, and you’re able to hunt for bargains in amongst these treasures.
Another way of looking at it is that it’s a bit like extending the ‘use by’ date – when the same item is offered over and over again at auction, it often doesn’t end up selling because it’s hitting the same routes and the same audience that failed the first time round (and instead makes it makes the item ‘go off’ and become unwanted). What the item needs is a fresh exposure and a new market – which is what LastBid does, thereby extending its sell-by date.
Intrigued? Want to know more? So do we. That’s why we sat down with Peter Wallman to learn a bit more about his background and to discuss his platform, LastBid.
Barnebys: Let’s start with a bit about your collecting background: what kind of things do you like to acquire and hunt for at auction?
Peter Wallman: I wouldn’t consider myself a collector in the traditional sense, except for jazz records on vinyl. I tend to buy what I personally consider aesthetically-pleasing objects for a specific purpose and to get as much use and enjoyment out of them as I can. I have a couple of classic cars and a classic boat. I enjoy beautiful watches, art, sculpture and design, especially art deco and mid-century and everything that I own gets used or is part of my life. I love the auction process, the exciting dynamic, the education and the competitive atmosphere but I mostly tend to buy things privately.
Are you often bargain hunting and scouring auction catalogues?
Personally, I think that you should always buy things because you love them and because your ownership of them will give you great joy and pleasure – in a slightly eccentric way. In the case of classic cars, boats and watches, driving them, wearing them and cherishing them are the primary reasons for owning them. I am always seeing things that I fall in love with in auction catalogues or at auctions – and they are a great source of inspiration – however, if I don’t see a space in my life for a particular object I won’t buy it just because it’s available or because it seems like a great deal, though there are always exceptions of course…
How did your career in the auction world begin?
My career started in the advertising industry and whilst living in Milan, about 15 years ago, I decided that I wanted a change of direction. I have always had a passion for classic cars and have enjoyed driving them, so when I was in Milan I contacted a UK-based specialist auction house offering to represent them in Italy which is how I got started in the business. Not long after, RM Auctions, the largest specialist auction house for classic cars (now RM Sotheby’s), opened a European office and asked me to join them based in London. I decided to move on after a very exciting and successful 10 years with RM Sotheby’s during which time we witnessed great growth and dynamic change in the business.
And what happened after that?
Following my departure from RM Sotheby’s I began work on LastBid. At the same time, I continue to keep very close contact with the classic car business.
How was it that LastBid started exactly – you saw this gap in the market and thought it was worth filling?
The idea for LastBid originally came from one of my partners in the business and I took that forward. The partners of LastBid all came together via a connection in the classic car world, which has grown enormously over the past 10 to 15 years and is now very much part of mainstream collecting at the highest level.
Classic car auctions can be very expensive to host due to the complex logistics and the need for large venues, therefore every car sold is highly important – including the post-auction sales. Recently, auction houses have begun promoting their unsold lots but they tend to just re-inform the same audience that was already aware of the item's availability before the auction. At LastBid we really want to find a new audience that was previously unaware of the item being available at auction. Many people are not even aware that unsold lots can still be bought for a period following an auction.
LastBid is incredibly new to the auction world, so I’m sure you could understand some users’ hesitations in using the platform. Can you talk a bit about what you’re doing to address this?
The team behind LastBid has huge knowledge and understanding of auction house practices: we encompass many decades of knowledge and we’re not an inexperienced start-up online business by any means. We’re investing heavily in rapidly increasing traffic to the site and developing relationships with auction houses and users. The scope for growth is enormous, and we’re confident.
And you’re a compliment to auction houses, not a direct competitor.
That’s right, auction houses have nothing to lose by using LastBid – it gives unsold lots a second chance with a new audience and it gives auction houses an opportunity to enhance their reputation with sellers. LastBid is a positive selling tool for auction houses when negotiating the consignment of a large collection and it’s also a discreet way of promoting unsold lots to potential buyers, rather than having to do the awkward route of emailing customers to tell them about every item that ‘failed’ to sell.
Experienced buyers and dealers have told us that they are very excited by the idea of having just one searchable platform to browse unsold items across multiple categories.
And where do you see LastBid going from here: how big are you dreaming?
I see no reason why LastBid couldn’t become the World’s ‘go to’ platform for discovering and acquiring those interesting, overlooked hidden treasures that failed to sell at auction the first time around. It’s another important cog in the global auction machine and it keeps things fresh, rather than recycling unsold lots at the next auction.