In a sign of the times, auction house Bonhams has purchased online auction platform The Market.
U.K. readers will be familiar with The Market, which launched in 2017 and trades heavily in British roadsters and sports cars. Like so many online platforms, including U.K. competitor Collecting Cars, it performed extremely well during the COVID lockdowns, reporting a 300-percent increase in turnover last year with a 94-percent sell-through rate. It’s not the first online player to attract the attention of more established companies—publishing conglomerate Hearst acquired Bring a Trailer last June.
For Bonhams, the purchase comes along with a C-suite shakeup. Maarten Ten Holder, formerly of RM Sotheby’s, has joined Bonhams as managing director, replacing James Knight, who had been with the company’s motoring division since 2000. The past few years had already been eventful for the venerable auction house. It was itself acquired by private equity firm Epiris in 2018 and, even before the pandemic, had been expanding its live sales to include more attainable classics.
Bonhams had also already introduced online bidding—the 2020 edition of its Monterey sale at the Quail was actually a livestream from Los Angeles—but the Market brings them into the world of continuous lots, social media-driven sales, and more attainable cars. Bonhams is betting that the car auction scene has been permanently altered by the pandemic. We’d say that’s a safe bet. Online sales were already a promising part of the collector car market going into the pandemic, and their growth hasn’t slowed as lockdowns gradually lift. Bring a Trailer, for instance, has opened 2021 by roughly doubling its monthly sales, year-over-year, with no drop off in sell-through rates.