’50 Things That Made the Modern Economy – Auctions’ | BBC


As the world adjusts to its new normal during the coronavirus crisis, it is a tonic to see insightful pieces of journalism like this from the BBC World Service. In it, presenter Tim Harford talks about the history of auctions in the series ‘50 Things That Made the Modern Economy‘, which highlights the inventions, ideas and innovations that helped create the economic world.

We are reminded that auctions are one of the oldest building blocks of the modern economy. They have survived and thrived through economic change, wars and the birth of the internet. Indeed we are currently seeing many auction houses innovating and adapting in creative ways using the internet to overcome the current situation and keep business going uninterrupted. 

In the piece, Harford travels from 500BC and the times of Herodutus, through the Punic Wars of 200BC, and beyond to the 19th Century and then the present day success of online auctions. He says:

“Auctions seem to be almost as common as the marketplace itself.

You can imagine the idea being endlessly rediscovered around the world, whenever some trader offered to pay three obols per jar for a shipment of olive oil and the man next to him said: “Don’t take that offer – I’ll pay four”.

From such simple moments evolved the theatrical event we call the “open outcry” auction – a room full of art or antique dealers, millionaire backers submitting bids by phone, and a dapper auctioneer tickling the whole process along.”

Auctions have been ingrained in our economies since ancient times and their role in the modern economy shows no sign of abating. We’re excited to be a part of it.

Read the full article here and watch the video here.

And don’t forget to check out the latest auctions happening across all of our marketplaces:

thesaleroom.com for art & antiques.

i-bidder.com – for consumer goods and cars and commercial vehicles. 

• BidSpotter – for industrial auctions with specific platforms for North America (BidSpotter.com) and Europe (BidSpotter.co.uk).     

Lot-tissimo.com – for fine art and antiques in Germany. 

Proxibid – our US marketplace for multiple categories including machinery, agricultural equipment, and art & antiques.