November 23, 2022
5 min

Auctions: A brief history

Auctions have been around for thousands of years (yes, thousands!) It’s believed that they originated in the busy market streets of Babylon around 500 BC, where villagers or vendors would compete against one another for household items, tools, and treasures.

The nature of these ‘auctions’ would’ve gone something like this:

Once upon a time, a humble carpenter had a beautiful wooden push cart that was very dear to him but of very little use. He had made it for his son some 10 years ago. His son had since left home and although this cart brought back cheerful memories, he knew it would be better off in the home of a younger family who needed it. Its new family could inherit the practicality the cart enabled and the carpenter could use the money from the sale to purchase new tools for his work.

“But who to sell it to?” was the question running through the man’s mind…

As he walked the streets of Babylon, he bumped into a woman who he knew would be able to make use of the cart. The pair began conversing and the woman’s interest towards the object grew as nearby fruit seller joined in on the spectacle.

The woman and the fruit seller both wanted the cart and began negotiating prices with the carpenter. As their offers went up, so too did the attention of other villagers - many of which also added in their own offers until a final decision to go for the highest bidding price was made by the owner.

The growing crowed soon caught onto the idea that they didn’t have to settle for the first amount they were offered for an item they needed to sell. There now seemed a better strategy; they could drive the price up by letting multiple interested parties negotiate amongst themselves. Their previously loved object would be put centre stage and could have an audience of many.

And thus, auctions were born.

An auction is defined as: “A public sale in which goods or property are sold to the highest bidder”.

Fast forward a couple thousand years and auctions had taken on a slightly different skin - they had moved indoors. Traditionally, they took place in designated auction houses where people had to travel far and wide to attend. Valuable items for sale, hundreds of eager eyes, obnoxious shouting, cheque books, auction paddles and an angry-sounding man with a gavel in hand. A rather intimidating environment.

But like most things, products and processes began to change with the global adoption of the internet.

In 2017, the renowned Ritchie Bros. closed down five of their physical auction houses in order to focus their efforts and finances on operating their online business instead of purely hosting the bidding in person.

Ritchie Bros. were certainly not the only ones who made this move; many others before and after them shifted their attention from building auctions houses to building auction platforms, accessible on desktop and mobile devices. A single auctions could become an international event and more people could be involved, driving the competition and expanding the industry in general.

The digital shift to online marketplaces has allowed better connections to form between businesses and consumers regardless of location and time constraints.

Online shopping has allowed retailers to be accessible to individuals who for various reasons can’t physically go into stores and networking using digital platforms has allowed brands to connect directly to their current and prospective clients.

Similarly, online auctions have eased the entire process, availability, accessibility and general requirements for bidding participants. Holding these events online eliminates the wasted time and money spent on travel. As a seller, this disposal mechanism gives you the opportunity to open your asset to a greater pool of potential buyers - and the bigger the net, the better the better your chances are for catching the right fish.

Getting the right eyes on your asset is what you really want. Dealing with a group of professional buyers ups the likelihood of uncovering your assets true value meaning that you can walk away with the right, fair amount in your account.

Online auctions changed the bidding game.

As we mentioned previously, many businesses have already embraced and adopted e-commerce sites as a mechanism to host their businesses and auctions. A prominent example is our partner, DealersOnline.

DealersOnline is a 15 year old South African born business that has made it their mission to fight for fairer markets. Their auction platform opens up a space, a network and an opportunity for professionals to buy and sell their assets to one another 6 days a week. The business’s reputation and platform’s transparency have created a safe, trustworthy online marketplace that has grown to be the largest of its kind in the country.

With over 6,500 active registered buyers, 650 daily listings and more than 300 000 online sales, the incredible success of this businesses is very much contingent on the fact that it was designed and developed for digital.

Connecting buyers and sellers through one online platform, DealersOnline have single handedly changed the way that used cars are traded in South Africa.

William & Renaldo founded DealersOnline in 2007.

So where does CarFling come in?

While DealersOnline focuses primarily on disposals within the B2B sector, CarFling opens up this previously closed marketplace to the general public. Helping consumers beat the middlemen, bank the margin and maximise the sale of their vehicle when selling through us.

In essence CarFling with the help of DealersOnline, have kickstarted the beginning of a new evolution within the auction space and automotive industry. From the bustling streets of Babylon, to the streamlined screens of thousands of buyers and sellers across South Africa, the history book of auction marketplaces has many, many chapters to it.

We’re excited to be authors of the pages currently being written. Pages that we know will be influential for the chapters that follow, and in the greater 'Auction' story of to be told.

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