I'm a "dot com" journalist, a writer on the Internet. And while that may sound a lot less glamorous than, say, covering a war or a presidential campaign, what I do has its benefits. For example, it radically reduces the number of days I have to wear pants. But for most people, the great advantage of the Internet is the anonymity: you can do just about anything on-line with little chance of embarrassment, such as attend a wine auction without knowing much about wine.
All auctions are, almost by definition, terrifying events. You know, scratch your nose at the wrong time and the next thing you know you're 10 grand in the hole and the proud owner of Henry VIII's truss. But buying at an Internet auction seemed like a safer bet to me.
And I'm hardly alone. Ursula Hermacinski, executive vice president of the on-line wine auction house Winebid.com, says that her company has attracted more than 4,000 registered bidders in only 30 months while the venerable auction house Christie's has just 3,000 catalog subscribers after 30 years. When another on-line auction house, Ebay, went public last year, its share price opened at $18; less than four months later, it was $321. Add to this the union of Amazon.com and Sotheby's, and there's pretty compelling evidence that we are, as industry analysts have said, entering the golden age of auctions, thanks to the Internet.