eBay Makes Deal to Add Premium Category

The king of the online auction houses is making a big push into the high-end market. On Thursday, eBay.com (Nasdaq: EBAY) announced that it was partnering with upscale brick-and-mortar auction house Butterfield & Butterfield to introduce a new trading category on eBay.com.

The companies will work together to auction antiques, fine art and collectibles on eBay’s Web site. The new category is expected to be offered beginning in the second quarter of 1999.

Increased Security for Customers

In addition to giving eBay access to an international network of auction houses, Butterfield & Butterfield will offer authentication, appraisal and consignment services for items listed in the new premium category and elsewhere on eBay.

“We intend our partnership with Butterfield & Butterfield to revolutionize the auction industry and bring a host of authenticated, premium auction items to eBay’s marketplace of buyers and sellers from around the world,” said Steve Westly, vice president of marketing and business development at eBay.

Security and authentication have been major concerns for customers of online auction houses, and eBay is scrambling to make buyers feel more secure. On April 6th, eBay partnered with Collectors Universe to give customers expert authentication and grading options in product categories such as trading cards and rare coins. One day later, eBay reached an agreement with New York City’s consumer protection agency on a set of anti-fraud measures.

About Butterfield & Butterfield

Butterfield & Butterfield is a privately held company that was founded in San Francisco, in 1865. The company has galleries in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and representatives throughout the United States and cities in Europe, including Paris, London, Munich and Brussels.

Butterfield & Butterfield is also creating a formidable Web presence. The company’s other online partners include entertainment network Zing.com and auction site LiveBid.com, which Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) recently agreed to purchased.

Butterfield & Butterfield’s Web site includes information about upcoming auctions for items like musical instruments and fine art. The company also publishes an online magazine for auction enthusiasts and offers free online appraisals of items.

Stock Impact

Shares of eBay stock soared 16 points to 178-7/8 after the news on Thursday. Volume was heavy on an overall heavy day for Internet stocks. Over five million shares of eBay stock changed hands, more than a million more than the daily average.

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