Press release

Sotheby's and Launch on November 19, 1999

November 19, 1999 at 12:00 AM EST

Thousands of lots of art, valuable objects, and collectibles guaranteed by experts for authenticity and condition

Treasure from the "Ship of Gold"; 18th-century Georgian flatware; Presentation copy of the first Harry Potter book; Austin Powers' Beetle; Memorabilia from Secretariat; Baseball memorabilia from historic Halper Collection are among inaugural Internet auction highlights

NEW YORK, LONDON, SEATTLE-/BusinessWire/November 19, 1999-Sotheby's Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: BID), and, today launched, the much-anticipated online auction site of the internationally recognized leading art auction house and the world's leading e-commerce company. makes a broad range of art, valuable objects, and collectibles from more than l00 collecting categories accessible to interested bidders, whether in the comfort of their homes or offices. And, for the first time on the Internet, auction bidders will be able to buy valuable items with complete confidence. Every lot is guaranteed for authenticity and condition by acknowledged experts-whether Sotheby's or one of the 4,500 dealers from around the world whom Sotheby's has pre-selected. Bidders can buy with the trust, ease, and convenience for which is world-renowned. ( offers property 24 hours a day at all price levels, from $l00 to $100,000 and higher, in categories including jewelry, watches, silver, furniture, entertainment and sports memorabilia, fashion, coins, paintings, and photographs.

Auction enthusiasts can search for particular items or browse by category to find, discover, and buy special items of interest to them. There is also a section on the home page dedicated to Special Sales, where customers can preview many of the exciting current and upcoming auction events being held by throughout the year.

Unique site features include:

  • Low- and high-price estimates on each item
  • Rich, detailed photographs, condition reports, and item histories
  • Payments technology, which makes purchasing and payment quick and easy
  • A guarantee of authenticity and condition on all items
  • Only qualified experts as sellers
  • More than 25 buying guides written by Sotheby's experts
  • Extensive help guides that explain everything one needs to know to participate in easily and successfully

Diana D. Brooks, President and CEO of Sotheby's, said, "With today's launch of, Sotheby's 255-year history of art and collectibles expertise, together with's unequalled Internet experience, introduces a world of wonderful-and authenticated-art, objects, and collectibles to a global audience. This new medium offers new as well as experienced auction bidders access to the two standards that have ensured Sotheby's success since 1744: unrivalled expertise and a vast selection of exciting property. Through, Internet auction buyers-initially from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany-can experience the world of Internet auctions, while our live-auction customers will be introduced to a fascinating new dimension of the Sotheby's auction experience."

"We are so excited to be working with Sotheby's to bring fine and valuable objects to customers everywhere," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, "In the world of valuable objects, a big problem with online auctions has been authenticity. With Sotheby's reputation and expertise in sourcing and authenticating art and valuable objects, and both companies' relentless focus on the customer, auction bidders can now buy these items with complete confidence, because they know what they're getting is the real thing."

Unparalleled Selection

Treasure from the "Ship of Gold"

A gold bar worth $l25/l75,000, gold dust, and nuggets salvaged from the 1857 wreck of the Gold Rush treasure ship, the SS Central America, is among the early offerings on (following the conclusion of Sotheby's live sale of the treasure on December 8 to 9). After resting on the ocean floor 8,000 feet deep for l30 years, in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina, the golden nuggets, gold bar, and pieces of original gold dust are estimated from as little as $100 up to $125,000.

Georgian Silver Service

Other treasures include a 64-piece Georgian Silver King's Pattern Flatware Service, circa 1780, one of the great classic silver patterns of the 18th century. The partial set is estimated to bring $2/3,000.

Presentation Copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (U.S.: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Both Sotheby's and Amazon began as booksellers-251 years apart-and books are an important collecting category on the site. Foremost among the inaugural selection of books is a presentation copy of the first Harry Potter book. This publishing phenomenon, a group of books about a young sorcerer's adventures, has fascinated adults and children alike. Inscribed by the author, J.K. Rowling, to the woman who first read the manuscript, this mint copy from 1997 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is expected to sell for between $16/24,000.

Also to be auctioned on is a signed and inscribed first-edition copy of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, estimated at $2,500/3,500.

Austin Power's Time Machine from The Spy Who Shagged Me Among the highlights of the inaugural auction on is Austin Powers's time machine, popularly known as the Shagmobile, a 1998 customized convertible Beetle with a psychedelic paint finish, from the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

The car to be auctioned on, which is estimated at $30/50,000, was the only Beetle used during the filming of the movie. The importance of the use of the Beetle was not lost by the film's director, Jay Roach: "The new Volkswagen really is a time machine-inside you're supposed to feel like it's the '60s, while it is clearly a '90s car. It was the perfect channel to transport Austin from '90s culture to '60s culture."

Special Sales

In addition to the thousands of items that are offered for sale on a daily basis, special sales will be conducted throughout the year. Whether it's the Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, gold from the sunken treasure of SS Central America, or Secretariat memorabilia, provides access to the allure of special sales organized by Sotheby's.

Following the success of Sotheby's auction of The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, which became the single highest-grossing sale of sports memorabilia in history when it brought in $21.8 million, now offers more than 5,500 interesting and unusual lots of baseball memorabilia on the Internet. Halper memorabilia includes a 1912 World Series Program autographed by "Smokey" Joe Wood and President Woodrow Wilson (est. $700/$l,000) and a program from the last game Babe Ruth ever pitched, in 1933 (est. $500/700). Other special offerings include a ticket stub from the Lou Gehrig Memorial Game, played at Yankee Stadium in l941 (est. $200/300) and a large, autographed photo of Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays (est. $500/l,000). Hundreds of baseballs, including many signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, scores of uniforms, and signed photographs are also up for auction.

Memorabilia from the career of Secretariat, America's most-loved Triple Crown winner, consigned by Penny Chenery, daughter of Secretariat's owner, will include Secretariat's blankets and tack used at the time of his celebrated victories and a bronze sculpture of Secretariat estimated at $40/60,000.

Commencing at launch and continuing, hundreds of U.S. Gold Coins from the Collection of John and Rebecca Moores, one of the finest such collections ever formed, will be sold on behalf of the Scripps Research Institute.

Expertise and Education

Sotheby's has 255 years of experience in authenticating property and auctioning the finest art, antiques, and other unique items to collectors around the world. Sotheby's has selected only dealers who are specialists in their fields, to ensure that all customers can buy with complete confidence.

To help customers place informed bids and to help demystify the auction process for those who have never bought at auction before, more than 25 buying guides written by Sotheby's are provided. Each guide presents bidders (or browsers) with the basic information necessary to evaluate potential purchases in a specific category-from what to look for in a condition report to what adds value to that category, as well as other helpful advice.

Every Object Is Guaranteed's community of professional sellers-whether Sotheby's or its over 4,500 dealer associates-guarantees the authenticity of all items sold. All buyers receive a distinctive Property Certificate from The Property Certificate provides buyers with a lasting document that presents and preserves the unique history of the item.

Buying with Ease

Accessible at, from the Auctions' home page and's home page, the site has the same features, navigation, and functionality that has made familiar to millions of Internet shoppers.

All transactions at are made using Payments, a custom payment service that takes the hassle out of arranging shipping and payment terms directly with the seller. Successful bidders receive a summary of their entire bills, including applicable taxes, shipping and insurance fees as well as shipping method. Once the bidder confirms his or her shipping address and credit card (already registered at, Payments charges that credit card and instructs the seller to ship the purchase. also sends a shipment confirmation number from the seller to the buyer so they can monitor the status of the delivery. The buyer's credit card number is never sent to the seller.

Buyer's Premium

The buyer's premium, which is a fee added to the final bid price of each object sold, has been successfully used by auctioneers all over the world. As in the traditional live auction business, successful bidders on pay a buyer's premium of 10 percent.

About Sotheby's

Sotheby's began as a book auction house in London in 1744. Today the company has 107 offices located in 41 countries, with principal salesrooms in New York and London. The company has recently expanded operations in Paris, Amsterdam and Zurich. Sotheby's conducts auctions in 18 other salesrooms and sells nearly 200,000 lots a year in more than 80 collecting categories in its live auction business.

In January of 1999 Sotheby's took a historic step when it became the first international art auction house to announce that it would hold auctions on the internet on, a new Internet auction business for art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles. In June of 1999, Sotheby's announced an alliance with, the world's leading e-commerce company. The joint Internet auction site,, devoted to the general antique collector and to the world of collectibles, was launched on November 19, 1999.

Memorable auctions in Sotheby's 255-year-history include the sale of the library of Napoleon (1811); the sale of van Gogh's Irises for $53 million, Renoir's Au Moulin de la Galette for $78 million; the auction of the Grand Ducal Collections of the Margrave of Baden Baden and the Princely Collections of the Thurn und Taxis Family. More recently, the company has auctioned the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1996 and the Collection of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1998. Auction highlights in 1999 include the sale of property from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney which brought more than $l70 million, the contents of Château de Groussay in France, which brought $26 million, and 46 works from the Saidenberg Collection, including Picasso's portrait of Dora Maar which sold for $49.5 million, the second highest price ever paid for a painting by the artist at auction.

Between 1998 and 1999 the company's headquarters in New York were expanded, with six new floors added to the York Avenue location. When completed in the Autumn of 2000, Sotheby's New York will be a state-of-the-art auction and cultural destination. In September of 1999 Sotheby's completed the first phase of this project and opened the new six floors, with a new salesroom and a 25,000 square-foot exhibition gallery on the tenth floor designed by well known architect Richard Gluckman. This space is lit by huge panes of glass which flood the gallery with natural light and exhibits works of art of the highest quality in a museum-standard setting.

Besides the traditional live auction business, Sotheby's Financial Services provides art-related financing secured by works of art; Sotheby's Ventures arranges private sales of art work; Sotheby's International Realty provides brokerage, marketing and consulting services for luxury properties and through Sotheby's Insurance Brokerage Services clients can obtain a fine and decorative arts policy which can be extended to cover homes purchased through Sotheby's Realty.

This release contains certain "forward-looking statements" (as such term is defined in the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) relating to future events and the financial performance of the Company. Such statements are only predictions and involve risks and uncertainties, resulting in the possibility that the actual events or performance will differ materially from such predictions. Major factors which the Company believes could cause the actual results to differ materially from the predicted results in the "forward-looking statements" include the overall strength of the international economy and financial markets, competition with other auctioneers and art dealers, the volume of consigned property and the marketability at auction of such property, and the Company's success in developing and implementing its Internet auction strategy.

About, Inc. (, Inc., and its subsidiaries) is the Internet's No. 1 music, No. 1 DVD and video, and No. 1 book retailer. (NASDAQ: AMZN) opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection, along with online auctions and free electronic greeting cards. lists more than 18 million unique items in categories including books, CDs, toys, electronics, videos, DVDs, home-improvement products, software, and video games. Through zShops, any business or individual can sell virtually anything to's more than 13 million customers, and with Payments, any seller can accept credit card transactions, avoiding the hassles of offline payments. seeks to be the world's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they may want to buy online.'s All Product Search scours the Web to help customers find merchandise that is not available at, Auctions, or zShops, making the shopping destination to find anything. operates two international Web sites: in the United Kingdom and in Germany. also operates PlanetAll (, a Web-based address book, calendar, and reminder service. It also operates the Internet Movie Database (, the Web's comprehensive and authoritative source of information on more than 150,000 movies and entertainment programs and 500,000 cast and crewmembers dating from the birth of film in 1892 to the present. also operates LiveBid Auctions (, the leading provider of live-event auctions on the Internet. has invested in leading Internet retailers that are improving the lives of customers by making shopping easier and more convenient:, an online retail and information source for health, beauty, wellness, personal care and pharmacy, at;, the online leader for pet products, expert information, and services, at;, the first fully integrated Internet grocery-shopping and home-delivery service, with operations in Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Southern California, at; and, which offers brand-name sporting goods at prices from 20 to 90 percent off retail, at also has a minority interest in Della & James, which brings together leading retailers with gift registry, expert advice, and personalized gift suggestions to help everyone give better gifts, at

This announcement contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others,'s limited operating history, anticipated losses, unpredictability of future revenues, potential fluctuations in quarterly operating results, seasonality, consumer trends, competition, risks of distribution-center expansion, risks related to fourth-quarter performance, risks of system interruption, management of potential growth, risks related to auction and zShops services, risks related to fraud and Payments, and risks of new business areas, international expansion, business combinations, and strategic alliances. More information about factors that potentially could affect's financial results is included in's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 1998 and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 1999, June 30, 1999, and September 30, 1999.