Not much of anything is normal or unchanging in this very difficult time. Book auctions have not been exempt. The term “auction rooms” implies the problem. An auction room is a place crowded with bidders and auction house personnel, often packed into a limited space. In most of the big cities around the world where the largest auctions are held such a venue has been outlawed for now. In those places without such regulations, they should have them. Bidders at book auctions, mainly collectors and dealers, occasionally an institution, tend to be older people, those most vulnerable. This is a time to stay safe.
If you follow book auctions on this website (and this is the one stop place to view book auctions from hundreds of houses from all over the world), you may have noticed some posted auctions disappearing. Some houses plan out their schedule for the entire year before January 1. No one anticipated anything like this. Many have gone ahead anyway. Some have been cancelled. Many have been postponed. In this case, some have selected alternate dates. Good luck with these unless they are far out. Others have been postponed with no alternate date set. They will play it by ear.
While auctions that have not been catalogued are easy to postpone or cancel, it is trickier with auctions that are set to go. Consigners have obvious expectations of a sale, and potential bidders who have viewed the postings will be disappointed. It doesn't matter. There are basically two options - postpone or dispense with live bidding. That leads us to the type of auctions that have mostly not been affected. Many auctions today are online only. Even large established auction houses now have online-only auctions. Those are free to go forward.
Will we see more online auctions in the days ahead? Naturally. The question is when this is all over, will there be a permanent shift? It would be unusual if things ever return to where they were before.
So, it you have been following auctions here, and see sales or individual lots you have been following disappear, this is the explanation. Expect to see more of it in the days ahead. If the lots you are following are in an online auction, they will probably (but not certainly) go off as scheduled. Even online auctions require people and the auction may be difficult to run with remote personnel.
To keep up with what sales are coming up, and which have disappeared, check with our auction calendar. You will find it here: www.rarebookhub.com/auctions/calendar.