Long time doll auction houses such as Theriault's and McMasters Harris now offer this, as do many other smaller doll and collectibles auction houses, some of them through eBay's Live Auctions. Attending a live doll auction via the Internet is leap years advanced from phone bidding at an auction or placing absentee bids in advance of an auction. However, attending a live auction via the Internet is not quite as useful as attending in person (or quite as fun).
Try Attending as an Observer Before You Try Actual Bidding
If you've never tried attending a live auction on the Internet, I suggest you try it out once, as an observer, before you attend an auction you really care about via the Internet. If possible, make your first "test auction" one at the auction house that you think you most frequently would use. In this way, you can test out their live auction web site, test out your Internet connection using their live auction web site (since the speed of the connection can vary quite a bit depending on many factors). You can also get the feel for the timing of the auction and the bidding--with even the very best of the live Internet auctions, there is always a time lag of some sort, and that lag can mean you can lose out on a doll where you think you are the high bidder, or in a situation where you hesitate for a few seconds. The hesitation can be magnified by the lag of the live auction feed, and can cause you to lose a doll you love.
Register In Advance
Also, make sure that you register at least a day or two in advance of most live Internet auctions--some auction houses require prior clearance, and nearly all of them will at least require a credit card on file before you can bid.
Advantages of Live Internet Bidding
Some of the advantages of live Internet bidding at a terra firma auction include the lower cost (no hotel or airline bills), the possibility of bidding on lots that go for a low price (you simply don't have that chance if you are a phone or an absentee bidder) and the ability to monitor whatever part of the auction you are most interested (not interested in the next 20 lots? Dust the furniture or make brownies!).
Disadvantages of Live Internet Bidding
Some disadvantages of live Internet bidding versus actually attending the live auctions include the time lag discussed above, as well as missing a fun event and a chance to meet other collectors. The greatest disadvantage, by far, is the fact that you cannot attend the doll preview and inspect the dolls yourself. This is disappointing in two ways--first, you lose the educational opportunity of seeing a great many antique and vintage dolls in one place, including dolls you might not be interested in bidding on. Second, and far worse, is that you cannot inspect the dolls in person. This is a terrible disadvantage versus the people who do attend the auction in person--you won't be able to inspect the doll for damages or incorrect descriptions. Also, dolls, like people, often photograph much differently than they look in person--a photograph on the Internet may not have the skin, eye and hair tones properly rendered, for instance. And, some dolls just have an incredible "presence" when you see them in person, but not when you see them in a photograph--and vice versa.
Trust me--the first time you are bidding on a doll at a live Internet auction and it seems like it is going at a low price, and you are only bidding against another Internet attendee (you can generally tell this from the live auction feed) you will wonder what is wrong with the doll--what have all the people in the auction room seen (or not seen) that you can't tell from the photo on the Internet?
Opportunities For Live Internet Bidding
In any event, there are multiple opportunities to attend one of these auctions for yourself, generally, there are several auctions a month. You can find out about them by getting e-mail newsletters from the auction houses, and by browsing the resources at the end of this article. If you attend a live Internet auction good luck--I hope you bid on and win the doll of your dreams!