Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers of Objects of Value

Consigning to Auction, Part IV: Auction Fees

This blog post completes my series on Consigning at Auction. We’ve covered the appraisal process, what to expect in an antiques appraisal, and auction schedules.

Now, we’ll discuss auction fees, as this is often an area where many people have questions. Auction buyer fees and seller fees are the industry standard. The fees pay for the work the auction house puts in to make sure your property reaches the best possible buying audience.

Auction Fees

Buyer’s Premium is Consistent

The buyer’s fee, or buyer’s premium as it is called, is a percentage that is added onto the hammer price of an object. (The hammer price is the final value called out at the auction.) The buyer’s premium is always paid by the buyer, and it is never waived or reduced because doing so would be considered giving unfair advantage to one buyer over another. Buyer’s premiums will differ house to house and generally range anywhere from 10%-25%.  See Skinner’s Conditions of Sale for our buyer’s premium.

Seller’s Commission is Negotiable

The seller’s fee is called a commission, and this can differ seller to seller, anywhere from 0% to 25% of the hammer price of an object. Why such a broad range in fees? Unlike buyers, sellers are not competing against each other, and simply put, great stuff drives the auction business. Bidders want to buy great objects, so auction houses want to sell great objects. And as a seller, if you possess the rare and beautiful, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can negotiate a lower commission than a seller with average goods, and even no commission at all if your item is exceedingly rare. If you are selling an entire collection, this can also warrant a lower commission. A seller’s commission rate is confidential between an auction house and the consignor. Again, all of this is standard practice within the industry.

Other seller’s fees might include nominal charges for photography of your item, insurance, transportation, or for special services such as restoration, cleaning, or repair of an object prior to sale. Your chosen auction house can walk you through their standard consignment fees and work with you on an appropriate rate for your property.

Auction Fees: You Get What You Pay For

When negotiating fees, remember that you get what you pay for. This is critically important in a service-oriented business where specific expertise is required, such as fine art & antiques auctions. Be wary of an auction house that promises to sell your objects for no fees at all. This could indicate a lower level of service, or be a tip-off that items of a similar caliber to yours don’t find their way to that house often. If they don’t often sell the material, they won’t know who the key buyers are and how to reach them, creating a potentially adverse effect on the hammer price at auction.

Why Choose Auction?

The auction process is thousands of years old. It’s a tried and true method to find the highest price for an object by creating competition in an open market space. You the consignor and the auction house are on the same side, both working toward ensuring that a valuable object realizes its potential. Now, what could be smarter than that?

8 thoughts on “Consigning to Auction, Part IV: Auction Fees

    • We handle all manner of art and antiques at auction, but stamps are a unique collecting category. Please refer to a stamp collecting society, such as The American Philatelic Society, for more information: http://stamps.org/Home

  1. Gooday, Yes i do not have a reply to the qestion above ,however i an interested in auctioning and or selling my issue of ”Masterpieces of modern art”, descriptions by John Clark Ridparth, this red in color book with gilt title, and 32 black and white photograuves has left me clueless .There is not a mention of this works in any u.s college archives or search sites.Also it is not listed in the list of ridparths life works. im wondering if your house would be interested in investigating the works and taking on conceinment..I look forward to your responce,Best Regards,Michael A Dennis Sr.

  2. We recently put our home on the market. Once sold, we will have 37 days to move. We are trying to make up our minds between an auction or an estate sale. Any suggestion would be greatly helpful. Thank you, Bob Beam

  3. The role of auction is to promote antiques, fine art and collectibles to a world-wide audience of interested collectors, decorators, dealers and institutional buyers. Supply and demand is at play. Prices often soar for rare and desirable works, and are more modest for material commonly seen and readily available. As auctioneers, we ultimately let the marketplace decide on an items worth – if one person is willing to spend X, maybe someone else is prepared to bid higher… KAS

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