Pre-Auction Services

Anyone is welcome to attend a Skinner auction. Pre-auction services assist you in viewing and inquiring about the property on offer, and acquaint new bidders with the auction process.

Auction Previews

Attend the Auction Preview

The auction preview is your chance to examine and handle the objects you may be interested in bidding on. Have questions to ask? Our antiques and fine art specialists are on hand at the preview, ready to help you make a sound decision by offering frank opinions about the quality, condition, provenance, rarity and value of any piece.

View the auction schedule for dates, times and locations of upcoming auctions. Auction previews typically open to the public several days in advance of an auction and appointments may be necessary. Please refer to the auction landing page for the sale specifics. 

Free and Open to the Public

The auction preview is a chance to view fine art and antiques, often of museum quality, for free. Set up as a gallery show curated by our world-respected experts, the preview offers an opportunity to see and learn about one-of-a-kind objects of value that have history and personality.

Many of our specialists lead gallery walks before the auction, where they discuss the history and qualities of the very best and most unique pieces in the auction. Previews and gallery walks are always free and open to the public. 

Skinner promotes public interest in art and antiques, and regularly invites scholars and experts to give lectures in conjunction with our auction previews. Jewelry artist Robert Lee Morris, landscape architect Ken Druse, and Historic Deerfield president Philip Zea have all spoken at the Skinner gallery.

Join our email list to receive invitations to Skinner previews, gallery walks, and other special events.


If you see something that you’re interested in purchasing, you don’t need to attend the auction to participate. You may leave an absentee bid while at the preview, or at any time in advance of the lot being offered at auction. Ask a Skinner representative at the preview for guidance if you are interested in phone bidding.

To experience the excitement of the saleroom, return on the day of the auction to bid in person or bid live online with SkinnerLive!

Learn more about buying at auction

Explanation of our Glossary of Terms 

Read the Conditions of Sale

Can’t Attend?

If you cannot attend the preview in person, view the auction online and ask questions by email or phone. Our specialists are happy to provide specific condition reports or detailed photographs.


Condition Reports

Get Detailed Condition Information

It is always a wise decision to view an item in person before you place a bid, but we understand that sometimes circumstances prevent you from attending an auction preview. In these instances, as a courtesy, our experts offer personalized service and detailed condition reports to assist you in making an informed decision about your purchase.

During the week prior to an auction, we regularly update catalog listings on our website with additional images and condition information.

If the information you are looking for is not included in the online catalog listing, you may request a condition report. Please contact the appropriate specialist using the published phone number or email address or click the inquire button  next to any lot in the online catalog.

When submitting an inquiry, be sure to include the sale and lot number. We are happy to provide additional photographs, specific measurements, descriptions of damage or repairs, or other information as time permits.

Skinner experts will respond to condition requests and other inquiries about items in the auction in the order they are received, and before the auction begins.

Many lots in our auction catalogs already contain condition information. If condition is not mentioned in a catalog listing, this does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.

Condition reports are supplied as a courtesy. Any condition information you receive should be considered an opinion, and not a statement of fact. Skinner shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. All property is sold “as is,” as stated in the Conditions of Sale.

Auction Fees

How Much Will I Pay?

When planning your maximum bid amount, please keep in mind that additional fees apply beyond the winning hammer price. Please read the Conditions of Sale for more information.

Buyer’s Premium

Skinner charges a low, competitive premium for each item purchased. A premium equal to 25% of the final bid price up to and including $250,000, plus 20% of the final bid price from $250,001 up to and including $3,000,000, plus 12% of the final bid price from $3,000,001 and over will be applied to each lot sold.

Hammer PriceBuyer’s PremiumLive Online Buyer’s Premium
Up to and including $250,00025%25%
$250,001 to $3,000,00020%20%
$3,000,001 and over12%12%

Sales Tax

Purchases picked up in Massachusetts or shipped to states where Skinner is registered are subject to sales tax. Certain dealers, museums, and other qualifying parties may be exempt by registering with the appropriate state and submitting a valid sales tax exemption form.

Learn more about  Sales Tax and Exemptions


Auction Glossary

An auction is a fun and fast-paced event unlike any other type of buying or selling. Many terms we use may be unfamiliar if you are new to the auction process.

Paddle Number

Whether you bid with an actual paddle in the auction room, or join us by phone or online, you will need to register and be assigned a paddle number for each specific auction. This paddle number allows Skinner to match up your name and information with your winning bids.

Standard Bidding Increments

The auctioneer calls out for and accepts bids following a regular pattern, known as standard increments. As the price gets higher, the increments increase in size. While the auctioneer will generally use the increments below, the auctioneer may decide to change the increment, and this decision is at his or her discretion.

Current BidStandard Increment
Up to $199$10
Over $1,000,000$100,000

Auction Estimates

Next to every lot in an auction catalog, you’ll find a low and high estimate of what the item is expected to bring at auction. Skinner sets fair and conservative estimates based on what similar items have brought in the past. This estimate provides the seller with an expectation of what they will earn at auction, and helps the buyer determine a reasonable purchase price.


Occasionally, for objects of high value, the consignor and auction house will make a contractual agreement on a minimum price, or reserve. If an item does not meet the reserve, it will not be sold. Property may also be offered without a reserve, meaning that there is no minimum price, or the minimum is at the auctioneer’s discretion.

Hammer Price

The hammer price is the number you hear when the auctioneer announces, “Sold!” These prices are almost always round numbers that follow the standard bidding increments.

Buyer’s Premium

The buyer’s premium is a standard auction fee charged to the buyer. Skinner charges a fair and competitive buyer’s premium.

Price Realized

The price realized equals the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, and this number is the final price that will be published in auction reports and news stories.

Timed Auction

A red stopwatch distinguishes a timed auction from a live auction in the auction schedule. A Skinner timed auction takes place entirely online over a span of time. During this time, all lots are open for online bidding. Learn how to bid in a timed auction.