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The buyer’s premium at auction : key figures and evolution

[12 Sep 2017]

Auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s have both announced they will restructure their buyer’s premium scale in September. The fees add on to the hammer price and undergo regular adjustments in prominent auction houses – they depend on the hammer price and the country of sale, and their increasingly complex structure is meant to achieve growing profitability. Artprice has looked into the evolution of buyer’s premiums and delivered key figures and evolution.


The average buyer’s premium observed over the 1st half of 2017 on a global scale. In 2000, they averaged 16% and only 10% in 1990.


The highest buyer’s premium in force at Sotheby’s – they are applicable in Milan for hammer prices below €150,000. VAT is included.


Auction house Sotheby’s has decided that online auctions should be totally exempt of buyer’s premium, a move aimed at helping the segment to develop.


The historic flat rate charged by the major auction houses. They have switched to sliding scale fees a couple of decades ago, which benefit the more expensive transactions.


The total amount paid in fees by Mister Maezawa for the record-breaking sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled last May. His US$98 million bid came with a 12.7% buyer’s premium.


The lowest fees charged this year. Turkish auction house Ankara Antikacilik’s 2nd March 2017 sale posted particularly low buyer’s premiums – an extra 17% fee applied, for VAT.

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