Auction estimate changes in UK

January 4 2017

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The Antiques Trade Gazette reports on a new ruling by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority on auction estimates. At the moment, an auction catalogue gives an estimate of just the hammer price. Only at the end of the catalogue (usually) does the small print tell you that there will be a buyer's premium on top (ranging from about 10% to 30%).

The dispute has a long history in the battle between dealers and auctioneers. The former have felt that auctioneers mis-represent 'the price' of goods - which, to a punter, invariably appear cheaper than a gallery's full retail price - by not including all the extras. It appears that in this case the person who made the official complaint to the ASA was a dealer. Auctioneers have always tended to resist making it easier to see the total price including commissions, even though these days with online bidding platforms and the like it would be the work of a moment. At the main London and New York auction houses, for example, large screens behind the auctioneer convert the hammer price instantly into foreign currencies. But the total price with premium is never shown, until the post-sale press releases want to stress how much everything sold for. But that said, I think really most people bidding at auction are pretty aware of what the total price wil be, even if it sometimes comes as a nasty shock on the invoice (with VAt and everything on top).

The ASA's suggested solution is for auction estimates in catalogues to be presented thus:

Guide price £70,000-80,000 + 10% buyer’s premium and other fees

OR

Guide price £1000–2000 + 20% buyer’s premium and other fees (minimum £150)

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