Sotheby’s Raises Buyer’s Premium for Third Year in a Row

Following Christie’s announcement of raising buyer’s premium which took effect from 11 September 2017, Sotheby’s also increased its buyer’s premium for the third year in a row, after its previous adjustment in February 2016. The shift in fee rates started on 1 November this year in various locations, except for Beijing, where charges remain 18% for all price ranges.

The Value has created a series of tables showing changes in buyer’s premium under scenarios of different hammer prices, including $50,000, $500,000, $5m and $50m (based on local currency) respectively. We have also selected a few lots from the recent autumn sales in three main auction sites – Hong Kong, New York and London, illustrating how buyer’s premium would have been affected under the new structure.

The first example is a Ru-ware brush washer from the Northern Song dynasty, the most expensive ceramic piece in the world. It was hammered down for record-shattering HK$260m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this October. Sotheby’s charged HK$34,287,500 as buyer’s premium. Under the new pricing policy, the buyer’s premium is HK$35,257,500, HK$970,000 higher after the adjustment.

The second example is yellow and green enamelled blue and white vase, which was hammered down for US$920,000 at Important Chinese Art Sale in New York this September. The buyer’s premium was US$196,500 whereas the buyer’s premium is US$199,000 under the new pricing policy, US$2,500 higher after the adjustment. 

The last one is a pair of ‘famille-rose’ ‘sanduo’ cups from the Collection of Edward T. Chow, a prominent art dealer in ceramics. It was sold at Important Chinese Art sale in London this November and adopted the new pricing policy. The cups were hammered down for £1.6m and the buyer’s premium was £329,000. The buyer’s premium would have been £328,750 before the rate increase, making a difference of only £250.