Sotheby’s to Raise Buyer’s Premium Again, Higher Than Its Rival Christie’s

The spring auction season is coming. Yet, items offered at auction houses are getting more expensive. Following Christie’s decision to raise buyer’s premium on 1 February, Sotheby’s is also going to increase buyer’s premium, effective on 25 February.

Sotheby’s raises buyer’s premium again in less than a year since its last update in June 2018. The increase is more or less the same as its rival Christie’s. The most significant difference lies in the threshold for any amounts in excess of $4,000,000/£3,000,000, where Sotheby's will increase the rate from 12.9% to 13.9%.

As for wine sales, Christie's charges higher rates for all price ranges: 25% for Hong Kong and New York, 22.5% for London while Sotheby's charges 24% for Hong Kong and New York, 21% for London.

For your easy reference, The Value has created a series of tables showing changes in buyer’s premium for hammer prices of $50,000, $500,000, $5m and $50m (based on local currency) respectively. 

We have made comparisons for the rise in buyer’s premium under the new pricing policies at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Take hammer prices of 500,000, 5m and 50m as examples, Sotheby’s charges higher buyer’s premium than its rival Christie’s in salerooms in general. The difference is more obvious in cases with higher hammer prices.


We have 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.

Juin-Octobre 1985, the largest work by abstract master Zao Wou-Ki

The first example is Juin-Octobre 1985, the largest work by abstract master Zao Wou-Ki. It was hammered down at HK$450m and sold for a record-setting HK$510,371,000 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. The buyer’s premium was HK$60,371,000. Under the new pricing policy, the buyer’s premium would be HK$64,616,000, which is about HK$4m higher.

Banksy’s Girl with Balloon (was later renamed to Love is in the Bin)

Banksy’s half-shred painting Girl with Balloon that made headlines around the was hammered down at £860,000 and sold for £1,042,000 after adding a premium of £182,000. Under the new pricing policy, Sotheby’s would charge an additional £5,000 as the premium goes up to £187,000.

Basquiat’s Untitled (Pollo Frito)

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Pollo Frito) was hammered down at US$22.5m at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening auction in New York. The final price realised was US$25,701,500 after including a premium of US$3,201,500. The new buyer’s premium would be US$3,391,500 so there is a difference of US$190,000.