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Sotheby's International Realty
Buy in Sotheby's
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Buy in Sotheby's

You've found the perfect item - in a catalogue, on, in Preview magazine. You've examined it during the pre-sale exhibition and/or spoken with one of Sotheby's' specialists. Now you're ready to bid. Making a purchase at Sotheby's is simple. The general steps are 1) registering to bid 2) bidding 3) paying 4) picking up or shipping your property.

Bidding at Sotheby's

To bid in person, you will need to register for and collect a numbered paddle before the auction begins. Please remember to bring government-issued proof of identity, such as a driving license or passport, with you. If you are a first-time bidder, you will also be asked for your address, telephone number, and signature in order to create your account. In addition, you may be asked to provide a bank reference. If you are bidding on behalf of a third party, you will need to provide a letter from that person authorizing you to bid on his/her behalf.

To place your bid, simply raise your paddle until the auctioneer acknowledges you. You will know when your bid has been acknowledged; the auctioneer will not mistake a random gesture for a bid. The bidding increments are decided by the auctioneer, and will usually not exceed ten percent of the previous bid. The auctioneer will take increasing bids on each lot, until only one bidder remains. The final bidder purchases the lot. Each lot will have a reserve, which is the confidential minimum selling price previously agreed with the seller. If the bidding fails to reach this price, the lot will remain unsold.

If you are unable to attend the auction in person, Sotheby's will be happy to execute written bids on your behalf. This service is free and confidential. Sotheby's publishes an absentee bid form at the back of each catalogue and as a download on, which you may use to indicate the item upon which you wish to bid and the maximum bid amount you are willing to make. If you do not have an account with Sotheby's already, your absentee bid form will contain the information required for registration, and Sotheby's will contact you to confirm your identity.

Completed absentee bid forms should be returned to the bid department at the Sotheby's office conducting the auction, by fax (preferred), by post, or in person with any Sotheby's client service staff member. When Sotheby's executes an absentee bid on your behalf, the lot will always be bought for the lowest increment that exceeds all competing bids and which meets or exceeds the reserve price. In the event of identical bids, the earliest received will take precedence. You may also use the Absentee Bid form to indicate more than one item on which you would like to bid, depending upon whether your earlier bid is successful (an "or" bid). Sotheby's is not able to execute "Buy" or unlimited bids.

Written and telephone bids are offered as an additional service for no extra charge, and at the buyer's risk. Sotheby's cannot accept liability for failure to place such bids. Successful absentee bidders will receive an invoice after the auction.

For most auctions, you may also use the absentee bid form to register for telephone bidding. Based on the information you provide on the form, a Sotheby's representative will contact you from the saleroom prior to your specified lot(s) and will relay your bids to the auctioneer. As the number of telephone lines is limited, it is necessary to make arrangements for this service 24 hours before the sale, with additional advance warning for languages not native to the auction location.

Telephone bids are accepted at Sotheby's sole discretion and at the prospective buyer's risk. Telephone bidding lines are recorded for the security of both parties, and by bidding on the telephone prospective buyers consent thereto. Contact the main number of the Sotheby's location conducting your auction to reach a bid department representative.

On occasion, Sotheby's New York accepts Internet bidding via the eBay Live Auctions service. The availability of this service is noted on a per-sale basis in the catalogue and on You must pre-register through eBay Live Auctions at least 48 prior to the auction in order to bid online.

Payment, buyer's premium, tax, pick up & delivery

Please note that Sotheby's Buyer's Premium and any local taxes will be payable on successful bids. Thus the "hammer price" - the actual winning bid - is smaller than the amount the purchaser will pay. Consult the relevant bid department or Client Accounts Manager for more information before placing a bid.

In the UK, Sotheby's is required to collect a resale royalty due to living artists each time their work of art is sold. Any purchaser of a lot to which the resale royalty applies will be charged an amount equal to the applicable royalty. Learn more.

You may pay with cash (subject to certain restrictions and legal limits), check, money order or wire transfer. Sotheby's also accepts VISA and MasterCard (subject to certain restrictions).NOTE: Credit cards are not accepted in all locations, and not all cards are accepted in every location. (For example, credit cards are not accepted for payment in New York auctions.) Contact the Sotheby's location conducting the auction in which you are interested to determine payment methods.

You may pay for your purchase immediately after the auction by going to Purchaser Accounts or Cashiers, or an invoice will be mailed to you within three days of the sale. If you pay by check, Sotheby's asks for your patience as your purchase will be released upon notice that your check has cleared. Payments must come from the invoiced party only - Sotheby's is unable to accept third-party payments.

Upon payment, you may pick up your purchases at the auction location or arrange to have them shipped. All purchases should be picked up or shipped within ten business days after the auction. After that time, your property will be subject to a handling charge and you may be charged for storage. If you are interested in shipping, Sotheby's Art Transport staff will help you with shipping and insurance arrangements.

Sotheby's conditions of business

All prospective buyers are reminded that they are bound by Sotheby's conditions of business, details of which may be found at the back of all Sotheby's catalogues.