Purchase Story

Conditions of Sale

When an auction is advertised as having “No Buyer’s Premium,” it doesn’t necessarily mean there will not be other charges.

A regional auction house touts that it doesn’t charge a buyer’s premium, which is an attractive incentive to bid in these days when the buyer’s premium is pushing ever closer to 30% at some firms.

When looking at the conditions of sale, however, it is revealed that the firm charges a 10% “service fee” on all absentee bids and a 14% fee for online bids. It’s not a buyer’s premium per se—it’s a charge that bidders must pay for the convenience of not attending the auction in person, which for faraway bidders is a cheaper option (and with COVID-19 still around, probably safer). The online fee is discounted to 10% if the item is paid for in cash or with an approved check.

These charges recently caught a dealer unaware. After successfully winning a couple of lots online, he received an invoice with a 14% charge. The extra fees were a surprise to him in a sale advertised as having no buyer’s premium, causing frustration and cutting into any profit from resale. Adding insult to injury, the fee was called “premium” on the invoice.

As with any transaction, the fine print always deserves a read, lest a buyer get an unpleasant and potentially expensive surprise.

Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest

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