Purchase Story

New Overhead Premium Fee at Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s will implement a new fee as of August 1. Called an “overhead premium,” it will be payable by all auction buyers in the house’s global salesrooms and online sales. The fee, which will be 1% of the hammer price plus any applicable local taxes, “is an allocation of the overhead costs relating to our facilities, property handling and other administrative expenses,” the private auction house noted on its website on May 8. On a hammer price of $100,000, for example, the overhead premium will be $1000.

Sotheby’s noted that the fee “reflects the increasing costs associated with delivering great service and experiences in a highly competitive marketplace.”

During an online interview conducted by Marion Maneker for an ARTnews webinar on June 23, “The Way Forward for Sotheby’s,” Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s chief executive officer since November 2019, was asked about the upcoming fee. “We tried to put a fee on actual costs in pursuing the business. Our costs go up. It’s not out of sync with how businesses have to pass on growing costs,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sotheby’s said the news release “is our formal communication on the topic,” pointing to the May 8 notice on its website. The new fee will be posted in all print and digital catalogs and in the conditions of sale for auctions as of August 1, he added.

A Christie’s spokesperson said, “We don’t have anything called ‘overhead premium.’” At Doyle a spokesperson said, “Currently we have no plans to raise our fees or buyer’s premium.” Swann Galleries does not have any plans to change its fee structure, said Alexandra Nelson, communications director. Bonhams was contacted twice by e-mail but did not respond by M.A.D.’s deadline.


Originally published in the August 2020 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2020 Maine Antique Digest

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