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Digital Subscriptions > Antiques Trade Gazette > 2358 > The price is right

The price is right

In an increasingly complex marketplace, how should auctioneers and dealers charge for their services? Noelle McElhatton reports

Round table

This week we’re highlighting an issue that is common ground for dealers and auctioneers: how to charge for art market services and expertise in the modern era.

The topic of our latest round table was inspired by a story relayed to ATG last year by one auctioneer.

As the auctioneer walked the carpeted halls of a major London fair, he spotted a picture his auction house had sold months before. At auction, it had fetched a satisfying £36,000. Now reframed and cleaned, and prominently displayed on the buyer’s stand, it came with well-documented research.

Impressive too, was the dealer’s asking price of £270,000. It led the auctioneer, who could recall the controversy over Sotheby’s introduction of buyer’s premium to the UK back in 1975, to think “how modest” buyer’s premium charges seem in comparison.

Dealers, faced with rising buyer’s premiums and the decline of high street passing trade, might beg to differ.

We put the topic of charges to our debaters – a diverse group embracing large and smaller auction houses, together with dealers operating at varying levels of the market.

The picture that emerged was of auctioneers and dealers having to adapt to fit what the market dictates and to suit buyers’ changing needs. There seems to be no one blueprint for doing so, but there are similar considerations underpinning why dealers and auctioneers charge what they do – and what they offer in return.

Photography by Phil Adams

The debaters: back l-r: Paul Roberts, Richard Winterton, Stephen Ongpin. Front row l-r: Roland Arkell (ATG), Angela Hardy, Noelle McElhatton (ATG editor and round table organiser and host), Emma Ward, Adam Partridge, Simon Berti (ATG).

This article is an account of an ATG round table discussion hosted over lunch in London in July 2018.

“We try and provide a personalised service based on reputation, trust and due diligence Emma Ward

The panel: who’s who

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About Antiques Trade Gazette

Published every week since 1971, Antiques Trade Gazette is affectionately known as ‘the Bible of the antiques trade’. A long tradition of authority, integrity and accuracy, makes it the essential read for everyone who loves antiques. With a subscription to Antiques Trade Gazette, you’ll stay ahead of all the developments in the art and antiques market, plus you’ll enjoy • A comprehensive auction calendar – see when and where every sale will be happening • Exclusive interviews with dealers, giving you the inside track on the trade • Breaking news on key industry developments • Secrets, stories and tips from leading specialists and collectors • Top lots advertised by auctioneers • Previews of the best art and antiques fairs and markets • Special supplements focusing on specific collecting areas