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Collecting Q&A: Choosing an Auction House by Consignment Fee


Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: March 29, 2007

Q. Is there much difference between the auction houses from a seller's perspective? I have a $100,000 cellar that I need to auction and want the lowest commission rate.

A. There are considerable differences in the auction houses' consignment terms. Acker Merrall & Condit and Morrell & Company do not charge a seller's fee. Although the remaining houses all levy a consignor's fee (based on a sliding scale), there is usually room for negotiation. The amount you pay will depend not only on the value of your collection (the higher the value, the lower the fee), but also its contents (the rarer the better). A jeroboam of DRC Romanée-Conti 1990 worth $50,000 is probably more attractive to a firm than 10 cases of a $5,000 wine. If you are an auction house "regular," you may further benefit from a discount on the official rate. I am aware of a frequent consignor to a New York auction house who pays only a 2 percent seller's fee. In other words, you should shop around and see who is prepared to give you the best deal, based on what you've got.

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