Looking to sell?  Visit our easy Auction Estimate Service page.

Buying Basics 

Sotheby’s experienced staff will guide you through a simple and seamless buying process: from selecting a work, to placing a successful bid, to shipping your purchase. Collectors rely on Sotheby’s to understand current market trends and acquire pieces that have lasting value, allowing you to bid with confidence. View glossary of terms to familiarise yourself with the language of auctions.

Four ways to find out what's for sale:

1. Browse our e-catalogues on Sothebys.com from your computer or mobile device.
2. Visit our pre-sale exhibitions, which are open to the public. View upcoming auctions.
3. Register to receive e-mail alerts so that you never miss a sale in your area of interest.
4. Enjoy our IFTTT (If This, Then That) service by setting up notifications based on any search parameters you desire.

Register to Bid

In-Person Registration
To register in person to bid at the sale location before the auction begins, you will need to create an account and provide a government-issued proof of identity such as a driver’s license or passport. A bank reference may also be required. You will also have the opportunity to record your communication details (email or post) and shipping preferences (collect or ship). 

Online Registration
You also may register on Sothebys.com by selecting Register to Bid from the drop-down menu under the Auctions heading. This will link you to an upcoming events page. Simply choose any auction and click on the Register to Bid button for that event. The detailed pages for each auction also provide the option to register. To be eligible to bid, please be sure to complete your application 24 hours prior to the auction.

If you require further assistance while registering to bid, please contact the Bids department using the contact information below:

London: +44 20 7293 5283, bids.london@sothebys.com

New York: +1 212 606 7414, bids.newyork@sothebys.com

Paris: +33 1 5305 5348, bids.paris@sothebys.com

Hong Kong: +852 2822 8142, bids.hongkong@sothebys.com

Milan: +39 02 2950 0239, bids.milan@sothebys.com

Geneva: +41 22 908 4800,  bids.geneva@sothebys.com

Zurich: +41 44 226 2200, bids.zurich@sothebys.com


Place Your Bid

There are four ways to bid at Sotheby’s. When you click Register to Bid you will be prompted to select your preferred bidding method:

- Saleroom

Bid in person to experience the live excitement of an auction first hand.

- Online

Participate in real time via Sotheby’s online bidding platform BIDnow.

- Telephone

Register to Telephone Bid with a Sotheby’s representative who will call you during the auction.

- Absentee

Submit an Absentee Bid and allow the auctioneer to execute this on your behalf.

If your bid is successful, our Post Sale Service teams in each selling centre will be happy to assist with payment, as well as the collection or shipment of your purchase.

Pay for Your Purchase

Successful bidders may pay on the day of the auction, immediately after buying. Otherwise, the Post- Sale Service team will send you an invoice and any shipping quote according to your pre-sale preference. The final amount due will include the hammer price, the buyer’s premium, and any local taxes. In certain locations, Sotheby’s may also be required to collect a re-sale royalty (droit de suite), which goes supports European Economic Area (EEA) living artists and artists’ estates. (This happens each time an EEA artist’s work is resold. Such lots are marked by a .)

Buyers may pay by bank transfer, cheque or cash (subject to any restrictions and legal limits). Certain credit cards are accepted at particular Sotheby’s locations, but please contact these sale locations directly for detailed information. Payment must be sent from the invoiced party, rather than from a third party. See our Conditions of Business for full details.

Receive Your Property

Fully knowledgeable on all international regulations, the Sotheby’s Post-Sale Service team can arrange expert and insured shipping and convenient delivery of your property. We offer exceptional service and competitive rates whether consigning a single artwork, a diamond bracelet or a large piece of furniture.

For sales in London and New York, simply provide your delivery address when you register for a sale. Following a purchase, you will be sent a comprehensive shipping quote. For property purchased in any of our other salerooms, please contact that office directly to arrange for the transport of your purchases.


A Word About Lot Detail Symbols


The symbols (triangle, square, circle) that accompany lot detail estimates often indicate a note such as a guarantee or lack of reserve. Review a complete list of symbols and their definitions.

Buying Step-by-Step

Select Your Object

There are several ways to view Sotheby’s forthcoming lots: browse our e-catalogues, order print catalogues, visit our pre-sale exhibitions, or register to receive e-mail alerts about categories that interest you.

Place a Bid

Before your first auction, you will need to register in person or create an online account to provide government-issued proof of identity such as a driver’s license or passport. A bank reference may also be required.  After you have registered to bid, you may bid in person, online, by telephone or by submitting an Absentee Bid.

In Person
To place a bid in the saleroom, raise your paddle until the Auctioneer acknowledges you. The auctioneer increases the bids by increments that usually do not exceed ten percent of the previous bid. When a sole bidder remains, the Auctioneer brings down the hammer and declares the lot sold, as long as the reserve (minimum price) has been met. If bidding ends before the reserve has been met, the lot will not sell. The Auctioneer will then say either, “Pass” or “Bought-In” and move on to the next lot. Please note: if you are bidding on behalf of a third party, you must provide a letter authorising you to bid on their behalf.


Online
BIDnow, Sotheby’s online bidding portal, allows you to watch a broadcast of the live auction online in real time as you place bids with a click of your mouse. You can sign up for BIDnow by clicking Register to Bid or BIDnow Online from the drop-down menu of Auctions. For online bidding for Wine auctions, please register for LiveBid. It is necessary to arrange for this service at least 24 hours prior to the sale.


By Telephone
If you would like to bid by telephone, complete an Absentee Bid Form online and check the 'telephone' box. During the auction, a Sotheby’s representative will call you from the saleroom and relay your bids to the Auctioneer. It is necessary to arrange for this service at least 24 hours before the sale. Additional time may be needed to accommodate bidders requiring assistance with other languages.


Absentee Bidding
If you are unable to attend an auction, we will execute confidential written bids on your behalf after you register an Absentee Bid online. When we execute such a bid, the lot is always bought for the lowest increment that exceeds all competing bids, providing it meets or exceeds the reserve price. In the event of identical absentee bids, the bid received first takes precedence. Please submit your absentee bid at least four hours prior to the auction. If you are a first-time bidder, you must register at least 24 hours prior to the auction.

Complete Transaction

Immediately following the sale, we will calculate your final payment, which includes the hammer price, the buyer’s premium and any local taxes. In certain locations, Sotheby’s is required to collect a re-sale royalty (“droit de suite”), which goes to the living artist each time one of their works is sold.

Collect or Ship

All purchases should be paid for and collected or shipped from Sotheby’s premises within ten business days after the auction, otherwise property may be subject to additional fees. Sotheby's can provide a full range of services for you, including collection, packing and arranging for shipping and transit insurance, for international or domestic transportation. We offer exceptional service and competitive rates whether shipping a single picture, a diamond bracelet or a large piece of furniture.  

For sales in London and New York, simply provide us with your delivery address when you register for a sale. Following your purchase, we will send you a comprehensive shipping quote. For property purchased in any of our other salerooms, contact that office directly to arrange for the transport of your purchases.