Selling Basics

Sotheby’s can guide you through the entire auction process. Once we have determined that your property is appropriate for sale at auction, our specialists will orchestrate every detail, from establishing estimates to cataloguing your property and marketing it to prospective buyers worldwide. Sotheby's has a proven track record in achieving prices that meet or exceed pre-sale estimates.

 View glossary of terms to familiarise yourself with the language of auctions. 

How do I find out what my property is worth?

With years of experience and detailed knowledge of current market trends, our specialists have the authority to give accurate valuations. Please click here for an Auction Estimate Form, fill it in as thoroughly as possible and then mail it to our London or New York offices together with photographs of your property.

In some cases, we will contact you to arrange an appointment to gather further details. You may also make an appointment to bring your property to the Sotheby’s office nearest you. If your property is not appropriate for a Sotheby’s auction, we will recommend an alternative place for sale.

How do I arrange shipping?

Sotheby’s can help you arrange to have your property delivered to the Sotheby's location where it will be offered. For assistance, please contact the selling location or your nearest Sotheby’s office. As the consignor, you are responsible for packing, shipping and insurance charges.

What does my contract with Sotheby's cover?

The seller’s contract sets the reserve price and the seller’s commission

When can I expect payment?

For sold lots, we will send payment within 35 days from the day of the sale, provided we are in receipt of the buyer’s payment. Your payment will be based on the hammer price less a commission and any agreed-upon expenses.

What happens if my lot doesn’t sell?

If bidding on your item fails to reach the reserve price, we will not sell the piece at auction. Some consignors choose to take back their work(s), while others decide to offer it in a later auction or through our private sales department. We will contact you to discuss the best course of action.  Charges that were agreed pre-sale will be invoiced immediately after the sale (for example, shipping and handling costs) and in the event that a lot does not sell, the reserve price is used to determine certain fees.

How does Sotheby’s determine the auction that will include my property?

We consider both the type of work you are selling and the tastes of collectors around the world. With hundreds of sales every year, we are able to recommend the best auction to achieve the highest price for your property. We will explain the advantages of selecting one location over another and the most suitable time to sell your property.

Selling Step-by-Step

Coming to a Decision

There are many factors to consider when making the decision to sell your property. Among the most important is the price it is likely to achieve in the market.  Sotheby’s is pleased to provide authoritative estimates for your convenience.

Request an Estimate

To request an estimate, please complete the Auction Estimate Form. Fill it in as thoroughly as possible and mail it to our London or New York offices along with photographs of your property. In some cases, we will contact you to arrange an appointment. If you decide to offer your property at auction, we will draw up a seller’s contract for you, which includes the reserve price as well as details about Sotheby’s commissions. If your property is not appropriate for sale at Sotheby's, we will recommend the optimum selling location where your property is likely to achieve the highest price.

Ship Your Object to Auction

Our Art Transport department can help arrange to have your property delivered to our offices. As the consignor, you are responsible for packing, shipping and insurance charges.

Watch the Auction and Receive Payment

You are welcome to attend the auction where your property is offered for sale, or you can watch it online.  A Sale Statement detailing your sale results and net returns, based on the hammer price less a commission and any agreed-upon expenses, will be sent to you immediately after the sale.