About Sotheby's Auctions
Looking to sell? Visit our easy Sell with Sotheby's page.
Tips for Successful Buying & Selling
Consignors consistently turn to Sotheby’s to realize the highest prices for their exceptional objects, and savvy buyers rely on our expertise when searching for the finest property available. Located in more than 70 cities, our multilingual staff can guide you through the entire process. New to the art collecting world? View a glossary of terms to familiarise yourself with the language of auctions.
Buy with Confidence
When you wish to acquire fine art, jewels, antiques or other valuable property, our knowledgeable specialists can help ensure ownership of a desired object that will enhance your present collection. Or, if you’re a novice collector, Sotheby’s can provide basic guidance.
Sell for Top Dollar
When you’re looking to consign exceptional objects, our expert staff is available to guide you through the basic steps to list your special object and help ensure a successful sale.
If you have interest in selling a work through Sotheby’s, please visit our easy Sell with Sotheby's page. You will be asked to register or log-in to your Sothebys.com account to begin your estimate request.
For guidance in finding or buying a specific work of art, please review our list of departments to determine the category best suited to your needs. One of our specialists will be delighted to help with your enquiry.
The regional office closest to your location also may be of assistance. View locations.
Looking to sell? Visit our easy Sell with Sotheby's page.
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
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).
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, email@example.com
New York: +1 212 606 7414, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paris: +33 1 5305 5348, email@example.com
Hong Kong: +852 2822 8142, firstname.lastname@example.org
Milan: +39 02 2950 0239, email@example.com
Geneva: +41 22 908 4800, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zurich: +41 44 226 2200, email@example.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:
Bid in person to experience the live excitement of an auction first hand.
Participate in real time via Sotheby’s online bidding platform.
Register to Telephone Bid with a Sotheby’s representative who will call you during the auction.
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, the overhead 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.
Looking to sell? Visit our easy Sell with Sotheby's page. Sotheby’s knowledgable staff will be delighted to guide you through the entire auction process. Once we determine that your property is appropriate for sale at auction, our specialists will establish estimates , catalogue your property and market it to prospective buyers worldwide. Sotheby's consistently achieves prices that meet or exceed pre-sale estimates. View our glossary of terms to familiarise yourself with the language of auctions.
Discover What Your Property Is Worth
Our experienced, market-savvy specialists have the authority to provide accurate valuations. Please visit our Sell with Sotheby's page to send information and photographs of your property. You will be asked to register or log-in to your Sothebys.com account to begin your auction estimate request. 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 selling venue.
Shipping and Insurance
Our staff can help arrange to have your property delivered to the Sotheby's location where it will be offered at auction. 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.
Pricing and Payment
The seller’s contract sets the reserve price and the seller’s commission . For sold lots, Sotheby’s will send payment within 45 days from the sale date, 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. 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. Together, we will determine the best course of action. Charges, such as shipping and handling that were agreed pre-sale, will be invoiced immediately after the auction. If a lot does not sell, the reserve price will be used to determine certain fees. With hundreds of live and online auctions every year, Sotheby’s will recommend the best type of sale to achieve the highest price for your property. Our experts also will consider the advantages of selecting one auction location over another and the most suitable time to sell your property.
How to Bid Online
Browse an auction on Sothebys.com or on the Sotheby’s app. We encourage you to contact our specialists, whose contact information is included on the auction catalogue page. All property in the auction is available for viewing in our exhibitions or by appointment.
Place a bid through Sothebys.com or Sotheby’s app from the start of the auction until the lot closes. See below for how to bid in our online only and live auctions. Please contact the Bids Department in the designated auction location should you need any assistance.
Watch your bids! If you are outbid in an online only auction, you will be notified on the auction catalogue page, by email, and by push notifications (if enabled on your smartphone). In a live auction, you will be notified on the auction catalogue page and by push notification, but not by email.
After your lot has closed, you will be notified on the auction and lot detail pages as well as via email. If you are the winning bidder, you will receive an invoice shortly after the auction including your total charges along with payment and property collection instructions.
ONLINE ONLY AUCTIONS
Select the lots you wish to bid on and place your maximum bid. You will be asked to either log in or create a new account. You will then be asked to choose your account number and review and accept the Terms & Conditions before placing your first bid. The platform will place incremental bids on your behalf up to the maximum amount specified. Use the ‘Quick Bid’ feature to increase your bid to the next increment.
The closing time noted at the top of the auction page indicates when the first lot will begin to close. As the auction closes, a countdown timer will be displayed for each lot one minute before it closes. Each lot closes in one minute increments and will be extended by two minutes if a bid is placed within the final minute before the lot’s scheduled closing time. Lots may extend for up to two hours to accommodate competitive bidding.
There are four different ways to bid in a live auction: by telephone, online, in the room, and by either absentee or advance bidding ahead of the auction. You can register for telephone, online, or in-room bidding via the Register to Bid link on the auction overview page. ‘Advance bids’ or ‘absentee bids’, both of which enable you to set your maximum bid on a lot, can be placed online or via the Bids Department ahead of the auction. Please note that auctions will either have advance bidding or absentee bidding, never both.
At the stated date and time, a live auction will begin when the auctioneer opens each lot for bidding. Clients are able to participate by bidding in the saleroom, by telephone, or online via Sothebys.com or the Sotheby's app. Bids will be accepted in the order they are received and the highest bid placed will win each lot. When competitive bidding subsides, the auctioneer can send a ‘fair warning’ message to indicate that the lot will close imminently. Please note that placing the leading maximum bid before the live auction begins does not guarantee that another client will not outbid you before the auctioneer closes the lot.
Absentee bid: A maximum bid placed ahead of the auction which will be executed on your behalf by the auctioneer during the live auction, at the lowest price possible and never for more than the maximum bid amount you indicate. Successful absentee bidders will be notified after the auction.
Advance bid: A maximum bid placed ahead of the auction which will be executed on your behalf in response to any other bids placed on the lot. If your maximum bid is below the reserve, responsive bids may be placed by Sotheby’s on behalf of the seller up to the amount of the reserve ahead of the live auction. Upon the start of the live auction, if your maximum bid has not yet been met, the auctioneer will execute the bid on your behalf at the lowest price possible and never for more than the maximum bid amount you indicate.
To place an ‘absentee bid’ or ‘advance bid’ ahead of the live auction, find your desired lot and select ‘Place Bid.’ Set your maximum bid amount. Once you have chosen your bid amount, select ‘Continue to Confirm Bid.’ You will then be asked to either log in or sign up for a Sotheby’s account. Select the Sotheby’s Account Number you wish to bid under, accept the Terms & Conditions, and confirm your bid. You will be asked to do this only once, upon placing your first bid in the auction. You will receive a confirmation of your absentee or advance bid on screen and via email. If you are outbid during this portion of the auction (before the live auction begins), you will receive notification on Sothebys.com if you are logged in, via email, and via Sotheby’s mobile app push notifications (if enabled in your settings). The advance and absentee portion of the auction will culminate in the live auction on the advertised date.
Your maximum bid is the highest amount you would like to bid for a lot. It will be executed by Sotheby’s at the lowest price possible, and never for more than the maximum bid amount you indicate. Please note that if two clients enter the same maximum bid, the bid which was entered first will have priority.
For auctions with absentee bidding, your maximum bid will be executed by the auctioneer on your behalf during the live auction and you will be notified if you were successful after the live auction. You can increase your maximum bid at any point ahead of the live auction.
For auctions with advance bidding, the bidding platform will automatically place incremental bids on your behalf against any competition up to the maximum bid you have placed. The bidding platform will execute bids beginning at the lowest increment. If your maximum bid is outbid by another client, you will be alerted on Sothebys.com if you are logged in, via email and via push notification from the Sotheby’s app (if enabled) for a chance to increase your bid. For clients who are familiar with our traditional auctions, a maximum bid functions similarly to an absentee bid, though you will know where your maximum bid stands ahead of the live event. While you can always return to the auction and increase your bid by single increments, we encourage you to take advantage of the maximum bid feature in the event you may be unable to return to your desired lot when the live auction begins.
Each lot has a starting bid, which is the lowest possible bid you can place on a lot.You may bid at or above the starting bid (see above for how to place a Maximum Bid). Please note that leaving a bid at the starting bid may not necessarily mean you have met the reserve, though you will be notified if you are the leading bidder or have been outbid. Please note that Sotheby’s reserves the right to lower the starting bid prior to the start of the live auction.
After placing an initial bid on your desired lot, you will be presented with the option to place a ‘Quick Bid’. This is a faster way to increase your bid to the next increment. This can be executed on the Sotheby’s app by holding down and swiping the ‘Quick Bid’ button all the way to the right of the screen, or by clicking the ‘Quick Bid’ button and confirming your bid increase on Sothebys.com. Upon completion, your bid will be placed. ‘Quick Bid’ is only available during the ‘advance bidding’ portion of a live auction. Quick Bid is available for Online Only and Advance Bidding sales only.
My Active Bids
Once you have left a bid in an auction, you can view that bid and any other active bids near the top of the auction page, in a dynamic section called ‘My Active Bids.’ This shows the status of all your active bids in the auction and is color coded based on the state of your bid. In addition to scrolling through the e-catalogue, you can easily navigate to your active lots by clicking into ‘My Active Bids.’ You can view your active, won, and lost bids on the Sotheby’s app by navigating to the ‘More’ tab and opening the ‘My Bids’ section.
FOR ASSISTANCE WITH REGISTRATION & BIDDING
From the US +1 212 606 7000
From the UK +44 (0) 20 7293 5000
Hong Kong +852 2524 8121
For assistance with registration and bidding, please contact the Sotheby’s Bids Department in the sale location directly.
We encourage you to also contact our specialists, whose contact information is included on the sale catalogue page.
An ancient and elementary form of commerce, auctions have long been the best way to establish the value of unique and rare items. Over our 260-year history, Sotheby’s has perfected the art of the auction, and yet is continuously seeking ways of updating the process. Today, modern innovations such as broadcasting sales over the Internet and accepting bids online in real time allow you to participate in our auctions from anywhere in the world.
View glossary of terms to familiarise yourself with the language of auctions.
Who can attend an auction?
All of Sotheby's auctions are free and open to the public, and there is no obligation to bid. Most auctions are held during the day, except for occasional evening sales, which require tickets. You may also watch our auctions online.
Who are the auctioneers?
Sotheby’s auctioneers are trained professionals, often with decades of experience. The auctioneer initiates the sale of each lot by briefly describing the item and then starting the bidding at a price that is lower than its reserve . The auctioneer acknowledges every bidder, whether they are in the saleroom, participating via BIDnow or over the telephone. They also place bids on behalf of absentee bidders . The auctioneer, whose authority is final, determines when the highest bid has been made and declares the lot sold.
How does bidding work?
After the auctioneer starts the bidding, they will accept incrementally higher bids until a sole bidder remains. This final bidder purchases the lot. However, if the bidding fails to reach the reserve price , the lot will pass unsold.
What types of auctions does Sotheby’s hold?
Sotheby’s auctions generally comprise fine arts, antiques and decorative arts, books and manuscripts, jewellery and wine in sales dedicated to each collecting area. Occasionally, however, Sotheby’s offers unusual items of great rarity or value -- for example, the original rules of basketball or a perfectly preserved dinosaur skeleton -- or sells the entire contents of magnificent homes or the estates of great collectors and luminaries. View Departments .
Expertise at Sotheby's
The Sotheby’s staff of more than 1,000 in 70 different cities worldwide is unsurpassed in their depth of knowledge and desire to assist clientele. Our specialists have numerous years of experience in their fields and are skilled at determining the current value of unique and rare objects, whether in the fine or decorative arts, jewellery, wine or other collecting areas. Many Sotheby’s specialists write and lecture widely and maintain close ties with museums and professional organisations. Approachable and enthusiastic, every member of Sotheby’s staff is happy to answer any questions you may have about the selling or buying process.
What are your staff's areas of expertise?
Our specialists work in over 50 departments ranging from Antiquities to Contemporary Art, encompassing cultures from every continent and covering materials from diamonds to canvas.
How many languages does your staff speak?
While Sotheby’s primary language is English, we employ native speakers of Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish and German, amongst others. If you are interested in telephone bidding for an auction in a location where you do not speak the language, contact the nearest regional office at least 24 hours in advance of the auction so we can accommodate you.
How may I contact the appropriate Sotheby’s representative?
If you need help buying or selling a specific work of art, start with our directory of departments to identify your area of interest and the specialist who can help answer your questions. Alternatively, see our list of locations around the world to find the Sotheby’s office nearest you. You may also view our Services page to find contacts for Valuations, Trusts & Estates, Tax & Heritage, Museum Services, Corporate Art Services and Financial Services.