How to buy

For those unfamiliar with the process, buying at auction can seem a daunting prospect. However, our aim is to demonstrate that buying at auction is a simple and straightforward way of acquiring fine art, antiques and collectibles whether you are a seasoned collector, or just looking to buy that one specific item.

Buying at auction is a fantastic way of finding interesting and often unique items to form part of your collection, or decorate your home. Every item which passes through our salerooms is individually appraised and evaluated by our dedicated team of specialists whose knowledge and guidance can give you as a buyer confidence in your purchase.

On your first registration with us we are required, under various European legislations, to seek evidence of both your identity and address. You can bid in person, by telephone, online or by commission (absentee/left) bids. Please find further information below.

There is no ‘fixed etiquette’ to buying at auction — it should, first and foremost, be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

How to Register

In order to participate in any of our auctions, by whatever method you choose, you must first have registered with us. Registration will result in you receiving a paddle number which serves to identify your successful bids by number as opposed to name.

You will need to provide us with two forms of identification — one must be photographic (such as a passport, driver's license or identity card) and the other a proof of address (a bank statement, utility bill, etc).

Please click here to download our registration form.

The registration form can be submitted with your identification in person, by post, by scan and email or by fax to the relevant saleroom. Please click here for contact details.

How to bid at auction

Today's saleroom environment is geared towards making the process of buying at auction as easy and flexible as possible. Aside from the traditional means of bidding, in person, in the auction room there are now a variety of other methods by which you can participate in an auction. In all cases, buying at auction is a democratic process and is open to anyone who has first registered with us.

‘Commission’, ‘Absentee’ or ‘Left’ bids

If you will be unavailable on the day of the auction, then you may wish to place a commission bid. This allows you to put forward the maximum amount you are willing to pay for an item. Your bid will then be made during the auction either by the auctioneer, or a member of staff. Commission bids are also often referred to as absentee, written or order bids. Please note the maximum bid refers only to the hammer price, additional fees such as Buyer's Premium and any relevant VAT will be added afterwards should your bid be successful. Commission bids can be arranged in person, by phone or by email. This is the most foolproof way of bidding at auction if you are unable to attend in person.

Telephone bidding

You may instruct us to telephone you during the auction so that you can participate in bidding, over the telephone, on those lots that you are interested in buying. A member of staff will phone you a few lots before the item you wish to bid on. They will then be able to place bids on your behalf, until you have won the lot or decide not to continue bidding.

Please note that we cannot take any responsibility in the event that we are unable to reach you at the time your lot comes up for sale, and we strongly recommend all telephone bids are supported by a covering Commission bid to be executed in the event that we are unable to reach you.

Telephone bids can be arranged for any number of lots in an auction but since there is a practical limit to the number of telephone bids that we can execute for any particular lot, these are accepted on a first come basis.

Live on-line bidding

We offer buyers the opportunity to bid from anywhere in the world, on-line and simultaneously with physical auction, over a number of Internet portals. These various portals offer an audio and/or visual link to the auctioneer, thereby making the on-line bidder feel very much a part of the auction as it progresses in the saleroom. For more details, please visit our Live Bidding Page. The portals that we use are as follows:

In Person

Attending an auction in person is the best way to experience the true excitement of the sale.

You will need to register at reception and have obtained a paddle number in order to bid in any of our auctions.

Contrary to popular belief a twitch won't be taken as a bid, if you wish to bid – raise your paddle. Bids will advance according to the preset increments, continue until you are the highest bidder or you no longer wish to proceed. The auctioneer will announce fair warning when the lot is about to sell, and bang the hammer once the item is sold. Call out your paddle number if you win the lot, this will identify you once it comes to payment and collection.

Fees and Charges

A bid at auction is legally binding. When bidding at auction you are irrevocably agreeing to buy the lot in question. You are contracting to pay both the hammer price (ie the price at which the auctioneer brings down the hammer committing you to the purchase) and an additional buyer's premium, together with any other applicable fees and taxes.

Ordinarily the hammer price of lots at auction does not attract VAT or additional fees or taxes. In the event that this is not the case, the catalogue description for any individual lot will be clearly marked to advise you of the existence of any applicable fees or taxes. For example, a * denotes that full VAT is payable on the hammer price, ** denotes that an import duty is payable on the hammer price and so on. A full list of all applicable symbols and their explanations can be found in the conditions of sale of all auctions.

The buyer's premium will ordinarily attract VAT but no other fess or taxes. The rate of buyer's premium is always clearly published for every auction and there will be clear denotation that the prevailing rate of VAT is applicable on this amount. There are certain categories of items that benefit from a 0% UK VAT rating, in which case there will also be no VAT on the buyer's premium. For auctions held outside the UK there may be a different VAT rate to that prevailing in the UK at the time.