Buyer’s fees are a fact of life when buying at auction. While a
seller typically pays a fee to an auctioneer for including a coin in
an auction, increasingly auction houses are raising buyer’s fees as a
way to increase revenue.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries announced on Feb. 27 that it would be
updating its buyer’s fee schedule effective with its Baltimore Auction
on June 25. The new buyer’s fee will be set at 17.5 percent of the
hammer price — or the price that the auctioneer says before he or she
says, “Sold!” For invoices totaling $50,000 or more of the hammer
price, the buyer’s fee will be reduced to 15 percent. The firm will
also charge a $15 minimum buyer’s fee per lot.
The accompanying press release stated that the increase was “in
keeping with current industry trend” and allowed the firm to continue
to provide buyers “with ever-increasing auction opportunities and
For comparison, Heritage Auctions has a buyer’s fee of 15 percent
for U.S. coin and paper money auctions with a minimum buyer’s fee of
$14 per lot while Goldberg Auctioneers has a 15 percent buyer’s fee.
In the online auction arena, Teletrade typically imposes a flat 15
percent buyer’s fee with an $8 minimum per lot and GreatCollections
has a buyer’s fee of 10 percent with a minimum of $5 per item.
Historically, major auction houses have followed one another when
When buyer’s fees of 10 percent were first implemented by
Christie’s in 1975, Sotheby’s followed shortly after.
The buyer’s fees at coin auctions still have room to rise if the
premiums associated with fine art auctions provide any indication. For
example, at Christie’s New York, the buyer’s fee is 25 percent for the
first $50,000 and then drops to 20 percent up to $1 million, after
which it is 12 percent.
Typically, post-auction prices realized released by auction houses
include the buyer’s fee as this represents the price that a bidder
ultimately paid for an item.
The end result of increased buyer’s fees is that bidders adjust
their bids accordingly, planning for the higher buyer’s fee when
deciding what to bid.
In a competitive auction market, higher buyer’s fees also give
auctioneers greater flexibility to discount seller’s fees to attract