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Recent statements and notifications from some of them are breathtaking and dealers who buy from them must wonder what else is in store by way of extra charges.

On top of ever-increasing buyer’s premium, in last week’s issue (ATG No 2377) one auctioneer stated his reasons for further charges of 5% (plus VAT) for leaving a commission bid or executing a phone bid during a live auction. On top of this another auctioneer is charging £10 for condition reports on lots reserved under £100 plus vastly increased storage penalties for lots not collected within a day or two of a finished auction.

Dealers in general are struggling to make a decent living as never before. The frightening rate of closure of antiques shops is indicative of the weekly battle to survive.

Auctioneers should bear in mind what has happened to the major fairs circuits. I stood at one of the largest bimonthly show ground fairs for over 20 years. Each December I received the following year’s booking pack. Sure enough, the stand rent was increased well above the general rate of inflation. So year by year, with ever-increasing expenses, many dealers were forced to give up their regular pitches. They simply became uneconomic .

I just wonder how long it will be before an auction house decides to make a charge for just entering their premises and viewing lots?

Thin end of the wedge springs to mind.

Richard Opala (99% retired silver and silver plate dealer) Nottingham

Buyer’s premium should be capped as a percentage of the estimate

MADAM – I believe that it is time we explore the relationship between auction houses, vendors and buyers once more.

Clearly it is in the interest of an auction house to achieve the highest possible price for the vendor; in saying this we must assume that the vendor is the auction house’s prime customer.

It has been rightly claimed in your columns that overheads need to be covered – insurance, catalogues, staff etc, etc – but these overheads are incurred purely to sell an item. A glossy catalogue for instance is nothing but an advertisement, insurance is for the vendor’s item, staff value for the vendor, etc. Even telephone condition reports are a type of marketing.

Taking the above into consideration, is it not time to do away with the buyer’s premium and increase the seller’s?

One would not expect to buy groceries or a motor car and then be hit with a charge of 30% above the ticket price to cover overheads, so why should this happen in an auction? Alternatively, I would suggest buyer’s commission being capped at a percentage of the estimate.

Moving to the debate of some estimates being so unreliable, I recently sold a print at a provincial auction valued at £300- 400. The auctioneer was happy with the valuation and that the commission would cover overheads etc.

The print sold for £1650, four-times highest estimate, and the auction house gained four times the commission for carrying out no extra work. Any other business would soon go bust being so inefficient – imagine for instance a local plumber being this far out in a quotation.

Paul Otter

Wantage, Oxfordshire

On Twitter

David Knowles @BromleyCrossBoy

I’ve never understood the complaint about the level of premium. Always bid on the basis of the total cost. Those who are extortionate will ultimately find it doesn’t do them any favours.

Michael Baggott @baggottsilver

After 30 years of being both poacher and gamekeeper I’m now firmly of the opinion that (unless unthinkable discourtesy or stupidity occurs) auctioneers and dealers should quietly go about their business making a living and buying one another cups of tea where appropriate.