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The article referred to by our letter writer about the Kelmscott Chaucer and the quoting of the price without buyer's premium.

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After all, everyone pays it, no one can claim it back – it’s part of the price.

I’m looking at the Kelmscott Chaucer you’ve listed which sold for £80,000 with a string of premium charge percentages following (ATG No 2495, pictured above right). Which one is it?

It’s impossible to tell what the book sold for – maybe £100,000, maybe £90,000.

It’s rather like coming home with a new TV set and saying it was only £450 if you leave off the VAT!

Alan Hewer

Seaford, East Sussex


ATG replies: When ATG was founded back in 1971, no buyer’s premium existed.

After the charge was introduced in the mid-1970s we continued to quote hammer prices rather than premium-inclusive prices for a large number of reasons, the most important being that hammer prices continued to be favoured by the majority of readers.

A key factor is that, when we write auction reports, we are trying to inform the reader of what happened in the room and the hammer price remains what ‘the room’ witnessed. Unlike the premium-inclusive price, the hammer price also indicates how the lot performed against the estimate – therefore quoting it alongside the estimate informs readers of the level of competition for the work compared with the auction house’s expectations.

Furthermore, the premium-inclusive price is actually not the final amount that the buyer pays. This sum would include VAT and other charges including, for example, insurance, administration, shipping and in some cases Artist’s Resale Right. As this can vary from lot to lot depending on which charges are applicable, it is therefore impossible to quote this amount for any given lot.

Quoting the hammer price also prevents auction houses using these added-on charges to exaggerate the realised price – the hammer price is something certain and fixed which is another reason for its continued appearance in ATG.

We know from responses to our reader surveys that most of our subscribers are collectors, private buyers or dealers. They are not only active purchasers of art and antiques, they are also sellers and the hammer price gives the best mid-way point between what buyer pays and what vendor receives.

We agree that it remains important to have the buyer’s premium quoted in the article, which is why we have always aimed to do so by quoting the percentage figure on first mention of the auction house.

We also appreciate that the multi-tiered premium structure adopted by some auction houses today makes it more difficult to work out the premium-inclusive price.

This is why we have been quoting both the hammer price and premium-inclusive price more and more in our articles.

In the case of the Kelmscott Chaucer that sold at Bonhams on March 31, the hammer price was £80,000 and the premium-inclusive price was £100,250.