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Sotheby’s revised fees now in effect

The revised pricing structure for buyers and sellers at Sotheby’s has taken effect globally. The sales held in New York last week were the first under the firm’s new premiums.

Effective from May 20, its buyer’s premium has been reduced to 20% on sales up to $6m/£5m and 10% of the hammer price above this level. Its three-tiered structure has been dropped in favour of the two-tiered structure.

Previously Sotheby’s buyer’s premium was 26% up to $1m/£800,000; 20% up to $4.5m/£3.8m, and then 13.9% on the portion of the hammer price beyond those levels. It also charged a 1% ‘overhead’ fee which has now been scrapped.

Meanwhile, its seller’s premium will be set at a fixed rate of 10% on the first $500,000/£500,000 of the hammer price per lot. There will be no seller’s commission on the hammer price above that.

Sotheby’s chief executive officer Charles Steward said in an email to clients: “These changes are the result of considerable focus on how to make the Sotheby’s client experience transparent, simple and fair to all our buyers and sellers.

“The positive response has been overwhelming. In fact, in anticipation of the transition to the new rates, we polled tens of thousands of clients to see how the changes will affect their bidding – and 90.6% of respondents told us they will bid higher as a consequence of the reduced buyer’s premium.”

Sotheby’s main competitors are yet to follow suit. Christie’s multi-tiered structure starts at 26%, while Bonhams’ starts at 28%.

The new fee structure applies to all auction sales, except car sales, real estate, wine and spirits.

Bronze Age relics taken from museum

Two Bronze Age gold artefacts have been stolen from Ely Museum. The torc and a bracelet were taken in the early hours of May 7 after a break-in.

Cambridgeshire Police said it was looking for two suspects on e-scooters who were believed to be involved.

The torc was found by a metal detectorist in 2011 in a ploughed field in east Cambridgeshire, while the bracelet was found separately in the same year but in a different location in the county. The items were reported to the local finds liaison officer and were subsequently declared as Treasure.

The torc, an unusually large example made of 730g of almost pure gold, was regarded as the best to be found in England in more than a century and was valued at £220,000 at the time the museum acquired it in 2017 using grants and donations.

Anyone with information should contact Cambridgeshire Police via its website quoting Operation Lacunar or call 101. To report anonymously, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Napkin served to sign footy superstar

The napkin contract that signed a 13-year-old Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona sold for £600,000 at Bonhams (estimate £300,000-500,000) in a timed online auction that ended on May 17.

A flurry of bidding in the final five scheduled minutes of the sale led to the impressive hammer price. Including fees, the buyer will pay £762,400.

Laminated and framed, the napkin measures 6½in (16.5cm) square and is signed by FC Barcelona’s then sporting director Carles Rexach, agent Josep Minguella – who was responsible for Messi’s trial in Spain – and Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli. The latter was the consigner.

Messi arrived in Barcelona from Rosario in Argentina in September 2000 but it was not until December 14 that Barcelona sporting director Rexach finally penned the contract at Pompeia tennis club in the Catalonian city.

The club were hesitant to sign a player they considered too small, but with mounting pressure from Messi’s father Jorge, Rexach took matters into his own hands and asked the waiter for paper. He was given instead a napkin on which to outl ine the commitment.

‘Significant’ change for Swann art team

Nigel Freeman will head New York auction house Swann Galleries’ fine art department following the retirement of prints and drawings director Todd Weyman.

Freeman was most recently director of African American art and will assume the mantle of director of Swann’s contemporary art sales.


Nigel Freeman of Swann Galleries.

“This marks one of the most significant changes at Swann in a generation”, Swann president Nicholas Lowry said. “For the first time in our company’s history, all of our art departments will be united under one director.”

Other organisational changes at the rare works on paper specialist include a role change for department manager Lisa Crescenzo, who will become managing director of fine art.

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In Numbers


The number of amusement arcade machines in a collection amassed during the last 34 years by Ken Jackson, 89, and his son Stewart, 49, which is now coming to auction at Hansons on May 30.


The Mills Novelty Company Dewey 1898 floor roulette machine offered at Hansons.

Shown here is a Mills Novelty Company Dewey 1898 floor roulette machine made between 1889 and 1930. It was named in honour of Admiral Dewey, hero of the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish- American War. Estimate £15,000-20,000.