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Auctions from A to Z

Auctions from A to Z
For over four centuries, the French tradition of publicly auctioning personal property has provided unique guarantees of professionalism and secure transactions. The auctions are called public because they are open to all: anybody may attend as a spectator, place bids and acquire lots. An auction therefore allows a "fair price" to be established for an object, thanks to a transparent and public confrontation of offer and demand. It is also a unique opportunity to discover the art market and learn how to appreciate the works.

What are the different types of auctions and what is the role of an auctioneer?

The law of 10 July 2000 makes the distinction between two types of sales of personal property at public auctions, and they are subject to different legal regulations.

Voluntary sales come through the independent decision of a person to sell all or part of their property. A voluntary sale is led by a auction house, whose activities are submitted to the law of 20 July 2011. They must meet the qualification and integrity conditions guaranteed by the Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (French Auction Market Authority).

Judicial sales, which result from a court decision or are prescribed by law, are conducted by a judicial auctioneer. He is a law officer appointed by order of the Minister of Justice (Keeper of the Seals) who reports to the Chambre Nationale des Commissaires-Priseurs Judiciaires(National Chamber of Judicial Auctioneers). Judicial auctioneers can appraise and list estates in the event of inheritance, apportionment, and guardianship, etc. as well as make appraisals for insurance purposes.

Public auctions, might they be voluntary or judicial, benefit from a very high level of security and transparency in their transactions, courtesy of the training required to lead these auctions, the five-year liability guarantee from the auction house, and the five-year authenticity guarantee attached to the object that has been sold.

How to value your property?

You may contact one of Drouot’s auction houses in order to get an estimate. The auctioneers officiating at Drouot offer comprehensive and impartial advice, while respecting complete confidentiality. They are authorised to appraise objects and set their estimates. They can also take an advisory role regarding the management of property.

L’inventaire dressé par le commissaire-priseur constitue un répertoire du patrimoine mobilier, comprenant la description, des informations sur l’époque, la provenance, la technique, les références bibliographiques et l’évaluation des biensThe valuation drawn up by the auctioneer is a list of the property. It includes the lots’ description, information on the era, its provenance, the technique, bibliographical references, and the estimate.

An initial opinion can be obtained free of charge by sending an email or a letter with photographs of the objects. An authorised auctioneer can then arrange an appointment to conduct a valuation in-situ.

How to sell an item at drouot?

Once an estimate has been set, the auctioneer informs the consignor whether it is a good time to sell with regard to the market and informs them of the terms.

The consignment agreement

This is a contract through which the consignor instructs the auction house to sell one or several lots on their behalf. This written agreement is confidential and made in transparent conditions. The consignment agreement details the name of the consignor, the date of the auction in which the property will be included, the possible, reserve price the commission and taxes that will be deducted from the sale proceeds.

The commission

The commission, deducted from the proceeds of the sale, is set by mutual agreement between the auction house and the consignor. The commission includes the service rendered and potentially various expenses such as expertise, photography, advertising, etc.

How to acquire an item at drouot?

The Hôtel Drouot hosts nearly 1,200 auctions each year, most of which are presented in a catalogue.
The auction catalogue includes key information about an item: its description, its stylistic characteristics, its date, its condition, its provenance and its estimate.
The catalogue also sets out the general conditions of sale; it is recommended to read it before bidding.
The catalogues are available at the Hôtel Drouot, on the auction calendar at drouot.com and on the websites of the respective auction houses.

The public exhibition

Each auction at Drouot is preceded by a public exhibition, so interested parties can assess the condition of the items on offer. The viewing takes place the day before the auction from 11am to 6pm and on the morning of the sale, between 11am and 12pm.
The auctioneers and their colleagues are available to answer any question asked about the lots, their provenance, condition or estimate.
A virtual tour of Drouot’s auction rooms can be accessed as soon as the presale exhibition starts.

The auction

There are four ways to bid during an auction.

In the room:

No prior registration is necessary. To place a bid, you can get the auctioneer's attention with a hand gesture. In this case, the amount of the bid is left to their judgement. To offer a specific amount, we recommend that you say it out loud.

By absentee bid:

an absentee bid may be submitted to the auctioneer or their colleagues during the exhibition. It authorises the auctioneer to bid on behalf of anyone who is not physically present in the auction room. The absentee bid specifies the maximum amount that the bidder wishes to spend.

By telephone:

it is possible, upon request, to be called by a representative of the auction house in order to bid live on one or several lots.

On the Internet:

catalogued and listed auctions taking place at Drouot are broadcasted live on Drouot Digital. You can easily place bids wherever you are by creating an account on this secure platform.
The striking of the "sold" hammer signifies the transfer of ownership of the item to the last bidder. In the room, the crier gives the buyer a ticket, allowing them to take possession of their purchase, after payment has been made to the auction house. Successful bidders, who have made their purchases by absentee bid, over the phone or on the Internet, are contacted by the auction house regarding payment and the collection of their lot.


In a voluntary sale, the final price includes the hammer price plus the buyer's premium, which is freely set by the auction house. The buyer’s premium is detailed in the catalogue and announced at the beginning of the auction; they may be decreasing according to the price.
At a judicial auction, the buyer’s premium is fixed at 14.40 % incl. tax.
Payment can be made in cash, by cheque, or by card. At the time of payment, the successful bidder is given an invoice that, together with the ticket, enables them to collect the object.
Payment in cash is allowed for sums of up to €1,000 for private buyers or professionals residing in France and professionals residing abroad. Cash payments cannot exceed €15,000 for private buyers not residing in France, upon presentation of written proof.
In the case of payment by cheque, the purchase cannot be collected until after the cheque has been cashed.


art passionately!

The iconic Hôtel Drouot is the leading auction place in France. Open to all, the institution is a key marketplace for art connoisseurs. Whether you are a demanding collector or not, you will be able to keep up with the latest art market news, browse the upcoming sales and main results, take part in events... Stay connected to this unique place through our auctions and exhibitions calendars, and explore the unique universe of this fascinating world through our guide and variety of services.
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