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The firm, who cannot hold sales in London until the end of 2003 as part of an agreement with Bonhams, will introduce the new rates in New York and Switzerland immediately.

Until now, they have charged 15 per cent on the first $50,000 of any sale and 10 per cent above that figure. The rates have now been changed to 19.5 per cent on anything up to $100,000 and 10 per cent on any portion thereafter.

The exceptions will be for jewellery and watches, where the rate up to $100,000 will be 18 per cent (with 10 per cent thereafter) and Swiss art, where a flat rate of 18 per cent will apply.