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The firm has added an extra 0.5% to its upper threshold (now at 12.5%), although has not gone as far as Sotheby’s, whose equivalent rate is 12.9% .

More variance also exists in the levels at which the thresholds apply – in particular the 20% range, which will now apply up to £3m at Christie’s compared with up to £2m at Sotheby’s.

When a lot is knocked down at £1m at an auction, for example, the buyer will now pay £208,750 in fees to Christie’s. This compares to £209,000 at Sotheby’s.

The greater difference comes when a lot sells at £5m – a buyer will now pay £858,750 to Christie’s, compared with £796,000 at Sotheby’s.

Christie’s new rates cover all collecting categories except wine and will take effect from September 11.

As reported in ATG, Sotheby’s unveiled its updated fees schedule – due to come into effect on November 1 – by announcing it would axe premium in online-only auctions.

Christie’s, however, will continue to charge the same buyer’s premium for online-only and live auctions.

London buyer's premiums

Sotheby’s (effective 1/11/17)

25% – up to £180,000

20% – from £180,000 up to £2m

12.9% – thereafter

Christie’s (effective 11/09/17)

25% – up to £175,000

20% – from £175,000 up to £3m

12.5% – thereafter

*Rates apply across all collecting categories except wine.

ATG comment

Christie’s response to Sotheby’s adjusting its buyer’s premium is entirely predictable, though the speed of the reaction is perhaps more of a surprise.

The last time the leading auctioneers made changes to their premium was autumn 2016, when Christie’s made the first move, followed by Sotheby’s announcing its changes a month later.

Christie’s lightning response last week suggests it planned to raise the buyer’s premium at some point this season anyway – crucially in advance of the key consignment period for the flagship New York sales in May.

Neither auctioneer wishes to give the other the upper hand in negotiating with vendors and, so the theory goes, charging the buyer more means they can cut better deals with vendors.