La Gazette Drouot
Bid glossary from A to Z
French auctions glossary from A to Z
25 key words for a full panorama of auctions
Acheter / To buy
Auction sales are open to all, which means that anyone can buy. The lot is knocked down to the highest bidder who will receive a purchase slip with which he can retrieve the lot after payment. A buyer's premium is added to the auction price: between 9 and 20%; it decreases as the bid increases (VAT of 19.6% is also added, except for books for which it is 5.5%). A V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) is also added. Legal fees (14,352 %) are charged in the case of a judicial sale.
Adjudication / Sold out
The word "adjugé" (sold) ends the bidding and transfers the title of ownership to the last bidder.
"Après-vente" / After sale
Within 15 days of the "adjudication", it is possible to sell on agreement, with as minimum price that of the last bid or if there was none, that of the starting bid. The last bidder must be informed, if he is known.
Avance / Loan
Auctioneers may grant the seller an advance payment on the result of the sale (with no percentage limit of the sale price).
Bordereau / Bill of sale
The written proof of purchase given by the auctioneer to the buyer describes the lot, its period, dimensions, catalogue number, the auction price and the buyer's premium. The bill of sale acts as a guarantee and proof of payment and ownership in case of dispute or for insurance purpose.
Bulletin / Bulletin
Given by the sale crier at the time of the sale. It allows you to take away your purchase after payment. Do not lose it! Anyone finding it could obtain the corresponding lot.
Catalogue / Catalogue
A printed booklet in which the items are numbered following the sequential order of the sale, described, and sometimes reproduced. Catalogues often contain the list of estimates. Written either by the auctioneers, or by experts or other specialists, they are an indispensable guide to attending or following a sale. Some are also found on the internet (
Clerc / Assistant
Assistant to the auctioneer, he can give estimates and take an absentee bid.
Commissionnaire / Sale handler
He handles the lots during the sale and is also involved in the transportation service known as Chenu. Easily recognized because of their uniforms, the "commissionnaires" set up the rooms for the exhibits, handle the lots during the sale and, upon request, deliver goods.
Crieur / Sale crier
During the sale he moves among the audience. As his job title indicates, he calls the bids. He also delivers the purchase slips.
Droit de préemption / Preemption
According to the law of December 21st 1921, the French Government has the right to purchase a work of art at auction, through the National museums, taking the last bidder's place. Acting once the last bid is called by the auctioneer, the Government representative uses its right of preemption, under the Minister of Culture's authority.
Enchère / Bid
A price offer higher than the initial one or the preceding bids.
Estimation / Estimate
Price or price range that should be close to the final price. The estimate is given by a person authorized by an auctionneer’s office or Drouot-Estimations.
Étude / Auctioneer's office
The office of a legal auctioneer, the only party authorized to conduct judicial sales, i.e. those required by law or the decision of a judge.
Expert / Expert
The expert appraisal of an item includes its identification and evaluation. In most specialized sales, the person authorized to conduct the sale is assisted by one or more experts whose expertise is recognized in their own field and who carry out the research necessary to the qualification of the object. A list of authorized experts is established by the Council of Sales, even if the voluntary sales companies can work with freelance experts.
Expositions / Exhibits
Usually, the items may be viewed the day before the sale from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. (in Paris on Saturday for a Monday sale) and on the day of the sale from 11 A.M. to 12 A.M. Most exhibits take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Folle enchère / Crazy bid
On rare occasions, a careless bidder may be caught up in the bidding and find himself unable to pay the price. A "folle enchère" (literally "crazy bid") is then announced. The lot is auctioned again. If the new auction price does not reach the former one, the careless bidder will have to pay the difference!
Garantie / Guarantee
A ten-year guarantee certifies the authenticity of the lot acquired as it is described in the official sale's record, the catalogue and the bill of purchase.
Mise à prix / Starting bid
The starting bid is usually half of the estimate of the lot.
Ordre d'achat / Absentee bid
If you are unable to attend the sale, an absentee bid may be left with the auctioneer or his staff, indicating the maximum you want to bid. It will be carried out free of charge.
Paiement / Payment
On presentation of the purchase slip, payment will be made in cash or by check. In the latter case, delivery may be held until the check is cashed if no registration has been made with the auctioneer or the expert's office.
Prix de réserve / Reserve price
The seller, in a confidential agreement with the auctioneer, may set a minimum price under which the item will not be sold. Since July 10 2000, it cannot be higher than the low estimate made public.
Rachat / Bought in
If the last bid does not reach the minimum price ("prix de réserve") set by the seller and the auctioneer, the item is not sold and is returned to its owner. For these items, fees usually amount to 3% of the last bid.
Société de ventes volontaires (SVV)/Voluntary sales companies
They result from the free decision of a person to sell all or part of his goods. They must be conducted by private commercial companies (owned by a person, associates or shareholders) that have been approved by the Council of Voluntary Sales and in which at least one of the managers, associates or salaried employees has an auctioneer diploma.
Vendre / To sell
To put a lot up for auction, you need to contact an auctioneer. He will give an estimate. In agreement with the seller, he sets a "reserve" or minimum price after which the seller signs a sale document. The fees charged by SSV’s vary. VAT is also added. Legal fees (5%) are charged in the case of a judicial sale.