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Glossary of auctions

There follows an overview of public auctions in 27 keywords, covering buying, selling and the catalogue, as well as the right of pre-emption and what it means when an item is declared "sold", etc.

Absentee bid

An enthusiast interested in an object in an auction that they are unable to attend may leave an absentee bid with the auctioneer, one of their colleagues, or else online if the sale is streamed on the Internet. This absentee bid sets the maximum purchase price.
Advance on sale

Before the auction, the possibility for a seller of obtaining an advance on the proceeds of the sale from the auction house (without any limit on the percentage of the hammer price).

If a lot is not sold at the auction, the auction house may sell it via a private sale, unless otherwise agreed by the seller, at a price equal to or higher than the last bid or, in the absence of the latter, for an amount equal to or higher than the opening bid. The last bidder must be notified if they are known.
Auction Crier

They circulate among the public during the auction and, as their title suggests, announce the auctioneer's or buyers' bids, and give out the slips.
Auction house (OVV)

These are the commercial companies responsible for organising and conducting public auctions. They are owned by a person, partners or shareholders, and declared to the French Auction Market Authority (CVV) At least one manager, partner or employee must hold the auctioneer diploma. The auctioneer is responsible for overseeing the auction, declaring items "sold" and ensuring a report is made.
Auctioneer's office/Judicial auctioneer

Responsible for organising the judicial sales of furniture at public auction, in other words, required by law or by a court decision. The law of 6 August 2015 will lead to the merger, as of 1 July 2022, of the profession of judicial auctioneer with that of judicial officer, forming a single profession of "commissaire de justice".

Offer of an amount higher than the opening bid or previous offers, during an auction
Bidding Slip

Handed out by the crier when the object is declared "sold", this allows the buyer to take possession of their purchase in exchange for payment. Do not lose it whatever you do! Anyone finding it could take possession of the corresponding object.
Bill of sale

Proof serving as an invoice, delivered to the buyer by the auctioneer and detailing the characteristics of the object (description, period, dimensions), its references in the catalogue, the hammer price and the amount of buyer's premium. It represents the title of payment and ownership, useful for subsequent transactions, or for any insurance of the object.
Bought in/unsold

When an object does not reach the reserve price set by the seller in agreement with the auctioneer, or in the absence of bids, it is deemed unsold. It can be retrieved by its owner, sold in a private after-sale, or put up for auction again.

By definition, the public auction is open to all. If an enthusiast is not outbid then the object is awarded to them. The buyer's premium is set at a rate ranging from 20% to 30% inclusive of VAT, decreasing in some cases depending on the auction, in addition to the hammer price (VAT on the buyer's premium is 20%, with the exception of books, which attract a rate of 5.5%). In the context of a judicial sale, the buyer's premium is 14.40% inclusive of VAT.

Printed publication in which are described, estimated, numbered in the order of sale, and sometimes reproduced, the furniture and objects constituting the auction. It represents an indispensable guide for following the auction. It is possible to subscribe to Drouot in order to regularly receive catalogues at home with details of specialities which are of interest to you. The catalogues are also available online.

Colleague of the authorised or judicial auctioneer, they provide estimates and take absentee bids.

Evaluation of an object provided by an authorised person, after an expert appraisal. It translates into a price "range".

The public presentation of the objects offered for auction is mandatory. It usually takes place the day before the sale at the latest. At Drouot, three specific days are reserved for exhibitions: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and the morning of the auction, between 11 a.m. and 12 noon.

As and when required, this professional assists the auction house with the description, presentation and estimation of the objects offered for sale. The profession of expert is not regulated by law, but the expert is jointly and severally liable, along with the organiser of the auction, as regards their activity.
An expert might be certified by a court or belong to a union organization:
Experts agréés par les cours d’appel
Chambre nationale des experts spécialisés en objets d’art et de collection (CNES)
Compagnie nationale des experts (CNE)
Syndicat français des experts professionnels en œuvre d’art et objets de collection (SFEP)
Union française des experts (UFE)
Compagnie d’expertise en antiquité et objets d’art (CEA)
Fédération nationale d’experts professionnels spécialisés en art (FNEPSA)
Confédération européenne des experts d’art (CEDEA)
Syndicat national de la librairie ancienne et moderne (SLAM)

Auction houses and experts are jointly and severally liable. This liability applies for a maximum of five years after the auction.
Live auction

A live auction is one conducted in an auction room and webcast on the Internet to permit live bids.
Online auction

An online auction is one held solely on the Internet so bids can be made from the placing online of the catalogue through to the end of the auction.
Opening bid

Auction starting point, which is usually less than the low estimate

It is made immediately by all means: in cash (up to a limit of €1,000 for a professional or a tax resident in France and €15,000 for non-professionals and tax residents outside France), by cheque or by credit card. The purchased object can only be issued to the buyer once it has been paid for.
Reiteration of the auction

Formerly known as a "false bid", this procedure consists of reselling a lot that the buyer has subsequently been unable to pay for. If the object does not reach the previous sale price, the buyer will have to pay the difference.
Reserve price

Confidential minimum agreed between the seller and the auctioneer, below which the object will not be sold off. It is not mandatory and cannot be higher than the low estimate
Right of pre-emption

Right granted to the State or to a local authority, by the law of 31 December 1921, to acquire an object at a public auction by replacing the last bidder. It is executed once the sale has been declared, and must be confirmed within a fortnight
Sale handler

Person in charge of the handling and shipping of the objects before, during and after the auction, for the purpose of any deliveries.

To present an object for auction, it is simply necessary to contact an auction house which will estimate it. The seller then signs a listing agreement. Established by the auction houses, the buyer's premium can vary.

The term "sold" marks the end of the bidding and the transfer of ownership of the object.