Sotheby's Australia

How to Buy & Sell

Auction Basics

An ancient and simple form of commerce, auctions have long been the best way to establish the value of unique and rare items.  Sotheby’s Australia has been established in the Australian market since the 1980s, but in association with Sotheby’s has a history of more than 260 years.  Sotheby’s Australia has perfected the art of the auction, yet is continuously seeking ways of updating the process.  Today, modern innovations such as broadcasting sales over the internet and accepting bids online and in real time allow you to participate in our auctions from anywhere in the world.

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Who can attend an auction?

All of Sotheby's Australia auctions are free and open to the public, and there is no obligation to bid. Most auctions are held during the evening. You may also watch our auctions online.  Watching an auction live from one of our galleries is a great way to become familiar with the auction process.  If you have any questions about the auction process, please feel free to ask one of our staff members for guidance.

Who are the auctioneers?

Sotheby’s Australia’s auctioneers are trained professionals, often with decades of experience. The auctioneer initiates the sale of each lot by briefly describing the item and then starting the bidding at a price that is lower than its reserve. The auctioneer acknowledges every bidder, whether they are in the saleroom, participating via the internet, or over the telephone. They also place bids on behalf of absentee bidders. The auctioneer, whose authority is final, determines when the highest bid has been made and declares the lot sold.

How does bidding work?

After the auctioneer starts the bidding, they will accept incrementally higher bids until a sole bidder remains. This final bidder purchases the lot. However, if the bidding fails to reach the reserve price, the lot will pass unsold.

What types of auctions does Sotheby’s Australia hold?

Sotheby’s Australia’s auctions generally comprise fine arts, antiques and decorative arts and jewellery in sales dedicated to each collecting area. Occasionally, however, Sotheby’s Australia offers an entire collection on its own, or sells the entire contents of magnificent homes or the estates of great collectors and luminaries.

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