Auction vs Private Sale

Dawsons address what you should consider before selling via a private treaty sale or auction.

As a general rule, selling via auction is an excellent choice if you want to market your items to a large number of potential buyers.


What are the advantages of selling at an auction vs private treaty sale?

This is a question we frequently get asked here at Dawsons, and the answer is more straightforward than you may think. Obviously, it will depend entirely on what you're looking to bring to market.

Auctions are best suited for items with a subjective value, which is why selling via auction is excellent if you want to market your items to a large audience of potential buyers. 

Private treaty sales are ideal for items with an objective value or when a direct comparison with prior sales is possible. 

Whichever option you choose, always seek a professional valuation from a reputable auction house.




What are the positives? 
  • Certain auction houses will stream the sale to bidders across the world, so you are not restricted to bids from people in the local area, or indeed the UK.
  • In conjunction with international streaming, the best auction houses will also directly market and promote your items to suitable buyers all over the world, and not simply rely on their pull as a ‘regional auction house’ within the UK.
  • Ensuring that your items have high numbers of bidders (both internationally and across the UK) interested in buying an item will mean that its potential sale price is limitless.
  • Reserves can be set up to ensure that your items don't sell for less than an amount you are comfortable with.
  • Commission fees are transparent and agreed with you before any items are taken to auction.


What you should note
  • Auction houses charge a fee to both the seller and the buyer (this is how they cover their overheads). 
  • Select your auction house carefully… If it does not have access to suitable clients, or indeed, does not market your item to prospective new clients with an interest in it, then your item may sell for a much lower price than it deserves.
  • An auction house will normally pay you roughly 30 days after the sale, as they need to have received payment from the winning bidder before they are able to pay monies out.



Always seek a professional valuation from a reputable auction house 



Private Treaty sale
What are the positives? 
  • You reach an agreement with a buyer on the price you want to accomplish.
  • You don’t have to worry about the amount you sell the item for. Unlike selling at auction, it has been fixed.
  • The sale is wholly confidential and not public, which may suit the requirements of certain Sellers and Buyers.
  • From accepting an offer to receiving payment, the entire process usually takes around a week and a half.


What you should note
  • The price is agreed and fixed. Whereas, at auction, there is no fixed price and multiple interested bidders will compete against each other which can help to drive the price up; whilst the “thrill of the auction” can also lead to impassioned bidders paying more than they had originally planned.
  • A fee will be charged by the Auction House for brokering the deal.


Our advice for private treaty sale

At Dawsons, we first analyse what you're seeking to sell and then advise you based on our vast industry knowledge. Of course, the final decision is yours, and regardless of whatever option you choose, we'll make sure your items are strategically placed in the finest marketplace, always seeking to earn you the highest return. It is in both of our best interests to get the best deal possible.

We assist you in selecting the most suitable auction for your item(s), with the necessary knowledge and the appropriate target market. Alternatively, should we feel that brokering a private sale through our national and international relationships may help you get a higher price, we will advise you to take this option - as we only want the best for our clients.


Our advice for auction

Please feel free to request your free valuationContact us to schedule a complimentary private home consultation or an appointment at one of our salerooms in London or Berkshire. Alternatively, simply fill out the online valuation form with a few details about the goods you want to sell, and one of our professionals will contact you with an auction estimate.

After receiving your auction estimates and agreed-upon reserves, the following step is to schedule collection. We have our own liveried vehicles, and our experienced staff will guarantee that your items are safely and securely transported from your home to the saleroom. 

Simultaneously, one of our experts will propose possible sale dates and walk you through your Seller's Agreement, which contains information on our item entry fee, reserves, selling commission, and VAT. They will also gladly address any further queries you may have. Alternatively, you are welcome to drop off your wares at one of our London or Berkshire locations.

Everything else will be handled by our team of professionals, who will ensure that your item is thoroughly catalogued, photographed, and promoted to a large audience of prospective buyers all over the world.




Please do get in touch, if you have any questions for our friendly team of experts. The specialists at Dawsons Auctioneers & Valuers are always happy to provide a free verbal appraisal and auction valuation; regularly consigning an array of wonderful items to our monthly Fine Art & Antiques sale.

We would love to hear from you.

Call us on 0207 431 9445 or get in touch via email on