Prints & Multiples: Auction v Private Sale

A black and white screen print depicting an auction house sale. The artwork for sale is in a yellow frame, and contains the words: “I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MORONS BUY THIS SHIT”.Morons (LA Edition, white) © Banksy 2007
Florence Whittaker

Florence Whittaker, Urban Art Specialist & Sales Director[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
an artwork?

Browse artworks

The latest findings from the 2023 Art Basel UBS Report indicate a slight dip in sales within the public auction sector, -1%, while the dealer sector showed a healthy increase, +7% to $37.2 billion. Likewise, private sales within the prints and editions sector tend to historically trump auctions and here's why.

Blue Chip Masterpieces at Auction

Sales of original masterworks by Modern and Contemporary superstars demonstrate the excitement and relevancy of live auction sales and how effortlessly top-quality works can soar high above presale estimates. To see this in action, turn to the pinnacle of Modern & Contemporary auction sales in 2022: Andy Warhol's iconic masterpiece, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn. This highly anticipated auction broke records and ignited a fervour among bidders. Placed strategically as the grand finale, the tension and anticipation climaxed. As the bidding commenced, the electrifying question echoed through the room by Christie's president Jussi Pylkkänen, "Where shall we begin?" With a modest opening bid of $100 million, the atmosphere crackled with anticipation. For a heart-stopping 3-½ minutes, three tenacious phone bidders and one eager participant in the sales room engaged in a bidding battle. Finally, Pylkkänen’s gavel fell at the astounding hammer price of $170 million, a sale that resonated throughout the art world, marking an awe-inspiring milestone in the history of Contemporary art sales.

The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann Evening Sale Livestream © Christie's New York 2022

Prints & Multiples at Auction

The market for prints and editions plays a crucial role in the art world. According to the latest Prints & Editions report by ArtTactic, this market made up a significant 47.3% of the volume of lots sold in 2022. Despite the lower price points compared to unique works, prints and editions contribute substantial revenue to auction houses. The 2023 Spring Prints and Multiples season started strong with both live and online sales offering rare works and complete sets by Modern Contemporary and Post-War icons achieving impressive figures. Our April Auction report highlights some of the notable sales from this season. It's worth noting, however, that the fees associated with selling all types of works at auction can be staggering, even with significant sale figures.

In the realm of auctions, where the sole disclosure of values occurs, only a portion of the true market potential and magnitude is revealed. In light of the increasing desire for maximum returns on investments backed by assets, the availability of art in various mediums, both primary and secondary, has significantly expanded. This expansion grants a global reach, accessibility, and proficiency at a fraction of the cost.

It’s not just access and expertise that drives this, but as Charlotte Stewart explains - something unique to prints & multiples:

“For the most part, Prints is a market of comparables. Hence fair market value can be reasonably, fairly and appropriately attributed to a print in a way you can not claim for originals and uniques. An original with masterpiece status offers collectors something that lends itself to a bidding war - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The difference with a print is that if bidding soars outside of value for a print in a series of 250, there are other opportunities in the market - and now with more access than ever before. Auction offers only a fraction of the market opportunity, and seasoned collectors know this. When selling or buying prints, a private sale allows far more control for both the buyer and the seller.”
Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director at MyArtBroker
iMac Desktop Computer with MyArtBroker Trading Floor Display.Trading Floor © MyArtBroker 2023

Auction Fees v Private Sale Fees

The return a seller will receive at auction depends entirely on the sales figure, which is impossible to determine preemptively. Selling artworks privately through reputable dealers such as MyArtBroker presents a compelling alternative to the uncertainties of the public auction sector. With a dedicated team of arts professionals, MyArtBroker offers a specialised approach that recognises art as an alternative asset class, providing comprehensive management of the entire art ecosystem.

One notable advantage of private sales is negotiating and setting a price based on the seller's objectives and market conditions rather than solely relying on the final auction sales figure. This allows for greater control and the potential to achieve favourable returns. Additionally, working with a trusted dealer ensures a greater deal of transparency. The launch of our new platforms, MyPortfolio and our trading floor allows our clients to upload their art collection and track the value of works in real-time, ensuring that the artwork receives personalised attention and expertise, maximising its market appeal and potential value.

While all prolific auction sales obtain significant media attention and could persuade sellers to consign via auction with the outlook of profitable returns, it's important to recognise the inherent uncertainty of consigning artworks via auction, as a no-sale can have a serious detrimental impact on an artist's market and the value of their unique works. This is where the advantages of selling artworks privately online become evident.

Auction: How it Works

The traditional auction model operates on a commission-based structure, whereby fees are levied on both the buyer and the seller involved in the transaction. When selling an artwork through an auction, the seller is typically responsible for paying a vendor's commission, which can reach up to 15% of the final sale price. In addition to the commission, the seller may incur additional charges for services such as marketing, cataloguing, shipping, and storage of the artwork.

Similarly, winning bidders in an auction must pay fees based on a percentage of the hammer price, typically 25% to 27%. These fees are subject to the applicable Value Added Tax (VAT) as per local regulations. In cases where the final selling price exceeds the high estimate significantly, an additional performance commission of 1% to 2% may be applied.

The dual-sided fee structure in the traditional auction model ensures that fees are collected from both buyers and sellers, allowing auction houses to cover their operational costs and provide a platform for the exchange of artworks.

As Charlotte Stewart, our MD, who spent 10 years at a major auction house as a Business Director before abandoning what she describes as a ‘charmingly archaic industry’ for MyArtBroker, “The juggernaut of auction requires significant commissions on sellers and buyers to support an industry that sells everything from miniature snuff bottles, 19th-century furniture and colossal marble antiquities - in short, you’re paying other people's costs when you consign a print.”

Considering the fees associated with auctions is crucial for sellers and buyers, as they can impact the overall transaction value and financial outcome. Understanding these costs enables individuals to make informed decisions and navigate the auction process effectively.

The MyArtBroker Private Sale Advantage

What sets us apart is our vast network of buyers and sellers dedicated to contemporary and modern prints and editions and our bespoke algorithm that analyses our private sales and valuation data blended with auction sales data allowing us to stay informed on the complex interplay of artists’ market performances. For example, two artists currently dominating the art market are Andy Warhol and David Hockney, showcasing remarkable resilience despite economic downturns. Our comprehensive Market Watch report delves into Andy Warhol's market trends, while our Modern British Artist report explores the success of David Hockney. These reports, compiled with public auction data and our private sales, are available for free download and closely align with ArtTactic's Prints and Editions report (compiled with auction data only), ranking Banksy as the third most influential artist in the prints and editions auction market.

By embracing the online art market, sellers benefit from a seamless selling experience that optimises returns and provides flexibility and access to a global network of passionate art enthusiasts. Take advantage of MyArtBroker's industry-leading platform to unlock the full potential of your collection via our newly launched MyPortfolio feature.

Buying at Auction

To participate in an auction and successfully make a purchase, you can choose to be physically present at the auction venue on the specified date and time. Alternatively, if you cannot attend in person, you can pre-arrange a call with a specialist who will assist you remotely. Another convenient option is to log in online and participate in real-time bidding during the auction. You must plan accordingly and allow for approximately 60 to 100 lots per hour. Miss your lot, and there is no going back.

Before the auction begins, it is essential to determine your maximum bid—the highest amount you are willing to pay for the artwork. It is often recommended to add a buffer of around 30% to your top bid to account for competitive bidding and unexpected price increases. Once you have established your maximum bid, it is crucial to stick to it, even when faced with intense bidding competition. Maintaining discipline and not exceeding your predetermined limit is essential to ensure a successful and financially sound purchase.

Selling at Auction

To sell your artwork at an auction house, the first step is to select the right auction house for your print and approach them where you will be passed to the right department. Depending on the lead time to the next auction, you’ll hear back when their next consignment deadline is fast approaching. The auction house's specialists will evaluate your work, sometimes in person, to provide advice on pricing and determine the best sale for it.

As previously discussed, when selling an artwork through an auction, the seller is typically responsible for paying a vendor's commission, which can reach up to 15% of the final sale price. In addition to the commission, the seller may incur additional charges for services such as marketing, cataloguing, shipping, and storage of the artwork.

Once you have agreed upon the details of your consignment with the specialist, an administrator will contact you and provide the necessary paperwork. In most circumstances, it becomes your responsibility to arrange and cover the shipping costs to send your artwork to the auction house's storage facility before the auction.

Auctions are usually scheduled a few months before, as auction seasons follow a fixed timeline. Even if the auction is approaching soon, consignment deadlines are typically set 2 to 3 months prior. If your consigning a print, you may be asked to wait for the next, or even the next, Prints & Multiples sale if a work from the same series is already consigned. A frustration for sellers, particularly in a hot market, when 3 months can make a huge difference to the value of a work.

What Happens If My Artwork Sells or Doesn’t Sell At Auction?

If your artwork sells at the auction, you can expect to receive payment a few weeks after the completion of the sale. However, if your artwork does not sell, you will be responsible for managing and covering the costs of safely returning your work. Additionally, you may need to pay unsold fees to the auction house, often calculated as 1.5% of the average of the high and low estimates provided by the auction house. You will typically have a timeframe of two weeks to one month to collect your unsold work from their storage facility before storage fees begin to accrue.

There are situations when offering at auction is favourable, this depends on value. Lower-level works, entry-level prints, prints with considerable condition issues, or with relatively new secondary markets sometimes perform better in the decorative market or indeed at houses that specialise in an artist, and we can advise on where to offer for the best upon consultation with our specialists, free of charge.

iPhone showing a detailed view of MyPortfolio features.MyPortfolio © MyArtBroker 2023

Selling at MyArtBroker

We are happy to provide a guaranteed 0% seller's fee without any hidden charges. We have over 20 years of experience and unlike our competitors, we leverage digital innovation to offer a 0% fee to our sellers simply because we have the means to do so and specialise in this area.

Here's how our process works: Once you reach out to us, we will assign you a dedicated broker to assist you throughout the selling journey. Together, we will agree on a price for your artwork that you are comfortable with, have its condition checked, and then we will promptly list and promote it to our extensive buyer network.

You decide on the return price, and what you’d be happy to sell the piece for, if we can achieve that we arrange the sale and the shipment of the artwork eliminating the need for a storage facility. We make a competitively low commission on the buyer’s side, ensuring we stay the best option in the print market for both buyer and seller. At MyArtBroker, our mission is to provide more or the same level of return expected from an auction but with the added convenience of control.

How does MyArtBroker offer this service at 0% sellers commission and auction houses can’t?

With our extensive experience in the prints and edition market, we have actively listened to our buyers and sellers, refining our platform and network to meet print collectors' needs - access, control, value data and sale transparency. Our optimised service distinguishes us from traditional auction houses by minimising overhead costs and enabling significant investments in digital innovation and targeted marketing strategies within our network.

When it comes to selling your artwork, achieving the best price relies on accessing a niche market with a dedicated community of collectors. If you have a print to sell, turning to a specialist in the print market yields superior results compared to approaching an auction house, which caters to broader categories of artwork.

For buyers, we offer the advantage of thoughtful consideration for each purchase without the time constraints of a live auction. We provide a simplified and secure platform to bring a wide selection of artworks to the market. Our brokers are experts in their respective fields, facilitating seamless communication between buyers and sellers. Moreover, we take pride in offering balanced market advice to first-time buyers and sellers alike, ensuring informed decision-making processes.

Specialists in Prints & Multiples

Before venturing into selling your prints online, it is advisable to seek guidance from experts rather than navigating the field independently. Art is a unique and personal investment, and relying solely on online platforms, no matter how advanced, may not adequately cater to the evolving collecting market or the needs of established collectors with significant inventories.

Buying at MyArtBroker

By buying through MyArtBroker, you gain access to an experienced personal broker who will support you throughout the process. They will assist in finding the appropriate artwork, handle authentication, negotiate a price, and oversee the delivery process, ensuring a smooth and secure transaction. You will also have access to MyPortfolio and our trading floor allowing you to see which works and artists are in the highest demand allowing you to make informed buying decisions.

We have been sourcing Urban, Modern and Contemporary prints for our network since 2010. Our team comprises specialists from auctions, galleries, dealerships and art tech. This means we know the art market, the people, the data and the artwork itself better than anyone else.

Final Advice

  1. Get Advice: Wherever you choose to buy or sell, ensure your transactions are secure by utilising a trusted platform, examining testimonials, and seeking expert advice. While the online art trade is gaining trust, platforms like eBay still grapple with the issue of artist authenticity. For example, even with Banksy's Pest Control Certificate of Authenticity, the market is plagued by counterfeit works. Opting to purchase through a fine art professional guarantees complete assurance, and our brokers are here to provide valuable guidance in this respect, even if you’re set on buying elsewhere.
  2. Use Market Data: Take advantage of our platform's features MyPortfolio and the Trading Floor, which allows you to post listings for desired artworks within a global community of buyers and sellers. This is particularly beneficial for collectors in search of elusive works that are harder to find and can give you a real idea of the value you’re looking to return or spend.
  3. The Art Market's Future is Online: According to the most recent Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, although fewer people bought online in 2022 (78% compared to 85%), the number was still higher than pre-pandemic levels. This preference shift is evident as buyers and sellers veer away from traditional auction houses and gravitate towards online private sales. The access and value that trusted online sales offer have long eclipsed that of century-old auction houses.

Buy and sell artworks

Banksquiat (black) - Signed Print by Banksy 2019 - MyArtBroker
Banksquiat (black) 
BanksySigned Print 

£50,000-£70,000Value Indicator

$100,000-$130,000 Value Indicator

$90,000-$120,000 Value Indicator

¥450,000-¥630,000 Value Indicator

60,000-80,000 Value Indicator

$490,000-$690,000 Value Indicator

¥9,290,000-¥13,010,000 Value Indicator

$60,000-$90,000 Value Indicator

-22% AAGR (5YR)


48 in network
30 want this
Absolut Vodka - Signed Print by Andy Warhol 1985 - MyArtBroker
Absolut Vodka 
Andy WarholSigned Print 

£25,000-£40,000Value Indicator

$50,000-$80,000 Value Indicator

$45,000-$70,000 Value Indicator

¥220,000-¥360,000 Value Indicator

29,000-45,000 Value Indicator

$250,000-$390,000 Value Indicator

¥4,650,000-¥7,430,000 Value Indicator

$30,000-$50,000 Value Indicator

34% AAGR (5YR)


3 in network
5 want this
Pretty Tulips - Signed Print by David Hockney 1969 - MyArtBroker
Pretty Tulips 
David HockneySigned Print 

£16,000-£24,000Value Indicator

$30,000-$45,000 Value Indicator

$27,000-$40,000 Value Indicator

¥140,000-¥220,000 Value Indicator

19,000-28,000 Value Indicator

$160,000-$240,000 Value Indicator

¥2,970,000-¥4,460,000 Value Indicator

$20,000-$30,000 Value Indicator

6% AAGR (5YR)


8 want this
Cabeza - Unsigned Print by Jean-Michel Basquiat 2004 - MyArtBroker
Jean-Michel BasquiatUnsigned Print 

£60,000-£100,000Value Indicator

$120,000-$190,000 Value Indicator

$100,000-$170,000 Value Indicator

¥540,000-¥900,000 Value Indicator

70,000-120,000 Value Indicator

$590,000-$980,000 Value Indicator

¥11,120,000-¥18,540,000 Value Indicator

$80,000-$130,000 Value Indicator

4% AAGR (5YR)


5 in network
5 want this
Queen Elizabeth II (F. & S. II.335) - Signed Print by Andy Warhol 1985 - MyArtBroker
Queen Elizabeth II (F. & S. II.335) 
Andy WarholSigned Print 

£160,000-£240,000Value Indicator

$310,000-$460,000 Value Indicator

$270,000-$410,000 Value Indicator

¥1,440,000-¥2,150,000 Value Indicator

190,000-280,000 Value Indicator

$1,580,000-$2,370,000 Value Indicator

¥29,740,000-¥44,610,000 Value Indicator

$200,000-$300,000 Value Indicator

47% AAGR (5YR)


2 in network
4 want this
Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.142) - Signed Print by Andy Warhol 1975 - MyArtBroker
Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.142) 
Andy WarholSigned Print 

£80,000-£120,000Value Indicator

$150,000-$230,000 Value Indicator

$140,000-$210,000 Value Indicator

¥720,000-¥1,080,000 Value Indicator

90,000-140,000 Value Indicator

$790,000-$1,180,000 Value Indicator

¥14,870,000-¥22,300,000 Value Indicator

$100,000-$150,000 Value Indicator

27% AAGR (5YR)


2 in network
2 want this
Muhammad Ali (F. & S. II.180) - Signed Print by Andy Warhol 1978 - MyArtBroker
Muhammad Ali (F. & S. II.180) 
Andy WarholSigned Print 

£28,000-£40,000Value Indicator

$50,000-$80,000 Value Indicator

$50,000-$70,000 Value Indicator

¥250,000-¥360,000 Value Indicator

35,000-45,000 Value Indicator

$280,000-$390,000 Value Indicator

¥5,200,000-¥7,430,000 Value Indicator

$35,000-$50,000 Value Indicator

10% AAGR (5YR)


2 in network
Lilacs - Signed Print by David Hockney 2010 - MyArtBroker
David HockneySigned Print 

£30,000-£45,000Value Indicator

$60,000-$90,000 Value Indicator

$50,000-$80,000 Value Indicator

¥270,000-¥410,000 Value Indicator

35,000-50,000 Value Indicator

$300,000-$450,000 Value Indicator

¥5,590,000-¥8,380,000 Value Indicator

$40,000-$60,000 Value Indicator


1 in network
4 want this
Anatomy, Thyroid - Signed Print by Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982 - MyArtBroker
Anatomy, Thyroid 
Jean-Michel BasquiatSigned Print 


4 want this
Jimmy Carter I (F. & S. II.150) - Signed Print by Andy Warhol 1976 - MyArtBroker
Jimmy Carter I (F. & S. II.150) 
Andy WarholSigned Print 

£18,000-£27,000Value Indicator

$35,000-$50,000 Value Indicator

$30,000-$45,000 Value Indicator

¥160,000-¥240,000 Value Indicator

21,000-30,000 Value Indicator

$180,000-$270,000 Value Indicator

¥3,350,000-¥5,020,000 Value Indicator

$23,000-$35,000 Value Indicator

13% AAGR (5YR)

Discover live market data against your collection

The only dedicated prints portfolio management system in the world. Add your collection to track value in real time.

Track demand on our trading floor

Track live demand in works from our artist's portfolios and view access to the works you're looking for.

What to
Invest in Now

Data-driven market commentary on what's driving growth, supply & demand in the Prints and Multiples market.