What is an auction house? an auctioneer? a judicial commissioner?

An auction house is a company that organises auctions. You can ask an auction house to estimate the value of your goods and/or auction them off at voluntary sales.


Legislation on the organisation of auctions varies from country to country:

  • In France: 
    Auctioneers (who are specifically trained to appraise and present goods at public auction) are responsible for conducting voluntary auctions, awarding lots to the highest and last bidders. During the sale, they take into account all bidders, whether they are present in the auction room, by telephone or via the Internet. They can also bid on behalf of absent bidders who have left fixed purchase orders.

    Access to the activity of voluntary sales is subject to a prior declaration of activity registered with the Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (CVV), the regulatory authority for the public auction market in France.

    In addition, since 1 July 2022, judicial auctions (prescribed by law or by court order) are conducted by commissioners of Justice (‘commissaire de justice’). This new regulated profession, resulting from the Macron law of 6 August 2015 and in place since 1 July 2022, brings together the former professions of judicial auctioneers and bailiffs.

    The ‘Chambre nationationale des commissaires de justice’ is the representative organisation of this profession.

  • The French professions of ‘auctioneer’ / ‘commissaires de justice’ have no exact equivalent internationally (in terms of training and regulation).
    For example:
      • In Belgium : There is no specific training to hold the hammer during an auction. While auctioneers are independent, they are obliged to work with ministerial officers (notaries or bailiffs).

      • In the UK: There is no specific training to become an Auctioneer. The requirements (a degree in art history, humanities, art market) to practice this profession may vary from one auction house to another. 
      • In Germany: Although, as in France, there is a distinction between judicial sales (organised by the 'öffentliche bestellte Versteigerer') and voluntary sales (organised by the 'Versteigerer'), access to the Versteigerer profession does not require any specific training but expertise in the field of auctioned goods. The organisation of sales is subject to administrative authorisation and specific regulations. 
      • In Italy: As in Belgium, the UK and Germany, there is no specific training to become a 'Banditore'. After studies (usually in art, history, cultural heritage), aspiring 'Banditore' train by working in auction houses.
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