Let’s start by going over the French auction sales terms.
1 – French Auction Vocabulary List
- Une salle des ventes – auction house
- Une vente aux enchères – auction sale
- Les enchères (f) – auctions
- Le/la commissaire priseur – auctioneer
- Le/la commissionnaire – commission agent
- Enchérir/renchérir – to bid
- L’enchérisseur, l’enchérisseuse – the bidder
- L’estimation (f) – the estimated selling price
- La mise à prix – the starting price
- Un collectionneur, une collectionneuse – collector
- Un chineur, une chineuse – antique bargain hunter
- Un/ une antiquaire – antique dealer
- Un brocanteur, une brocanteuse – second-hand dealer
- Le marteau – the hammer
- Adjugé… vendu ! – Adjudicated… sold! Going, going…gone!
- Un défaut – defect
- Faire une bonne affaire – to make a good deal, get a bargain
- L’époque (f) – refers to a period in history from which an item originates
- Le style – refers to style but is not precise in time
- Payer en liquide – to pay cash
- Payer par chèque – to pay with a check
- Payer par carte – to pay with a credit card
2 – About Auction Sales in France
Drouot oldest public auction house in the world and probably the most famous auction house in Paris.
It has several names:
- L’Hôtel Drouot – standing for “l’hôtel des ventes”
- Richelieu Drouot
- or just “Drouot”.
There are however many auction houses throughout France, and going to one in a smaller city will probably give you access to even better deals than in big cities where there are usually a lot of art dealers and art lovers.
The auctions are public: accessible to all. There are many antic dealers, but also antic amateurs who attend. Everybody is welcome, don’t feel you have to “know” art or be rich to go!
If you go to a public auction house in France, you’ll dive right into French culture, hear some French, have a great story to tell and maybe even bring back home a unique souvenir, or great presents for your friends !
The ambiance is usually quite nice: the auctioneer can make jokes, s/he tries to keep the auction lively. It can be a bit long but you don’t have to stay the whole time either… Don’t move as the biddings are going on but when they are changing items, it’s a good time to leave: just see how people behave and get a feel for it.
Have you ever been to “une vente aux enchères” ? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!