What Is Lyon & Turnbull?

Lyon & Turnbull is an international auction house established in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1826. Like its rivals Sotheby's and Christie's, Lyon & Turnbull holds regular sales of art, antiques, collectibles, and jewelry. It has a number of specialist departments, including Scottish art, furniture, and whisky.

In the financial world, auction houses like Lyon & Turnbull are getting increased attention as investors turn to alternative investment vehicles.

Key Takeaways

  • Lyon & Turnbull is a Scottish auction house specializing in fine art and antiques.
  • The company competes with Sotheby's and Christie's in the international market for fine art, antiques, and collectibles.
  • The market for rare and beautiful objects has grown in recent years as international investors seek alternative investment vehicles.

Understanding Lyon & Turnbull

Lyon & Turnbull is the largest and oldest auction house in Scotland. Through sales offices in London and Edinburgh, it conducts about 35 auctions per year, with online and in-person bidding.

The house also conducts auctions in the U.S. through a partnership with Freeman's, the Philadelphia-based auction house that is even more venerable than Lyon & Turnbull, having been founded in 1805.

Lyon & Turnbull's auctions focus on fine art and antiques, with specialist categories in Scottish, European, and Asian fine and decorative arts. Its partnership with Freeman's adds auctions in American art, furniture, and decorative arts.


The year Lyon & Turnbull was established.

Other Services Offered by Lyon & Turnbull

Aside from their auctioneering, Lyon & Turnbull offers related services, including:

  • Valuations of art, jewelry, and antiques for insurance purposes, for estate valuation, or for determining inheritance or capital gains taxes.
  • Estimates of auction value.
  • Assistance to private collectors in locating and purchasing new acquisitions.

The company regularly holds fundraising auctions and valuation events for charitable causes.

In addition to offering auctioneering services, Lyon & Turnbull and Freeman's publish a magazine twice a year called International View. It contains information about recent auctions and the global art market and interviews with those in the business.

Lyon & Turnbull's partner company in the U.S. is America's oldest auction house. Freeman's was founded in 1805 by Tristam Bampfylde Freeman and remained in the family for six generations. In 2016, controlling interest was transferred to an internal management team.

Real-World Example of a Lyon & Turnbull Auction

The market for fine art and antiques is relatively small, and most auctions occur with little media coverage. Occasionally, a sale captures the public's attention due to a sale item's rarity, the high price it achieved at auction, or both. Some examples:

  • A copy of the Declaration of Independence sold for $4.42 million in July 2021. The document was discovered by Lyon & Turnbull in the ancestral home of Scottish descendants of Charles Carroll, one of the original signers, and was sold by Freeman's, its sister auction house in Philadelphia.
  • A 19th-century jade scholar's brush pot was sold in London for about $50,000 at a Lyon & Turnbull auction of Asian arts in London in May 2021.
  • A copy of the first edition of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold for about $67,000 at an auction of rare books in February 2021. The auction was online only due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.