The state preempted the sale. Director of the French national archives Hervé Lemoine announced it to the room after the hammer fell, to the applause of the crowd. “Bravo, sir!” cried the auctioneer in response, because hey, Sotheby’s is getting paid no matter what, and no small amount either. The papers sold for far above the estimate. Sotheby’s valued them at €200,000-300,000 ($287,000-$431,000) and the final hammer price was €750,000 ($1 million). The state also preempted the sale of another group of documents, letters written by Augustin Robespierre and Phillipe Le Bas to Maximilien. That lot sold for €40,000 ($57,000), so altogether, including buyer’s premium, the final price tag is €979,400, or approximately $1.4 million.
The Society for Robespierre Studies had already raised $100,000. Now they and the government have to raise ten times that amount to keep the papers in country. No small feat, especially since Robespierre remains a conflicted figure in French history, what with the mass murders and the Terror and all. Hervé Lemoine declared himself optimistic that the money would be raised, then coupled that optimism with an appeal to the French people to chip in vigorously.