Useful auction terms and information
A method of bidding for those who cannot or do not wish to attend an auction. Absentee bids are also called “left” or “order” bids. An absentee bid may be placed before an auction begins. View the short video below on how to leave an absentee bid.
The amount by which the auctioneer increases the bidding. For instance a £500 increment would mean an opening bid of £5,000, would then subsequent bids of £5,5500, 6,000, £6,500. The auctioneer can vary at his/her discretion.
Bought-In (a.k.a. Passed)
If there are no bids on a lot, or if bidding does not reach the lowest possible selling price, the lot is “bought in,” meaning it is unsold and remains the property of the owner.
The person who placed the highest bid on an item becomes the buyer, or new owner of that item when his/her bid is accepted by the auctioneer.
The percentage above the hammer price paid by the buyer to the auction house that is part of the total purchase price.
Every lot offered for sale is described by a description of the object and any known facts, such as the name of the maker and model, the time of its creation. This information is published in the auction catalog online.
Before and during a sale, an auction house accepts competing bids for a lot from absentee bidders, phone bidders, online and in room bidders if all of these bidding methods are available.
A written description of the imperfections of an object (or lack thereof), particularly of characteristics that might affect value. This is essential information for prospective bidders.
Consignor (a.k.a. Seller)
The owner who is authorizing the auction house to act as agent on his or her behalf for sale.
The contract between the auction house and consignor.
Fair Warning (During Live Auctions)
When an auctioneer announces “fair warning”, he/she is saying, “Bid now or I am closing the lot. This is your last chance.” If there are no bids forthcoming, the auctioneer’s hammer falls and the sale is complete for that lot.
Final Selling Price
Hammer Price/High Bid + Buyer’s Premium.
The highest bid accepted/the winning bid for a lot at auction/the price at which the auctioneer’s “hammer” falls. Note that this does not include the buyer’s premium.
An individual object or group of objects offered for sale at auction as a unit.
Every lot in an auction is given a unique lot number. The lots are sold in numerical order.
The option of bidding online in advance of an auction or in real time during an auction through a computer or mobile device.
The reserve price is the lowest price which a seller is willing to accept for his or her property. At many auction houses, reserves must be set at or below the low estimate, and if bidding ends before the reserve is reached, the property will not be sold. An auction house may disclose the reserve; mark items which have reserves or keep the reserve confidential for the seller. Most auction houses keep the reserve confidential for the seller.
The starting price is the lowest price at which a lot can sell (unless a reserve price is specified).