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Auction Terminology

Absentee Bidder:

A person (or entity) who does not attend the sale but submits, in advance, a written or oral bid that is the top price he or she will pay for a given property.


The act or process of estimating value.

As Is:

“As Is”: Also known as “as is, where is” and “in its present condition.” Typically, this is a sign that no return privileges will be granted.


A method of selling property in a public forum through open and competitive bidding. Also referred to as: public auction, auction sale or sale.


The person whom the seller engages to direct, conduct, or be responsible for a sale by auction. This person may or may not actually call or cry the auction.

Auction Block:

The podium or raised platform where the auctioneer stands while conducting the auction. “Placing (an item) on the auction block” means to sell something at auction.


A prospective buyer’s indication or offer of a price he or she will pay to purchase property at auction. Bids are usually in standardized increments established by the auctioneer.

Bid Assistants:

Individuals who are positioned throughout the attendees at the auction to assist the auctioneer, spot bidders and assist prospective bidders with information to help them in their buying decision. Also known as ringmen, bid consultants, bid spotters, or groundsmen.

Bidder’s Choice/Grouping:

A method of sale whereby the successful high bidder wins the right to choose a property or properties from a grouping of similar or like-kind properties. After the high bidder.s selection, the property is deleted from the group, and the second round of bidding commences, with the high bidder in round two choosing a property, which is then deleted from the group and so on, until all properties are sold.

Bid Caller:

The person who actually “calls,” “cries or “auctions” the property at an auction, recognizing bidders and acknowledging the highest bidder. Commonly known as the auctioneer.

Bid Cancellation:

The cancellation of a bid by a seller. During online auctions, sellers can cancel a bid if they feel uncomfortable about completing a transaction with a particular bidder.

Bid History:

A historical list of all the bids made on a particular auction during or after the auction.

Bid Increments:

The standardized amount an item increases in price after each new bid. The auction service sets the increment, which rises according to the present high bid value of an item.

Bidder (paddle) Number:

The number issued to each person who registers at an auction.

Buyer’s Premium:

An additional service charge, for which the buyer is responsible, may be added to the price of assets. If so, this will be indicated in the Notice to Purchasers, auction description, asset detail page, or other clearly- marked area.

Bid Retraction:

The cancellation of a bid by a seller. During online auctions, sellers can cancel a bid if they feel uncomfortable about completing a transaction with a particular bidder.


Certified Auctioneers Institute. The professional designation awarded to practicing auctioneers who meet the experiential, educational and ethical standards set by the Auction Marketing Institute, Inc.

Catalog or Brochure:

A publication advertising and describing the property(ies) available for sale at public auction, often including photographs, property descriptions, and the terms and conditions of the sale.

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware):

A Latin term meaning “let the buyer beware.” A legal maxim stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding quality or condition of the property purchased, unless protected by warranty.


The person employed by the principal auctioneer or auction firm to record what is sold and to whom and for what price.


The fee charged to the seller by the auctioneer for providing services, usually a percentage of the gross selling price of the property established by contract (the listing agreement) prior to the auction.


The auctioneer or auction house operator to whom goods are entrusted by another (consignor) for sale at auction.


The person or authorized agent or entity that consigns goods to an auctioneer. The consignor is usually the seller.


High bidders who fail to pay for the item they won.


Money held in trust by a third party until the seller makes delivery of merchandise to the buyer.

Estate Auction:

The sale of property left by a person at his or her death. An estate auction can involve the sale of personal and/or real property.


One user’s public comments about another user in regard to their auction dealings. Feedback comments cannot be removed or changed once submitted to an auction service.

Final Value Fee:

The commission charge the seller pays to the auction service after his or her item sells.


The process for determining the physical condition of an item. Different items have different grading systems.

Hammer Price:

Price established by the last bidder and acknowledged by the auctioneer before dropping the hammer or gavel.

High Estimate:

The highest price a buyer will pay for an item, submitted in confidence to an online auction service’s automated bidding system to facilitate proxy bidding.


An adverse claim or charge against an item when that item is being used as collateral for a debt.


For online (non-auctioneer) auctions, it is best described as a single asset or a group of assets sold as a single unit for one price. For webcast auctions conducted by an auctioneer, a lot can be described as above OR as one price “times the money” with a minimum purchase quantity. Listen to the auctioneer’s instructions to be sure.

Low Estimate:

The mandatory starting bid for a given auction, set by the seller at the time of listing.

Market Value:

The highest price a property will bring in the open market.

National Auctioneers Association:

An association of individual auctioneers united to promote the mutual interests of its members; formulate and maintain ethical standards for the auction profession; promote the enactment of just and reasonable laws, ordinances and regulations affecting auction selling; make the public more aware of the advantages of auction selling; and generally improve the business conditions affecting the auction profession.


Short for “no reserve.” This indicates in the item description line that the auction has no reserve price specified.

On-site Auction:

An auction conducted on the premises of the property being sold.


To submit a maximum bid that is higher than another buyer’s maximum bid.


Specified date and time property is available for prospective buyer viewing and audits. Also known as Open House or Inspection.

Proxy Bid/Absentee Bid:

A procedure which allows a bidder to participate in the bidding process without being physically present. Generally, a bidder submits an offer on an item prior to the auction. Absentee bids are usually handled under an established set of guidelines by the auctioneer or his representative. The particular rules and procedures of absentee bids are unique to each auction company.

Registered User:

A person who has registered as a member of an online auction service. All online auction services require registration prior to buying and selling.


The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction. Also known as the reserve price.

Reserve Price:

The minimum price a seller will accept for an item to be sold at auction. This amount is never formally disclosed.

Shill Bidding:

Fraudulent bidding by the seller (using an alternate registration) or an associate of the seller in order to inflate the price of an item. Also known as bid rigging and collusion.


Outbidding other buyers in the closing minutes or seconds of an auction.

Starting Price:

The mandatory starting bid for a given auction, set by the seller at the time of listing.

TOS/Terms of Service:

TOS A legally binding agreement that outlines an auction site’s operating policies. All registered users must agree to a site’s terms before using the service.

Total Bid:

The total amount of a bid placed including buyer’s premium.

Watch List:

To track the bidding activity of certain items, use the Watch List feature. Useful for Buyers and Sellers alike, it puts items from different categories into one place (Requires an account). Any number of items may be stored in your list. To add an item to your list, just click the “Add to Watch List” icon at the top right of each item’s description page. Manage your Watch Lists from your account page after you sign-in.

Grading Abbreviations:

AG/About Good A/O/All original BV Book value. C1-C10 Complete/Almost Complete EX/Excellent EXMT Excellent-Mint. Superior to Excellent, closer to Mint. F/Fine G/Good GMMT/Gem Mint MIB/Mint-in-Box MIMB/Mint-in-Mint-Box MOC/Mint-on-Card MOMC/Mint on mint card MT/Mint NR/No reserve NRFB/Never Removed from Box OOAK/One of a kind. OOB/Out of box. OOP/Out of print Pristine VG/Very Good o/c (oil on canvas)

Auction Types:

Dutch Auction:

This is an auction in which the seller lists multiple quantities of an identical item. With multiple items up for sale, multiple bidders can win. Also, one bidder can try to buy more than one quantity. All winning bidders pay only the lowest successful winning bid amount.

Yankee auction:

Each winning bidder pays his or her exact high bid.

Reserve Auction:

This is an auction in which the item for sale has a reserve price. The reserve price is the lowest price at which a seller is willing to sell an item. Although the reserve price is not listed per se (the auction posting will be marked as “reserve met”), it can be extrapolated when a bidder bids at or above the reserve price. The high bid will automatically be elevated to the reserve price, providing the current high bidder with what the seller would agree to sell at.

Straight Auction:

Also referred to as an absolute auction, this is an auction in which there is only one item up for sale, and there is no reserve price. The seller sets the opening bid and must respect the final price at the end of the auction.

Absolute Auction:

An Auction where the property is sold to the highest qualified bidder with no limiting conditions, contingencies or amounts.

Virtual Auction:

An auction that is for online bidders only and is not conducted in front of a traditional live audience. These auction types may have reserve items in which the auctioneers may bid in order to protect the reserve.

This information was sourced from

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