I remember the first time I attended an antique auction. I felt intimidated to be buying antiques on the same level as experienced dealers and collectors. On top of that the auctioneer had his own vocabulary that I couldn’t understand. But I learned fast.
Here are some terms auctioneers use and what they mean:
RESERVE PRICE: The minimum price the consignor of the object will accept at the auction.
ABSOLUTE AUCTION: An auction where there are no reserves. Everything sells to the highest bidder, regardless of the price.
PASSED: What happens to a piece when it does not meet its reserve price.
LOT – Usually with a number after it. This is what the individual items are called. Sometimes the auctioneer will give the buyer a choice of several items within a lot and then re- auction the balance.
BUYER’S PREMIUM: The percentage that is added on to the cost of an item. If the winning bid is $50 and the premium is 15% the cost to the bidder is $57.50 plus applicable taxes.
CONDITION OF SALE: This is the “fine print” or house rules around the buying of items at auction. Make sure you read these before you start bidding.
AS IS, WHERE IS: This is essentially a “Buyer Beware” clause. You have no regress if an item isn’t what you thought, or the auctioneer said it was – for any reason whatsoever.
ABSENTEE BID This means someone who is not at the auction in person has bid on a particular item. They have indicated the highest price they are prepared to pay for it by filling out an absentee bid form.
BID INCREMENT: The amount by which each successful bid increases. The higher the value of the item the larger the increments are.
JUMP BIDS: In order to crowd out other bidders a buyer may choose to ignore the stated increments and bid much higher.
ONE MONEY: The price that an auctioneer is asking for when there are several different items for sale in one lot.
X’s THE MONEY: The opposite of one money. The bids are for one item only x’s the number of items. A lot may include 7 single chairs. The bidding is for one chair times 7. A lot of people get caught on this one.
FAIR WARNING: The term the auctioneer uses when he is about to sell the item to the final bidder. It’s a warning to all interested parties.
HAMMER PRICE: The amount an item has sold for excluding buyers premium and taxes.
PHANTOM BIDS: In order to keep interest going in an object and get a higher price, less scrupulous auctioneers will call out a bid that has not been made by anyone.
I am dedicating this short blog entry to Arthur Clausen, an auctioneer who taught me a great deal about the world of antiques. He passed away in April of this year. He is greatly missed.
5 thoughts on “The Strange Vocabulary at Auctions”
Very helpful. Thank you.
We attend a good many auctions and have picked up much of the language but learned a few things here. Thanks for sharing this. Great post!
There are many more as you know. Not knowing what these terms mean may land you with a “lot” of things you did not expect to buy!
Auctions are great fun but, yes, it pays to know the lingo. It also pays to watch your body language. A few weeks ago I unintentionally won the bid on an item by waving to my wife to let her know where I was sitting. It’s a good thing it was a small, inexpensive item.
Yes it has happened to me too and it’s embarrassing to try to talk yourself out of it. I was lucky. The gavel hadn’t come down yet – thank heavens because it was a large bookcase!