25 Auction Terms Explained

1. Absentee Bid: A bid submitted prior to the sale and placed on your behalf by the auction house. 

2. Advance: An increment by which the bid continues. 

3. All (or Choice): A lot that includes more than one thing that you can buy, if you wish, at the same price each as your successful bid. 

4. As Is: There are no guarantees of condition or age unless stated by the auctioneer: “What you see is what you get.”

5. Buyer’s Premium: A percentage of the final bid added to the original cost of the object, typically 10 percent of the final bid. 

6. Choice (or All): If there are multiple items offered, you can take one or more of the items, each for the high bid. 

7. Clerk: The clerk records the consignor number, the item, the final price, and the successful bidder’s number. 

8. Collusion: When two or more people agree not to bid against each other to deflate the price of an item. 

9. Conditions of Sale: The rules and regulations set forth by the auction house that govern its sales. 

10. Consignment: An object or group of objects given over to sell on behalf of an owner by a third party such as an auction house. 

11. Hammer price:  The final bid price at which a lot sells when an auctioneer’s gavel (hammer) falls.

12. Lot: An object or group of objects offered for sale at auction. 

13. Outbid: When one person’s bid is higher than the previous person’s bid. 

14. Pass: When an auctioneer decides to skip or withdraw a lot from a sale. 

15. Phantom bid: A non-existent bid. 

16. Presale estimate: The price range assigned to a lot based on an estimate of what the object might sell for. 

17. Preview: A presale exhibition of items to be offered at a future sale. 

18. Price realized: The price actually realized at auction—usually inclusive of the buyer’s premium. 

19. Reserve: A confidential minimum price established by the consignor, below which the lot will not be sold. 

20. Ring: A term used for the area where the items are held up or offered for sale. 

21. Ring Man: An auction employee who holds up or displays items for sale and watches for and takes bids. 

22. Seller’s Commission: A percentage of the final bid charged to the consignor. 

23. Selling “on the hammer”: When a bid is accepted just as the auctioneer is about to say “sold.”

24. “Times the money”: If your bid is successful, you must take all the items in a lot, multiplying your bid times the number of items in the lot; for example, if there are five items, you pay five times your bid.

25. Unreserved Sale: An auction in which there are no reserves or minimums.