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  • Writer's pictureBrent Huntoon

Auction House Glossary: Decoding Key Terms for Newcomers

Updated: May 6



Entering the world of auctions can be an exhilarating experience, but it often comes with a vocabulary that might seem foreign to newcomers. Don't worry – we're here to guide you through the terminology that's commonly used in the auction house realm. Whether you're a first-time bidder or a curious onlooker, this glossary will help you navigate the exciting world of auctions with confidence.


1. Lot:

A "lot" refers to an individual item or a group of items offered for sale as a single unit in an auction. It could be anything from a painting to a set of vintage coins.


2. Reserve Price:

The "reserve price" is the minimum amount that the seller is willing to accept for a lot. If bidding doesn't reach this amount, the lot may not be sold.


3. Hammer Price:

The "hammer price" is the final bid amount at which a lot is sold. It's the price announced by the auctioneer when the hammer falls, signifying the end of bidding.


4. Buyer's Premium:

The "buyer's premium" is an additional fee that the winning bidder pays on top of the hammer price. It goes to the auction house to cover administrative costs and services.


5. Bidding Increments:

"Bidding increments" are the predefined increases by which bids must rise during an auction. They ensure a structured and fair bidding process.


6. Absentee Bid:

An "absentee bid" allows a bidder to place bids on items without being physically present at the auction. The auction house executes these bids on behalf of the absentee bidder.


7. Reserve Met:

When the bidding surpasses the reserve price set by the seller, the lot is said to have the "reserve met," and it will be sold to the highest bidder.


8. Live Bidding:

"Live bidding" refers to participating in an auction in real-time, either in person, over the phone, or online.


9. Opening Bid:

The "opening bid" is the initial bid amount announced by the auctioneer to kick-start bidding on a lot.


10. Catalog:

The "catalog" is a printed or online listing of all the lots available in an auction, often including detailed descriptions and images.


11. Provenance:

"Provenance" is the documented history of ownership and the origin of an item. A strong provenance can significantly impact an item's value.


12. Appraisal:

An "appraisal" is a professional evaluation of an item's value, often conducted by experts before an auction.


13. Gavel:

The "gavel" is a small hammer used by the auctioneer to signal the beginning and end of bidding on a lot.

14. Absentee Bid:

An "absentee bid" is a bid placed in advance by a bidder who cannot attend the auction in person. The auctioneer will represent the absentee bidder during the auction.


15. Reserve Price:

The "reserve price" is the confidential minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a lot. If bidding does not reach this amount, the lot may not be sold.


Armed with this auction house glossary, you're now better prepared to participate in and enjoy the exciting world of auctions. The language of auctions may seem complex at first, but as you become familiar with these key terms, you'll gain confidence in your bidding and overall auction experience.


Whether you're eyeing a stunning piece of art, a collectible antique, or a rare piece of jewelry, understanding these terms will ensure that you're equipped to make informed decisions and fully appreciate the excitement of the auction process. Happy bidding!


Remember, each auction house might have its own specific terms and practices, so it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with their guidelines before participating.

Stay tuned to our blog for more insights, tips, and guides to enhance your auction journey.

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