Learn the Lingo

Online auctions often start out at a slow pace, giving buyers plenty of time. But, as the clock ticks down, the action heats up and bidders need to act fast. You can learn the Lingo of online antique auctions with our Auction Glossary!

Absolute Auction – An auction that has no ‘reserve price’ set by the seller. The winning bid only has to meet or beat the minimum price set by the seller or the auction house.

Appraisal – an estimate of an item’s value

Auction House – The business entity setting up an auction from accepting items for auction, making them ready for public sale, accepting payments and delivering sold items to successful bidders. Witherell’s Auction House specializes in online antique auctions to reach a worldwide audience.

Bidding – The act of participating in an auction by offering to purchase an item for sale. In Witherell’s online antique auctions submitted bids are binding agreements to purchase if the bidder wins the lot.

Buyer’s Premium – a fee paid by the buyer to the auction house, the buyer’s premium is calculated as a percentage of the winning bid and added on to it. This charge is paid by the buyer to the seller to compensate for the added costs of presenting fine art, antiques, and collectibles in an online format. This charge does not include fees such as taxes or shipping. In addition to the winning bid price, sales tax may be added.

Commission – A fee collected by the auction house that is usually calculated as a percentage of the winning bid and subtracted from it before the money is released to the seller.

Consignee, Consignor – In an auction the consignor is also called the seller and owns the item to be auctioned. The consignee is the auction house. The seller transfers the items to Witherell’s and agrees that we will be their agent in an auction sale.

Condition Report – Our cataloguers develop a written description of items to inform potential buyers about make purchasing decisions.

eBidding – Online auctions in which potential buyers submit bids electronically. Witherell’s uses iGavel Auctions to reach the widest possible online audience.

Fair Market Value – The price property would sell for in an open market between a willing buyer and a willing seller with neither being under any requirement to act and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.

Increment – A minimum amount by which a new bid must exceed the previous bid. Witherell’s online auction partner, iGavel, clearly lists the increments buyers must offer.

Hammer Price – This is the price paid when the auctioneer’s “hammer” falls at the end of live bidding. The close of our online antique auctions are marked by a real-time countdown on the iGavel website. The hammer price does not include the Buyer’s Premium or sales tax.

Lot – Online buyers will see ‘lots’ pictured on iGavel as either single items or groups of items that must be bid on as a single unit.

Minimum bid – The smallest opening bid that will be accepted for a lot.

No Reserve Auction – An auction that has no ‘reserve price’ set by the seller. The winning bid only has to meet or beat the minimum price set by the seller or the auction house. This is also known as an Absolute Auction.

Outbid – When a bidder’s offer is topped by another buyer’s offer.

Opening bid – This the first bid placed on a particular lot and must be at least the minimum bid, but can be higher.

Provenance – This is an important term for both sellers and buyers. It describes any additional information which is known about the item’s history including prior exhibitions, gallery it may have been purchased at or any historical significance.

Proxy Bid – This bid type is often used when a bidder wants to protect his or her identity and allows another person or entity to make bids on the buyer’s behalf. The original buyer instructs the proxy bidder on his or her bidding limits.

Sniping – When bidders wait until the last few seconds of a timed auction to bid on items in an attempt to prevent others from bidding. Witherell’s online auctions disallow this practice by allowing ‘extended bidding’ in the last minutes of an auction.

Telephone Bidding – Some buyers ask Witherell’s to bid on their behalf in our online auctions. Potential buyers let us know how much they are willing to bid and we place incremental bids for them as the auction progresses.