General Auction Glossary
Absentee Bid/Bidder: A procedure which allows a bidder to participate in the bidding process without being physically present. The person (or entity) 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 lot can sell to him at the minimum bid if no one else competes or surpass his maximum bid of someone wants it yet more. Also known as a “left bid”.
Absolute Auction: An auction where the property is sold to the highest qualified bidder with no minimum bid. Also known as an auction without reserve. Agent: A person who acts for another individual or entity by authority from them. Designers and dealers often bid for their clients as agents, for example.
“As Is”: Selling property without warranties or guarantees as to the condition and/or the fitness of the property for a particular use. Buyers are solely responsible for examining and judging the property for their own protection. Otherwise known as "As Is, Where Is" and "In its Present Condition." Typically, this means that no return privileges will be granted.
Auction: A method of selling property in a public forum through open and competitive bidding. Also referred to as public auction, auction sale or sale.
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.
Auctioneer: 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.
Bank Letter of Credit: A letter from a bank certifying that a named person is worthy of a given level of credit. May be requested from bidders or buyers new to the auction house.
Bid: A prospective buyer's agreement to a price he or she will pay to purchase property at auction. Bids are usually in standardized increments established by the auctioneer.
Bid Increment: The standardized amount an item increases in price after each new bid. The auctioneer sets the increment, which rises according to the present high bid value of an item. (Link to Rago’s bid increments.)
Bidder Number: The number issued to each person who registers at an auction. Also known as a paddle number.
Buy In: See Pass.
Buyer's Premium: An advertised percentage of the high bid added to the high bid by the auction house. Winning bid + buyer’s premium = the total amount owed to the auction house by the buyer.
Catalogue: The publication advertising and describing the property available for sale at public auction, often including photographs, property descriptions and the terms and conditions of the sale.
Clerk: The person employed to record what is sold and to whom and for what price.
Commission Bid: See Absentee Bid.
Condition Report: The specialist’s opinion as to the flaws or assets of a given piece of property that are notable enough to affect bidding. It is important to remember that an opinion is not a statement of fact, but a value judgment rendered at the request of the potential buyer.
Consignor Contract: A contract executed by the auctioneer and the seller which authorizes the auctioneer to conduct the auction and sets out the terms of the agreement and the rights and responsibilities of each party.
Contingency Bid: Bidders who choose to bid by phone may also choose to leave what are known as contingency bids. A contingency bid is an optional “safety net” for bidders who are fear they might not be available when their lot comes up for sale. It functions like an absentee bid with one great exception. It is executed by the bidder’s telephone agent only if the bidder cannot be reached for his lot(s). It is NOT entered into the system for the auctioneer to execute.
Estimate: The range within the lot might reasonably sell. A guide, but not a predictor of the selling price, which can be influenced by factors as diverse as the wealth of the bidders, the state of the stock market and the season.
Hammer Price: The price offered by the last/winning bidder and acknowledged by the auctioneer before dropping the hammer or gavel. Also known as the final selling price and as the high bid.
Left Bid: See Absentee Bid.
Lot: A single auction listing.
Market Value: The price a property will bring in the open market.
Maximum Bid: The highest price a buyer will pay for an item, submitted in confidence to the auction house or an online bidding service in advance of the sale. See Absentee Bid.
Minimum Opening Bid: The lowest acceptable amount at which the bidding must commence.
Opening Bid: The first bid offered by a bidder at an auction.
Outbid: To have your maximum bid surpassed or to stop bidding before the competition for the property ends.
Pass: When a lot doesn’t reach its reserve price or minimum opening bid because of insufficient bidding, it is said to pass. Also called “buying in”. Such lots are then known as “passed lots” or “buy-ins”
Preview: Specified dates and times that property is available for prospective buyer viewing and audits. Also known as an exhibition.
Reserve Price: The minimum price a seller will accept for an item to be sold at auction. This amount is never formally disclosed. At Rago’s, when there is a reserve it is always under the low estimate.
Seller: Entity that has legal possession, (ownership) of any interests, benefits or rights inherent to the real or personal property.
Seller’s Commission: The fee charged to the seller by the auctioneer for providing services, a percentage of the gross selling price of the property established by contract prior to the auction.
Terms of Sale: The legal terms and conditions that govern the conduct of an auction and auction participation, including acceptable methods of payment, buyer's premiums, possession, reserves and any other limiting factors of an auction. Included in published, public information in print and online. All bidders must agree to our terms before bidding in our auctions.
Tie Bids: When two or more bidders bid exactly the same amount at the same time. Resolved by the auctioneer.
Withdrawn: A lot that has been taken out of the sale for any reason after the sale has been publicized is said to have been withdrawn.
Fine Art Auction Glossary
Exhibition: exhibition history
Image: size of the image
Literature: reference to the work of art in a book, exhibition catalogue or article
Plate: size of the print impression
Printer: name of master printer or workshop where a print is made
Provenance: ownership history
Publisher: publisher of the print
Sheet: size of the paper
Sight: size of the visible work if obscured, framed or matted
Size: height x width; height x width x depth (for three-dimensional objects). Paintings are measured by the size of the support.
Title of the work in italics: the actual title given to the work by the artist
Title of the work without italics: an untitled work with a description based on the imagery or style
Jewelry Auction Glossary
Antique: More than 100 years old.
Art Deco: 1918–1939
Art Nouveau: 1890–1905
Belle Epoque / Edwardian: 1901–1914
Cabochon: A stone that has a rounded, domed surface with no facets. A cabochon garnet is also called a carbuncle.
Calibre-cut: Small stones that are cut into special shapes that are meant for use in commonly-used designs. These stones usually have facets and are generally rectangular shaped. Commonly abbreviated CC
Carat(s): A standard measure of weight used for gemstones. One carat weighs 0.2 gram (1/5 of a gram or 0.0007 ounce). A hundredth of a carat is called a point. The carat unit was introduced in 1907. 1 carat = .20 grams = ct. Commonly abbreviated ct(s).
Enhancement: For centuries, natural gemstones have been enhanced in a variety of ways, including heating, oiling and other methods. These treatments are accepted by the international jewelry and gemstone trade.
European-cut: An old, round diamond cut that is similar to but less bright than the newer brilliant cut. The European cut has a very small table and heavy crown. Commonly abbreviated as OEC
GIA Certification: A qualified grading or gemological report rendered by a specialist certified by the Gemological Institute of America, a leading independent laboratory here in the U.S.
Gold-filled: A thin outer layer of gold atop a base metal. To be classified as gold-filled, a piece must be at least 1/20 gold by weight. Commonly abbreviated as GF
Gram(s): 1 ounce troy = 31.1 grams = 20 DWT. Commonly abbreviated as g(s).
Gross weight: Commonly abbreviated as GW, listed in grams (gs.)
Karat gold: The purity of gold jewelry is measured in karats. 24 karat gold is pure gold. 18 karat gold is 18/24 gold (about 75% gold). 14 karat gold is 14/24 gold (about 58% gold). Commonly abbreviated as k.
Mine-cut: Mine cut stones have a cushion-shaped girdle. This type of cut was popular in the late 1800's.Commonly abbreviated as OMC
Ounce(s) troy: 1 ounce troy = 31.1 grams = 20 DWT. Commonly abbreviated as OT
Pennyweight: 1 ounce troy = 31.1 grams = 20 DWT. Commonly abbreviated as DWT
Platinum: Platinum is a very strong, dense precious metal with a white color. Commonly abbreviated as pt.
Rose-cut: Commonly abbreviated as RC
Sterling: Sterling is silver with a fineness of 925, that is, sterling is 925 parts per thousand (or 92.5%) silver and 75 parts per thousand (or 7.5%) copper. (The copper increases the silver's hardness.) Commonly abbreviated as sterl.
Total Weight: Commonly abbreviated as TW, listed in carats (cts.)
Weight: Based on measurements and known gemological formulae; weights are approximate, not exact. Weight may differ once a stone is removed from its setting.
White gold: 24K gold that has been alloyed with a mix of nickel, zinc, copper, tin and manganese. Commonly abbreviated wg.
Yellow gold: 24K gold that has been alloyed with a mix of 50% copper and 50% silver. Commonly abbreviated yg.
Yttrium-aluminum-garnet: A synthetic crystalline material of the garnet group Commonly abbreviated as Y.A.G.