Auction Terms

Absentee Bid
A method of bidding for those who cannot or do not wish to attend an auction. Absentee bids are also called “left” or “order” bids. An absentee bid may be placed before an auction begins. View the short video below on how to leave an absentee bid.

Almost every auction you’ll attend offers all property for sale at auction “as is,” meaning that the property is sold with all existing faults and imperfections. Potential buyers must inspect each item carefully before bidding. The exception to “as-is/where-is” at most large auction houses is authenticity. Usually, there is a time within a lot can be returned if both the auction house and consignor agree it is fake or counterfeit.

Asking Price (a.k.a. Bid Price) 
When a bidder places a bid, the auctioneer asks the other bidders if any of them will pay a specific amount above the current bid – the ask price.

Bid Increment 
The amount by which the auctioneer increases the bidding. In general, the auctioneer will request bids of about 10% higher than the previous bid. For instance, if the bidding opens at $5,000, subsequent bids of $5,500, $6,000, $6,500, etc. would follow. The auctioneer can vary at his/her discretion.

Bidder Number
Every registered bidder receives a unique bidder number when they register for a given auction. If you are the highest bidder - the lot number, the final bid price and your bidder number goes into the auctioneer’s book and a back-up set of records known as clerking sheets to verify your purchase. View the short video directly below on live bidding to view where your bidder number is located during a sale.

Bought-In (a.k.a. Passed)
If there are no bids on a lot, or if bidding does not reach the lowest possible selling price, the lot is “bought in,” meaning it is unsold and remains the property of the owner.

The person who placed the highest bid on an item becomes the buyer, or new owner of that item when his/her bid is accepted by the auctioneer.

Buyer’s Premium
The percentage above the hammer price paid by the buyer to the auction house that is part of the total purchase price.

Every lot offered for sale is described by a description of the object and any known facts, such as the name of the artist or maker, the time of its creation, its provenance (history of its ownership) and any exhibitions or publications in which it has appeared. This information is published in the auction catalog online.

A person employed by an auction house to record for each lot sold, the lot number, the final bid price and the bidding number of the high bidder.

Competing Bids
Before and during a sale, an auction house accepts competing bids for a lot from absentee bidders, phone bidders, online and in room bidders if all of these bidding methods are available.

Condition Report
A written description of the imperfections of an object (or lack thereof), particularly of characteristics that might affect value. This is essential information for prospective bidders.

Consignor (a.k.a. Seller)
The owner who is authorizing the auction house to act as agent on his or her behalf for sale.

Consignor Agreement
The contract between the auction house and consignor.

Fair Warning
When an auctioneer announces “fair warning”, he/she is saying, “Bid now or I am closing the lot. This is your last chance.” If there are no bids forthcoming, the auctioneer’s hammer falls and the sale is complete for that lot.

Final Selling Price
Hammer Price/High Bid + Buyer’s Premium

The hammer traditionally used by the auctioneer to mark the start of a sale and to mark the close of bidding on each lot.

Hammer Price
The highest bid accepted/the winning bid for a lot at auction/the price at which the auctioneer’s “hammer” falls. Note that this does not include the buyer’s premium.

Knocked Down
A synonym for “sold”, as in “The lot was knocked down for $20,000.”

Live Auction
A live auction is hosted by an auctioneer in real time, typically at the gallery or salesroom of the auctioneer, and is held before an audience of bidders. Bidsquare is a service that allows a bidder to remotely participate in a live gallery auction via the internet. Other bidders might participate -- in person, by phone or through an absentee bid sent in prior to the auction. Bidsquare participants place their bids via a computer, bidding in response to bids placed by others. Your bids are automatically received by a remote clerk, who places your bid in real time. Bidding will continue (usually at defined increments) until competition for the lot ends. If the highest bid offered meets the minimum price designated by the seller as acceptable, the lot is sold. The auctioneer will then move on to the next lot. View the short video below to see how a live auction runs on Bidsquare.

An individual object or group of objects offered for sale at auction as a unit.

Lot Number
Every lot in an auction is given a unique lot number. The lots are sold in numerical order.

Online Bidding
The option of bidding on Bidsquare in advance of an auction or in real time during an auction through a computer or mobile device.

The term for a card (or paddle) given to in-room bidders and bearing the unique number assigned to that bidder by the auction house. Raising your paddle signifies that you are bidding.

Preview (a.k.a. Exhibition)
Every lot goes on public display in the days before an auction, whether at the auction house or online or both. Specialists are available to answer all questions. Auction house previews are typically free and open to the public.

Reserve Price
The reserve price is the lowest price which a seller is willing to accept for his or her property. At many auction houses, reserves must be set at or below the low estimate, and if bidding ends before the reserve is reached, the property will not be sold. An auction house may disclose the reserve; mark items which have reserves or keep the reserve confidential for the seller. Most auction houses keep the reserve confidential for the seller.

Soon after every auction, the selling prices, known as the results, are posted online. Customarily, the results include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, as this is the full amount the buyer has agreed to pay.

Seller’s Commission
The commission paid by an owner to the auction house for acting as the owner’s agent in the sale of his property. The auction house deducts the seller’s commission (and any agreed upon expenses) from the hammer price and send the rest to the owner.

An expert in a specific field of collecting.

Starting Price
The starting price is the lowest price at which a lot can sell (unless a reserve price is specified).

Timed Online Only Auction
A timed online only auction is automated and takes place solely online. The bidding for each lot is opened at a predetermined level set by the auctioneer, usually at a set time and stays open over an extended period of hours or days. During this period of open bidding one will be able to see the current high bid on each lot. You may place a higher bid at a defined bidding increment you choose. View the short video below for a further explanation of timed online only auctions.

Terms of Sale
The contract between the bidder and the auction house that specifies the legal terms governing bidding and purchase.


How to register to bid in an auction

View the short video below on how to register for an auction, or follow the steps listed below the video.

  1. Go to the auction you are interested in.
  2. Look for the ‘login to bid’ button under any item.
  3. Login. If you have not yet registered for an auction you will be prompted to register for the auction. Register to bid for the auction.
  4. Once you receive an email acknowledging bidder approval, revisit the lot to bid. If you have already registered for the auction then you will be directed back to the lot after you login to bid.



How do I contact the auction house?

Each auction house running a sale on Bidsquare has an about page with full contact information. We encourage prospective bidders to contact the auction house directly for additional information. To view an auction house's contact information click the auction house logo or visit the full directory here.


I forgot my password

To retrieve a forgotten password, click here and click the “Forgot password” link. You will be prompted to enter in the email address you used to create your account and a password reminder link will be sent to you via email.



I want to reset my password

To reset a password, use the "Forgot password" link found here. You will be sent a link via email to update the password connected to your account.