Home > Types of Auction > Auction Terminology

Auction Terminology

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 24 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Auction Auction Terminology Starting

Like any field auctions have their own terms, many that apply to both online and in-person auctions. If you’re going to take part as either a bidder or a seller, it definitely helps to speak the language. A guide to the terminology will guide you on your way.

Main Types Of Auction

Absolute Auction

The seller sells to the highest bidder, regardless of price.

Dutch Auction

When several copies of the same item are up for auction individually, each going to the highest bidder for it. However, traditionally in a Dutch auction the auctioneer starts with a high price that’s lowered until someone is willing to bid.

English Auction/Straight Auction

The familiar, standard type of auction. A starting price is set, and the bids increase until only one bidder remains, who is then the winner.

Private Auction

A standard auction, except the identities of the bidders is kept secret.

Reserve Auction

An auction where the seller sets a “reserve” price on the item. If the bidding doesn’t go that high the seller is under no obligation to sell the item, although he can sell to the highest bidder at his discretion.

Sealed Bid Auction

The bidders all submit their bids for an item at the same time, each one sealed in an envelope. The winner has the highest bid when the envelopes are opened.

Silent Auction

Like an English auction, but the bids are submitted on pieces of paper, silently (as you’d expect).

Auction Terms

Absentee Bid

A bid left with the auctioneer by a bidder who cannot attend the auction.


The estimate of value of an item.

As Is

The item is sold as seen, with no guarantee as to condition or whether it works.


The person conducting the auction.

Bank Letter of Credit

A letter from a bank or financial institution stating that the person named has credit up to the amount stated.

Bidder Card or Paddle

Used at some auctions. When a buyer registers, he is given a numbered card or paddle, and raises this to bid. The number identifies him.


A publication put out before major auctions with pictures of descriptions of the items for salep.

Caveat Emptor

From the Latin, literally meaning “let the buyer beware.” In practice, the same as “as is.” If you buy and it doesn’t work (unless it was said to be working), then tough luck.


The fee paid by the seller to the auction house for selling the item.

Conditions of Sale

All the conditions that apply to an auction, from commissions to payment.


Money held in a trust account by a third party until the item is delivered and deemed to be satisfactory, after which it’s released to the seller.


Each item(s) up for auction.

Jump Bid

Increasing the bidding by a large amount.

Knocked Down To

Sold to.

No Reserve

An item sold at auction without a reserve price.


To bid higher than the previous person.


The proof of authenticity of an item as well as its history of ownership.

Proxy Bid

A bidder uses a third party, either another bidder or an employee of the auction house, to place bids for him during the auction.

Starting Price or Opening Bid

The opening bid necessary for the auction.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Njahan
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    I bought goods from a well-known auctioneers and due to lockdown they've been posting things out. I recently bought cosmetics of…
    15 February 2021
  • Paddy 12
    Re: Beware of the Invisible Bidder
    Hello . I recently won two items on a second hand tool auction,all though the auction was online ,the oppurnity was given to…
    26 November 2020
  • Dutchy
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    I bought some new garden furniture at auction in May on the basis it was due 13/6. The furniture didn’t arrive but date kept…
    24 October 2020
  • dave
    Re: Buying Collectibles and Memorabilia at Auction
    bought a car at local auction and 6 months later it had been a category n insurance write off, can i take…
    12 September 2020
  • Pat
    Re: Auction House Commissions
    I'm putting a coin in auction and they have offerd me 0% comition to sell the item how do thay make money and is ther hidden charges…
    19 August 2020
  • Robbie
    Re: Selling Collectibles
    I have whole collection of “Gone With The Wind” items ie: books, plates, figurines, porcelain card with wooden display case, watch, small…
    18 February 2020
  • Tina
    Re: Selling Collectibles
    I have a unopened bottle of beer from The Brexit Beverages company article 50, one of the first batch made.. I wanted to know if it's worth…
    31 January 2020
  • None
    Re: Choosing Which Type of Auction to Sell At
    I have a portrait presented to me by the late Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, Mr Martin McGuinness.…
    26 January 2020
  • Mick
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    I purchased an Edwardian bedroom suite from a reputable Auction house late september, I have just noticed holes (woodworm) in…
    16 December 2019
  • Mick
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    I purchased a Edwardian bedroom suit from Auction house in late September have just noticed a number of holes (woodworm) on one…
    16 December 2019