AUCTION TERMS: THE INS AND OUTS OF AUCTION LINGO
1889 Herbert, Hillman & Cooper Kangaroo highwheel bike. Restored. Sold for $9,350. Photo courtesy of Copake Auctions
The folding chairs are lined up in neat rows just like soldiers. Piles of antique furniture sit on the sidelines. A clerk checks the podium microphone.
Some bidders study jewelry and small items in the showcases. Others dig through the endless boxes searching for hidden treasure. Energy mounts. A feeling of excitement and expectation saturates the room.
Auctions have been called the only form of legalized gambling where everyone wins, the consignor, the bidder and the auction house. No fixed prices here. Everything is up for grabs and goes to the highest bidder.
Let’s take a closer look at the ins-and-outs of auction lingo. The buyer’s premium refers to the money charged by an auction facility that gets added to the hammer price. This commission usually ranges from zero to 30 percent and serves as a payment to the auction house for its efforts. The fee is sometimes negotiable.
Absentee bidding is a form of bidding where the prospective buyer submits a written, oral or telephone bid before the auction stating how high they want to go on a lot. The clerk or auctioneer will execute the bid for the absentee bidder. Usually the bidder is not in the room. But sometimes the bidder is present and simply doesn’t want anyone to see him bidding.
Another technique buyers use to remain anonymous is to bid through an agent. The agent appears to be buying the lot, but in fact is bidding for someone else.
“As is” is one of the most important terms in the auction arena. It means the buyer is responsible for examining and judging an item for himself. The auctioneer accepts little, if any, responsibility.
A box lot is a group of small items, usually not catalogued, that’s sold as a single lot. A reserve is the price below which a consignor will not sell an item. You’ll usually see a reserve on high priced lots. Auctioneers don’t like reserves, but they’re a fact of life in the auction world and most sales have at least a few reserved pieces. Buy-back is a lot that has not reached its reserve.
The terms and conditions of sale are important to read before the auction. They’re the legal conditions under which the auction is conducted. They refer to warranties, forms of payment accepted, and how and when goods must be removed from the facility.
A 1890s-era “Bronco” style bicycle. Manufactured by White Cycle Company of West Boro, Mass., reached $5,500 at the Eighth Annual Copake Antique and Classic Bicycle Auction on April 10 in Copake, N.Y.
An early-19th century rose medallion umbrella stand with a reeded exterior sold for $4,950 at Kaminski’s April Patriot’s Day auction in Andover, Mass.
A signed oil on masonite entitled “A Day’s Catch,” by Ralph Cahoon, 22 inches by 28 inches brought $39,100 at William Doyle Galleries, New York on April 14.
An oil on canvas portrait by William Prior, 36 inches long, depicting a toddler with whip realized $82,500 at John McInnis’s April 18 auction in Amesbury, Mass.
Q. I have an old 4 3/4” high glass bottle. The bottom is slightly hollowed out. Embossed on the front is Consolidated Ice Co. Pittsburgh, PA. Anne Kambic, Pittsburgh.
A. The important dates to remember with glass bottles are 1810-1910. That’s the heyday in American bottlemaking in the United States. Before 1810, few glass containers were made, and after 1910 most were machine made.
Early glass bottles were fashioned by hand in every size and shape imaginable. You can spot 19th century glass because it often appears bluish or greenish in color caused by impurities. Also, the glass sometimes looks uneven and may have bubbles or bits of stone inside.
Stashed in cellars, tucked away in barns and buried in backyards throughout the country are a huge array of old bottles. Things to look for are whiskey bottles with Presidents embossed on them, flasks with horse-drawn carts, sailing ships, anything unusual.
The older the better rule applies and condition is important. Also look for a date on the bottom. Often you’ll find one. Your bottle is worth about $10-$15.
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