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Auction Jargon

Below is a list of terms frequently used by auctioneers and Boston Harbor Auctions staff members. 

Lot - a lot is the item being sold. A lot is also sometimes referred to as a consignment.

Lot Number - the specific pre-determined number identifying an item for sale in an auction. The catalog of items for sale is organized by lot number. Boston Harbor Auctions sales flow in chronological order of lot number. 

Block - when we use the term "block" it's to signify the space of time that a lot is being auctioned. When a lot closes, it is "off the block". When a lot opens and while it remains open it is "on the block". When an auctioneer introduces an item for sale we refer to it as the block. "Lot 22 is on the block for auctioning at this time". 

Catalog - Boston Harbor Auctions does not normally produce a bound catalog for our auctions. However, we use the term catalog quite a bit as it refers to the compilation of lots that make up the auction itself. A catalog is a listing of items organized in order by lot number to guide the progress of the auction. 

Preview - auction preview is the scheduled time where interested bidders and the public are permitted to personally view and handle the objects for sale prior to the auction date. This viewing is so that bidders can familiarize themselves with the condition of the item, for instance, and they may leave a bid or pre-register at this time if they cannot attend the auction or would like to receive a paddle number in advance. Attending preview is strongly suggested as it is the bidders responsibility to know what they are bidding on. See Terms and Conditions of Sale for more information. 

Paddle Number or Bidder Number - a number assigned to a bidder at the time of registration. A bidder number is how the auctioneer identifies the bidders as they are bidding. The number is essential to the accuracy of your bids and the invoice at check out. You cannot bid without a bidder number. And you should have your bidder number with you and in mind at all times so that we are able to close out your invoice properly and without error. 

Estimate - the low to high price range that Boston Harbor Auctions and it's staff believe an item will sell for. Estimates on lots are always disclosed in the catalog of items for sale. 

Reserve - a reserve is a pre-determined price of an item that is set prior to the auction's commencement. An item for auction that has a reserve cannot sell for less than the reserve. This is a price set by the consignor of the item and is agreed upon by the consignor and Boston Harbor Auctions prior to sale. Reserves are not disclosed to bidders or the public and will not be included in any publications or auction catalogs. Undisclosed reserves is a normal part of the auction process and a regular practice by all auction houses. This is not a method specific to Boston Harbor Auctions. 

Hammer Price - often shorted to "hammer", the hammer price is the price that an item sells for once it leaves the block. When the auctioneer shouts "SOLD!" he/she will always disclose the price the lot has sold for. This is the hammer price. 

Buyer's Premium - sometimes shortened to "buyer's", the buyer's premium is an added percentage on top of the hammer price of an item. Every auction house uses a buyer's premium. The reason for using a premium is so the auction house can recover it's production costs as well as pay it's staff since they are only paid a small percentage of the hammer price, most of the proceeds going to the owner of the consignments. The premium varies from auction to auction. Be sure to see the details page or the Terms and Conditions of Sale on our website for premium details. 

Consignor - a person, persons, group or organization, for instance, who have provided an item for sale at an auction. A consignor may be an owner or a party authorized by the owner to provide the item for sale to Boston Harbor Auctions. If inquired and unless a consignor wishes to be notified after the sale, Boston Harbor Auctions may or may not disclose the information to a bidder. However, prior to the sale, we are not required by law nor do we believe it an orthodox practice to disclose consignor details. 

Bid Increments -  the price increments that the auctioneer uses to advance the bids on an item on the block. Bid increments are usually set prior to the auction or are used at the auctioneer's discretion. The increments are usually even and regular increments that will change at specific thresholds. However, the increments may change during the bidding for a specific lot if a bidder cuts the bid in half as a strategy to outbid the competition. Boston Harbor Auctions usually uses the following schedule of bid increments at our sales:

In U.S. Dollars

1 - 100 = 10 (example, a lot that starts at a price of 10 will advance 10 with each bid; 10, 20, 30, 40 up to 100)

101 - 500 = 25 (100, 125, 150, and so on up to 500)

501 - 1000 = 50

1001 - 5000 = 100

5001 - 10,000 = 250

10,001 - 50,000 = 500

50,001 - 100,000 = 1000

100,001 - 150,000 = 5000

150,001 - 200,000 = 10,000

200,001 + = 20,000

Opening Bid - a price that an auctioneer *might* open a lot up with to get bidders interested in bidding and one that bidders place too much importance on.The opening bid is not usually pre-determined at our auctions other than where the auction is up for bidding online as a requirement for the upload process. The opening bid is simply a suggested price at which the lot opens up. It can drop and it can rise. However, the opening bid has absolutely nothing to do with an expected selling price or a reserve, if there is one, and has nothing to do with the value of an item being sold. It's a number to be used as a general guide but really holds no usefulness in the auction process altogether.