Buying at auction can be exciting, but we recognize it can be intimidating to raise a paddle the first time.

We want to make the auction process easy and fun. Please let us know how we can help!

Glossary of Auction Terms

Absentee Bid: A method of bidding for those who cannot attend an auction. Absentee bids are also sometimes called “commission” or “order” bids. You may place an absentee bid by filling out an Absentee Bid Form and submitting it to our office.

After: A work of art or an object made in the style of an artist or maker, but not by the artist. Often used to describe a direct reproduction of an original work of art.

Attributed To: In our opinion, probably a work of art by the artist listed based on the style of the piece, however, the work lacks a signature, marking or adequate provenance to fully ascribe it to the artist listed.

Appraisal: A formal evaluation of the fair market or insurance value of an item. Fair market value represents what Eldred’s believes an item would bring at auction. Insurance value reflects what we believe it would cost to replace an item.

Appraiser: An Eldred’s staff member who evaluates property. Our appraisal staff has years of experience and our experitse covers all areas of American, European and Asian art and antiques, fine and decorative arts, paintings, Maritime Art, Oriental Rugs, Collectibles, Sporting Art and much more.

As Is: The item will be sold with all existing faults and imperfections. Please inspect each lot carefully before bidding.

Auctioneer: A trained professional who presides over the auction. Bidders may be bidding live in the audience, on the phone or online. Auctioneers also place bids on behalf of absentee bidders.

Bid: The amount a prospective buyer would pay to buy a lot.

Bid Increment: The amount by which the auctioneer increases the bidding. Eldred’s adheres to pre-determined bid increments, which are listed in the back of our catalogs and on our website.

Bought-In: If the bidding does not reach the reserve, the lot is “bought in,” meaning it is left unsold.

Buyer’s Premium: A fee added to the hammer price that is paid as part of the total purchase price. This fee is retained by auction house. Eldred’s charges a 25% buyer’s premium, with a 2% discount if payment is made in full by cash, check, wire transfer or money order within 10 days of the invoice date.

Cataloguing: Information about a lot for sale, such as the name of the artist or maker, a description of the object, etc. This information is published in the auction catalog in both the print and online editions.

Commission: A percentage of the hammer price taken by the auction house as a fee for auction services.

Condition Report: A detailed description of an item’s condition, including damage, wear, etc.

Conditions of Sale: The terms under which Eldred’s and the consignor agree to sell a lot to a buyer. Please carefully review the Terms & Conditions of Sale prior to bidding.

Consignor: The owner of an item who has entrusted Eldred’s to sell the item at auction. The item or group of items belonging to the owner is called a “Consignment”.

Contract Schedule: Once every item from a consignment is entered into our database, an account representative sends the consignor a “Contract Schedule”, which lists each item’s estimates, reserves and auction dates.

Dimensions: Unless otherwise specified, dimensions are formatted HEIGHT x WIDTH. Furniture and other objects are measured to the tallest and widest points. Dimensions often are rounded to the nearest quarter inch.

Disaster/Emergency Bid: When you sign up to telephone bid with us, we will ask you for a disaster or emergency bid. In the event we are unable to reach you on the phone to bid, we will bid on your behalf up to this amount. This amount is kept in strict confidence and is not used unless we are unable to reach you. While leaving a disaster or emergency bid is not required, it is strongly suggested.

Estimate: Each lot is given a low and high estimate, representing the value range in which we anticipate it selling for in an auction (formatted low/high … $5,000/10,000).

Exhibition: Every lot from an auction goes on public display. Typically Eldred’s auction Exhibitions or “Previews” are held the day before and the morning of each auction. Exhibitions are free and open to the public, and gallery staff is available to answer questions.

Hammer Price: The price an item is sold for on the auction block. It represents the widding bid amount.

Lot Number: Each lot in an auction is assigned a “Lot Number”. Items are sold in an auction in lot number order. During the auction Exhibition, each item will be clearly marked with its lot number.

Manner of: An object or work of art made in the style of an artist, most likely by a follower or student of the artist. There is a small possibility it was made by the artist.

Online Bidding: You can bid on any lot in an Eldred’s auction from the comfort of your home by bidding online.

Paddle: All in-person bidders must have a paddle to bid. To receive a paddle, please register to bid in our office. To place a bid, simply raise your paddle until the auctioneer acknowledges you. If you win the lot, your paddle number is recorded alongside your bid. Please return your paddle when you pay for your purchases or before you leave for the day.

Pass/Unsold: An auctioneer will “pass” an item when it fails to generate enough bids to warrant a sale. That item is “Unsold” and will either be returned to the consignor or re-offered in a future auction.

Payment: Payment can be made in the form of cash, check, wire transfer or major credit card. Credit cards are only accepted for totals up to $5,000 and must have a domestic billing address. Merchandise paid for with a personal check will not be released until the check has cleared through our bank, which can take up to ten business days. PayPal is not an acceptable form of payment. The buyer’s premium and applicable taxes will be part of the invoice total.

> Click here for more information about paying for your purchase.

Phone Bid: For those who can’t attend the auction, Eldred’s has a limited number of phone lines available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To request a phone bid, please contact our offices at least 24 hours before the auction start time or submit a phone bid request form. On the day of the auction, a member of our staff will call you at the provided number just before your lot is scheduled to be offered. Once bidding has begin on the lot, our representative will inform you of the current bid level and ask if you would like to bid.

Pre-Sale Notice: If you are a consignor who has a lot in an upcoming auction, we will mail you a “Pre-Sale Notice”, which provides the auction date and lot number, as well as the item’s estimate and reserve (if applicable).

Prices Realized: The total price a buyer pays for a lot. The Price Realized includes the Hammer Price and the Buyer’s Premium. Eldred’s posts Prices Realized on our website.

Provenance: The documented history of ownership for a given lot. Provenance can be used to confirm authorship of an item.

Receipt: When you consign an item or items to Eldred’s, we will provide you a handwritten Receipt. Once your items have been entered into our database, we will then send you a “Contract Schedule”, which is sometimes also referred to as a “Receipt”. Please cross-reference your Contract Schedule with your Receipt and alert of us of any discrepancies.

Reserve: The Reserve is the confidential minimum price agreed upon between Eldred’s and the consignor. 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. Please discuss Reserves with your account representative or your appraiser.

Results: Auction results are posted on our website after the conclusion of every auction. Results typically include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium. If you are a consignor, we will email your results in the days following the auction, or you may also call our office.

School Of: An object or work of art executed at the time and in the style of the artist listed.

Shipping: As a convenience to our buyers, Eldred’s can make arrangements to ship purchases once an invoice is paid in full.

> Click here for more information about shipping your purchases.

Sight: The visible size of an artwork if the piece is obscured by its frame or matting. Most paintings are measured by the size of the stretcher or supports, but when this is not possible, a sight measurement is provided.

Starting Bid: If you are reviewing items in an upcoming auction you may see a lot has a “starting bid”. Starting bids are automatically pre-determined as 40% of the low estimate (i.e., $400 on a estimate of $1,000/$1,500). Once the lot is opened up for bidding during the live auction, the auctioneer may open the lot at the “starting bid” you see online or may use another figure altogether.

Tax: All purchases are subject to 6.25% Massachusetts sales tax or other state and local taxes unless we have a valid copy of your state re-sale certificate on file.

> Click here for more information about paying tax and submitting resale certificates.