glossary of auction terms

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According to US Customs regulations, an antique is an item that is at least 100 years old. Most collectors consider 50 years or older to be antique, however.


A written or verbal opinion of an item’s value. An appraisal is really only an opinion, but if it is provided by a recognized expert in a field, it can add significant value to an item.


The sale of an item in which the highest bidder purchases the item being sold. In the case of an online auction like eBay, all bidding is done through the internet and the highest bidder is considered to have entered into a binding agreement to purchase the item.

Auction Drop-Off Store

A fairly new type of consignment store that takes items from its customers and sells them on eBay. They may charge a flat-fee or a percentage of the final value, and they take care of the entire listing process for the person selling the item.

Auction Fever

This term refers to the excitement that many bidders feel when involved in an auction. People often get caught up in the bidding and will sometimes spend considerably more for an item than it is worth.

Auction Fraud

This refers to fraudulent practices by both buyers and sellers in online auctions. Fraud on the seller’s part can include misrepresentation of the item they’re selling or failure to send the item after it has been paid for. Fraud on the buyer’s part can include fraudulent payment such as a bad check or credit card chargeback after they have received the item.

Auction Management

Auction management companies provide a number of different services to sellers on eBay and other online auctions. These services can include scheduled listings, automated email, auction templates and shopping carts.

Auction Site

An auction site is a website - like eBay or Yahoo Auctions - that offers auction services to its users.

Auction Watchlist

This is a service provided by some online auction websites that will notify you when items meeting a certain criteria are listed on the site. A watchlist can also watch specific auctions for you and keep you updated on the current bids.

Bid Cancellation

Some auction websites allow the seller to cancel bids of any specific bidder in the auction, according to certain rules.

Bid Increment

This refers to the amount by which a bidder must outbid the current high bid in order to become the highest bidder. eg. If the high bid is $10 and the bid increment is 25 cents, you would have to bid at least $10.25 to become the high bidder.

Bid Retraction

Most auction websites allow the bidder to retract their bid, under certain circumstances. When a bid is retracted, the next highest bidder usually takes over as highest bidder.


The process of entering your offer for the item up for auction.

Buy It Now

This is a term used on the eBay website for the price a seller is willing to take for an item on the spot. A Buy It Now bid will end the auction immediately and you will pay that amount – there is no bidding. This option is usually only available before bidding starts.

Caveat Emptor

Latin phrase meaning “Buyer Beware”

Charity Auction

An auction in which all proceeds will be donated to a charity. Many auction sites offer charity auctions for various organizations.


eBay’s end-of-auction process for paying the seller and arranging for shipping. Not all sellers use the Checkout process, but eBay prefers them to.

Consignment Auction

An auction in which the seller is selling an item that belongs to someone else. They are providing the auction service, usually for a fee or percentage of the profits.

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This popular category would include anything that people use and then would need to buy again such as lotions, perfumes, camera film, candles, etc.

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