Smith & Singer

Glossary of Terms

Absentee Bid
A method of bidding for those who cannot or do not wish to attend an auction.  Absentee Bids are also called “written,” “commission” or “order” bids and may be placed by filling out and submitting an Absentee Bid Form in person, by fax or online.

A formal evaluation of the fair market and/or insurance value of a given property.  Fair market value represents what Smith & Singer believes an item would bring at auction.  Insurance value reflects what we believe it would cost to replace an item. Our Valuations Department conducts appraisals by comparing your piece with similar, recently sold works, but no appraisal is definitive.  You do not need a formal written appraisal in order to obtain a pre-sale auction estimate.

Artist Resale Royalty (known overseas as Artist Resale Right or Droit de Suite)
Introduced on 8 June 2010 The Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Act 2009 (Cwth) (‘the Act’) came into effect.  Under the Act, artists and their beneficiaries are entitled to a 5% royalty (inclusive of GST) on the resale price for certain resales of their work.  The resale royalty applies to works which sell for the second time since the effective date for over $1,000. At its discretion Smith & Singer will collect the resale royalty due to the artists from Seller of lots with a hammer price in excess of $1,000. Smith & Singer is obliged to provide information on all commercial resales after 8 June 2010 whether or not a royalty is payable on the resale to Copyright Agency Limited as appointed by the Australian Government.  For more information please visit and

As Is
Smith & Singer offers all property for sale at auction “as is,” meaning that the property is sold with all existing faults and imperfections. We encourage potential buyers to inspect each item carefully before bidding.

A trained professional who presides over the auction, initiating the sale of a lot by describing the item and starting the bidding. Once the first bid is made, others may offer higher bids. Bidders may be present in the saleroom, on the phone or online. Auctioneers also place bids on behalf of absentee bidders and finally determine when the highest bid has been made. If a work sells, the auctioneer announces, “sold.” If the item does not meet its reserve or there are no bidders, the auctioneer signifies this with a “pass.”

The amount a prospective buyer signals the auctioneer he/she would pay to buy the lot during bidding.

Bid Increment
The amount by which the auctioneer increases the bidding. In general, the auctioneer will request bids of about 10% higher than the previous bid. For instance, if the bidding opens at $5000, subsequent bids of $5500, $6000, $6500, etc. would follow. The figure is generally rounded up or down at the auctioneer's discretion.

Internet Bid
Smith & Singer provides an online bidding service through  This service is available for all auctions. Through Artfact, auctions are broadcast on /bidlive, and clients who have pre-registered and approved via the site may place bids as if they were in the room.

If there are no bids on a lot, or if bidding does not reach the reserve price, the lot is “bought in,” meaning it is left unsold and remains the property of the owner.

Buyer’s Premium
The amount above the hammer price that is paid as part of the total purchase price.   Smith & Singer’s buyer’s premium is 25% of the hammer price including GST.

Factual information about a lot offered for sale, such as the name of the artist or maker, a detailed description of the object, the year of its creation, its provenance (history of its ownership), major exhibitions in which it has appeared and publications in which it has been documented.  This information is published in the auction catalogue, in both the print and online editions.

Condition Report
A written description of the condition of a work, prepared by Smith & Singer’s specialists prior to an auction.

Conditions of Business
This important text describes the terms under which Smith & Singer and the consignor agree to sell a lot to the purchaser. It is important to read the conditions carefully before bidding.

The owner who is transferring property to Smith & Singer to act as agent on his or her behalf for sale.

The consignor of a lot is sometimes identified through a designation line, which appears at the beginning of a catalogue entry. The designation, which appears at the discretion of the consignor, may identify the current owner by name or through a descriptive title, such as “Property from a Distinguished Australian Collection.”

Each lot is given a low and high estimate, representing the opinion of Smith & Singer’s experts about the range in which the lot might sell at auction.  Estimates are based on the examination of an item and recent auction records of comparable pieces.  Published in our online and printed catalogue, an estimate provides prospective buyers with an important preliminary guide to value and is generally the basis for establishing the reserve price.

Exhibition History
A listing of museum or gallery exhibitions in which a given lot has appeared. Inclusion in important exhibitions may impact the value of the object.

Another term for a Smith & Singer specialist who is an expert in specific fields of collecting and belongs to a department. Smith & Singer’s specialists are often scholars with distinguished careers; many of them publish extensively in their field, lecture widely, teach or curate international exhibitions.

Fair Market Value
A term frequently used by appraisers referring to their judgment and opinion about an object’s likely sale price if offered by a willing seller to a willing buyer. Since the auction process is open to all bidders, a sale at auction is considered to be a measure of Fair Market Value.

Fair Warning
A warning sometimes given by the auctioneer that the hammer is about to come down on a lot. The fair warning offers one last chance to increase the bidding. If there are no subsequent bids, the auctioneer’s hammer falls and the sale is completed.

Another name for the auctioneer’s hammer used to close the bidding.

In rare cases, Smith & Singer will guarantee to pay a consignor for a lot, regardless of whether the bidding at auction reaches the reserve price. The guarantee may be provided by Smith & Singer, by a third party or jointly by Smith & Singer and a third party. Third parties providing all or part of a guarantee benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.

Guarantee Line
Set in bold type in the auction catalogue, the Guarantee Line indicates key information such as the authenticity of a work, the name of the artist or maker and the origin of the object.

Hammer Price
The winning bid for a lot at auction. It is the price upon which the auctioneer’s hammer falls, determining the sale price, but does not include the buyer's premium.

Knocked Down
An auction house term for the hammer coming down and ending the bidding, as in, “The lot was knocked down at $1 million.”

An individual object or group of objects offered for sale at auction as a single unit.

An object displaying the number assigned to a bidder when he or she registers at the auction. To place a bid, simply raise your paddle until the auctioneer acknowledges you. If you win the auction, your paddle number is recorded alongside your bid. To pay for your purchase, you will need to bring your paddle to the Payments counter.

Terms used by the auctioneer when an item fails to reach its reserve at auction.

Every work that goes to auction is professionally photographed by Smith & Singer for documentary and promotional purposes. Photographs appear in our online and print catalogues, and are an important way for buyers to identify lots that they wish to acquire.

Presale Exhibition
With specialists on-hand to answer all questions, Smith & Singer puts every lot from its sales on public display in the days before an auction. Exhibitions are free and open to the public and generally close the day before the auction. Please see our Auctions section for dates, times and locations.

An important part of the authentication process, provenance establishes the chain of ownership back (if possible) to the date an item was created. Provenance can significantly impact the value of an object.

Reserve or Reserve Price
Never formally disclosed, the reserve price is the confidential minimum price agreed upon between the consignor and Smith & Singer. 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.

Immediately following every auction, results are posted online in Australian Dollars. Customarily, results include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium.

Sale Number
Every auction at Smith & Singer is given a unique number to distinguish it from previous and subsequent sales of similar properties. The initial letter of the sale number stands for the auction location: “AU” stands for Australia. The sale number appears in every e-catalogue and on the cover of print catalogues, among other places.

Seller’s Commission
A commission paid by the consignor to Smith & Singer, which is deducted from the hammer price.

An expert in a specific field of collecting who belongs to a department. Smith & Singer specialists are often scholars with distinguished careers; many of them publish extensively in their field, lecture widely, teach or curate international exhibitions.

Telephone Bidding
Many buyers prefer to bid via phone, using a Smith & Singer representative who is present at the auction to relay bids to the auctioneer on their behalf.

A detailed description and current value of property prepared by Smith & Singer staff. Valuations, which differ from auction estimates, are used for a variety of needs, including charitable contribution, collateral loans, estate taxes, estate planning and insurance.

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.

By continuing to use our Site, you consent to our use of cookies and to the practices described in our updated Privacy Policy.