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Glossary of Terms

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, or online.


A formal evaluation of the fair market and/or insurance value of a given property. Fair market value represents what Duke’s 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 presale auction estimate.

Artist Resale Right (or Droit de Suite)

According to the European Union’s Artist’s Resale Right Directive, which has been adopted by the United Kingdom, living artists and artists who died within 70 years prior to the date of the sale are entitled to receive a resale royalty each time their art work is sold by an art market professional in the European Union or United Kingdom, subject to certain conditions. Duke’s will collect the resale royalty due to the artists or their estates from buyers of lots with a hammer price (excluding buyer’s premium and excluding VAT) in excess of €1000. Any purchaser of a lot to which Artist’s Resale Right applies will be charged the amount of the resale royalty, which will be added to the invoice. For more information on rates, please visit www.dacs.org.uk


The amount a prospective buyer signals the auctioneer he/she would pay to buy the lot during bidding, minus any additional auctioneers fees and associated taxes.

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.


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

A premium of 25% (plus VAT) above the hammer price that is paid as part of the total purchase price.


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 Duke’s specialists prior to an auction.

Conditions of Business

This important text describes the terms under which Duke’s 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 Duke’s to act as agent on his or her behalf for sale.


Each lot is given a low and high estimate, representing the opinion of Duke’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.


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

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.


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

Live Bidding

All lots featured at Duke’s are available to view around the world via the internet. Lots sold at our brewery Square premises also benefit from live bidding – a service where bids can be placed live during the auction over the internet, from anywhere in the world.


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


Every work that goes to auction is photographed by Duke’s 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.


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. Inclusion in important exhibitions may also impact the value of the object.

Reserve or Reserve Price

Never formally disclosed, the reserve price is the confidential minimum price agreed upon between the consignor and Duke’s. 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 the currency of the auction location. Customarily, results display the hammer price excluding the buyer’s premium.

Seller’s Commission

A commission paid by the consignor to Duke's, which is deducted from the hammer price.

Telephone Bidding

Many buyers prefer to bid via phone, using a Duke’s 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 Duke’s staff. Valuations, which differ from auction estimates, are used for a variety of needs, including insurance, estate planning and taxes.