What is an Auction List?

Mary McMahon

An auction list is a document which lists a group of items set to be included in an auction. Auction lists usually include information about the items listed, and indicate the order in which they will be brought to the auction block so that people attending the auction can plan their time accordingly. Depending on the nature of the auction, the auction list may be published in the form of a detailed auction catalog, or it may be a simple paper handout with a list of items up for sale.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Usually, an auction list includes a brief headline for each item, along with a detailed description and an estimated value. Auction lists can also include photographs of the items for reference. Each item is numbered so that people know when it will appear, and the list may include additional details about the provenance of the item, whether or not it has been authenticated, and whether or not there are special handling directions which buyers may need to know about.

When people arrive at an auction, they are handed copies of the auction list so that they can review the list. People may also carry the auction list as they inspect items for sale, if they are allowed to do so, so that they can make notes in the margins of the auction list and reference these notes during the auction. Auction lists are often published in advance of an auction, so that people can review the items for sale before they arrive if they want to do so. Prepublished lists are also used by bidders who will not be physically present so that they can follow the auction remotely.

The information in an auction list is deemed as reliable as possible. Depending on the nature of the auction, the items may be guaranteed by the auction house conducting the auction, or buyers may be informed that they purchase at their own risk. At a government auction, for example, objects are usually auctioned as-is, and buyers are responsible for any problems they encounter, ranging from transportation of the item to repair. At events like art auctions, the auction house typically provides more backing in the event that issues such as forgeries are identified.

As soon as an item is entered in an auction, the auctioneer and auction company catalog it and determine whether or not the piece needs to be inspected or authenticated. Once the item has been catalogued, it can be added to the auction list, with many auction houses publishing and updating their lists online so that people can see the items which will be offered for auction.

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