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I was reading just today the results of the most recent Madoff auction, and noting the prices of some of the items sold. For instance, the 10.5 Ct Diamond ring sold for $550,000, etc.

Yet, some language in the articles caught my eye as odd. For instance, one article noted, “A leather bull foot stool — including a tail that had broken off — sold for $3,300, against a pre-sale estimate of $250 to $360.” Sold “against” a pre-sale estimate? What exactly does that mean? Another article noted that, “Ten pairs of Madoff’s used designer shoes sold for $900, against a minimum of $250.” Sold “against” a minimum? What does that mean?

Possibly the article is using the wrong word? If I sold Madoff’s wristwatch for $30,000 and it exceeded the pre-sale estimate, I would say just that … “The $30,000 wristwatch sold in excess of pre-sale estimates as low as $10,000,” for example. Or, if an item had a minimum, I could say, “The smoking jacket sold for $25,000, exceeding the minimum bid of $15,000.”

It seems clear these days that reporters and others in the media are confronted with stories involving auctions, and they may have little knowledge about auctions, or auction terminology. It would seem obvious to those in the auction business to get someone from the auction business to help write, interpret, and/or edit such stories.

For that matter, what does the “pre-auction” estimate matter? We wrote about this back in September, 2010: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/are-pre-auction-estimates-purposely-low/. It seems exceeding the estimate makes the auctioneer seem successful, while actually shedding more light on the pre-auction-estimator’s incompetence.

And, so far as exceeding a minimum amount, suggesting the item would only be sold if the final bid exceeds a pre-auction minimum, so what? Why is that important, other than to suggest that the true market value was more than what someone thought was a reasonable minimum bid. Makes an interesting story, but not so much to those familiar with auction marketing.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.