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We’ve written extensively about auctions where the seller has the “Genuine intent to transfer to the highest bidder regardless of price.” You can read all about that here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/genuine-intent-to-transfer-to-the-highest-bidder-regardless-of-price/

However, there is another type of auction, where the seller doesn’t have the genuine intent to transfer … at all.

With the aforementioned “genuine intent,” we have a without reserve (absolute) auction, and without it we have a with reserve auction. Further, if you are under the impression that there are more than two types of auctions, let this be the day you abandon such thinking: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/different-types-of-auctions/

Certainly, court opinions as far back as Harris v Nickerson (1873) LR 8 QB 286 have viewed with reserve auctions as having intent, but that intent is no more than a qualified intent to sell — in other words, an intent to sell or possibly an intent not to sell unless …

Intent can be difficult to gauge. Black’s Law Dictionary says “Intent” is the mental resolution or determination to do an act. Obviously, in a with reserve auction, there is the intent to put something up for bids at auction, but no outright genuine intent to sell as if there were, it would be a without reserve auction.

Auctions are indeed used in some cases just to establish value, rather than to transfer title. While unusual day-to-day, courts and other authorities sometimes order something sold at auction and allow the seller to bid and buy to rightly and justly compensate other family members or business entities, for example.

Further, I would submit most auctioneers can recall a last-minute change in plans, where a seller decides to keep a certain item scheduled to sell in the auction. A solution? Leave it in the [with reserve] auction and allow the seller to bid to retain title.

Here’s a with reserve auction: Bidder: “You intend to sell that?” Auctioneer/Seller: “Well, I might if it brings enough …” At best, a qualified desire [and maybe not the intent] to sell at all.

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, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.