Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Auction

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AUCTION, a mode of selling property by offering it to the highest bidder in a public competition. By 8 Vict. c. 15, the uniform duty of £10 per annum is imposed on every licence to carry on the business of auctioneer, but duties on sales by auction are abolished. It is the duty of an auctioneer to sell for the best price he can obtain, and his authority cannot be delegated to another unless by special permission of his employer. The auctioneer s name must be exhibited on some conspicuous place during the sale, under a penalty of 20. Sales by auction usually take place under certain conditions, which, it is the duty of the auctioneer to read to the bidders before the sale begins. To complete a sale by auction there must be a bidding by, or on behalf of, a person capable of making a contract, and an acceptance thereof by the auctioneer, and until the bidding is accepted both vendor and bidder are free, and may retract if they choose. If due notice is given, an agent may be employed to bid on behalf of the seller, but the employment of several bidders is improper, and if the sale is declared to be without reserve, any bidding on the behalf of the seller will vitiate the sale. Puffing, it has been said, is illegal, even if there be only one puffer. On the other hand, any hindrance to a free sale, either by a bidder deterring competitors from offering against him, or by an engagement among the competitors to refrain from bidding, in order to keep down the price of the goods and then share the profit, is a fraud upon the vendor. Two persons, however, may agree not to bid against each other. Auctioneers are entitled by their licence to act as appraisers also.