Buying and selling of property through open public bidding. Typically, potential purchasers make a succession of increasing bids or offers until the highest (and final) bid is accepted by the auctioneer. At a so-called Dutch auction, by contrast, the seller offers property at successively lower prices until one of his offers is accepted or until the price drops so low as to force the withdrawal of the offered property. Prospective buyers are usually allowed to examine auction items beforehand, and sellers may set a minimum price below which the property will not be sold. Auctions are important in the agricultural markets of many countries, permitting the rapid sale of perishable goods. Other items often sold at auction include artwork and antiques, secondhand goods, and farms and buildings repossessed by banks or the government. Auctions can be structured in many ways (e.g., bids submitted in person, via telephone, or over the Internet). Auction selling is also employed on stock and commodity exchanges.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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