An auction sale is a public sale to any person bidding the highest price, upon terms and conditions previously announced. The sale described in the previous chapter was negotiated privately, a definite purchaser appearing with whom the seller dealt directly, knowing with whom he was doing business. An auction sale on the other hand is public and any person may become the purchaser. The owner does not even know, until the bidding takes place, what price he will receive1 for his property.

Usually the seller can realize more for his property at private sale. However he may be compelled to sell at auction, either because the law requires the sale of his property publicly, or because private purchasers do not appear or he thinks a public sale would bring a larger price. In the large cities there are customary auction rooms and licensed auctioneers whose time and energy is devoted to auction sales. In the country districts the sale is usually had at some gathering place, as the post office, railway station, town hall or on the property.

Auction sales are of two kinds - voluntary and involuntary, each differing very materially from the other.