Q. What is an Auction?

A. It is a process of transferring goods, merchandise, possessions, or property (chattels) through a competitive bidding process. The highest bidder purchases the item.

  • An Estate Auction will include a variety of personal possessions, and may be from one or more estates.
  • Specialty Auction may include a larger selection of similar items from multiple consignors, such as tractors, art, livestock, jewelry, etc.
  • General Auction may include a variety of items and may be from multiple consignors or collections.


Q. What is an Estate Sale?

A. It is a process of liquidating personal property through a staged sale, typically conducted in a family home.

  • Living Estate is a sale conducted for a person or persons who are downsizing, moving or liquidating assets, often to care for themselves or a family member.
  • Decedent Estate is what most people are more familiar with, which is liquidating possessions and property of a family member who has passed away.


Q. Are you required to list the name of the Estate? Why is it that sometimes you see the name and sometimes you don’t?

A. In many states Estate Sales or Auctions are required to list the name or names of the Estate prominently in advertising and brochures. California does not have that requirement. Names are listed when the estate belongs to someone who may be well known or prominent. Sometimes by family request the name is withheld. This is usually to protect the families’ privacy.


Q. What is an Appraisal?

A. An Appraisal is a research based valuation of an item or items that is contingent upon scarcity, recent actual sales, and the region where the object is, and intended use of the appraisal.


Q. Why/When do I need an Appraisal?

A. Common reasons to have a formal Appraisal include insuring the item or items, to establish value of a decedent estate, for division of property in a divorce, and for business valuation and financing. Sometimes an appraisal helps establish what an item is and how it may be valued.


Q. How long is an Appraisal valid, and how often do I need an Appraisal?

A. It depends. For an estate or divorce, one Appraisal is typically enough and will be used to establish value as of the date of death or separation.
Business and Insurance valuations are typically reviewed every two years.


Q. How do you determine the value of an item in an Auction?

A. Ultimately the value is determined by the final bid! Many Auctions will place an estimated value on items which is determined by clear identification of what the item is, its condition and scarcity or availability. Auction results over the past year on the same or similar items also helps determine estimated value. Sometimes the region or location in which the item is sold affects value, as well as direct connection to past owners or a particular event or time in history. Sometimes we just can’t predict and need to rely on experience and make our best guess as to how the item will sell at auction.


Q. How do you determine the value of an item for an Estate Sale?

A. Much as with the Auction process, clear identification of the item is important and assessment of its condition. We look at Auction and Retail prices for the same or similar items. Prices obtained from our research are adjusted to a level that is an attractive value for a collector and will stimulate a discussion with a dealer or vendor. Since Estates are typically filled with a large number of household items, sometimes prices are determined by knowledge of how much an item will generally sell for in that area.


Q. What is the difference between an Auction and an Estate Sale? Why would I choose one over the other?

A. In an Auction, buyers register in advance of the sale, inspect the items included in the sale, and then engage in a competitive bidding process for the items. Items are not priced before the sale, and the number of interested bidders on that item will determine the final price. Sometimes items are grouped together into “box lots”, which means the bidder takes all the items in that lot. An Auction helps to clear a house rapidly, typically in one or two days of sale.

  • In an Estate Sale, prices on each item are set in advance and sold on a first come, first served basis. Prices may be slightly negotiable at the beginning of a sale, and are usually discounted closer to the end of the sale.
  • The quality of merchandise may determine whether an Auction or Estate Sale is chosen. Time frames available to the seller may help determine the choice as well, since an Auction may clear items more rapidly and usually with fewer left over items. An Estate Sale takes longer to prepare and may run more than one event. Less desirable items may be left for the owner to deal with. Auction results are based upon number of bidders on an item and can be unpredictable. Estate Sale prices are predetermined and allow more control over what an item sells for.
  • Working closely with a professional allows you to discuss options based upon your particular circumstances, and will be helpful in making the final choice.


If you are considering scheduling an estate sale, business liquidation or auction, feel free to contact Erin Woodburn directly at (707) 273-7628 for a free consultation.

Royal Scotsman Auction & Appraisal is locally based in Northern California, and pleased to serve the Western United States.

Questions? Please contact us!