One of the advantages of auctions is that no one ever needs to know that you are selling off the family silver in order to pay the mortgage: the longstanding practice is that the consignor’s name is kept private unless he or she wants the publicity.

Several hundred years of auction tradition have been turned upside down in William J Jenack Estate Appraisers & Auctioneers Inc v Rabizadeh, 952 NYS2d 197 (NY App Div 19 September 2012), where the judge held that the state’s General Obligation Law (GOL) requires the disclosure of the name of the vendor for a contract of sale to be valid. In that case, Rabizadeh relied on the GOL to get out of having to pay for a 19th-century Russian box which had been knocked down to him at US$400,000 (plus $60,000 in buyer’s commission). The judge agreed with him that state law trumped trade practice. A motion for leave to appeal has been granted: 2013 NY LEXIS 43 (10 January 2013). You can bet the big Manhattan auction houses are watching this one.