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I would be very interested to hear if anyone could explain why this definition developed.

My (presumably obsolete) understanding of the term was that it referred to a sale of items the quality of which demanded (or should demand) white gloves to handle them.

Nicholas Oddy

Head of design history and theory, Glasgow School of Art

ATG replies: we believe it refers to the traditional award of a pair of white gloves to an auctioneer after every lot had sold, but we welcome the views of our readers.