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Rules for a silent auction

Updated April 17, 2017

Silent auctions are held throughout the country to sell a wide variety of items, including cakes, gift certificates, vehicles, and even homes. Auctions can be held by charities or individuals. There are guidelines for conducting silent auctions, but the organiser can adjust these to fit her needs.

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Bidding With A Paddle

This is for a live auction. Each registered potential buyer is given a paddle. The auctioneer announces an item and then starts announcing prices for the item. When a bidder wishes to bid, he raises his paddle at the announced price. The auctioneer will continue to increase the price until only one individual raises her paddle, and nobody else raises his paddle to raise the price. At that point, the item is sold to the solitary paddle-raiser.

Bidding With A List

Other silent auctions will use lists on which bids are taken. Sometimes a list is posted with the item so potential buyers can see the current high bid. Each bidder is assigned a number and writes his number along with his highest bid for the item. The organiser of the auction will state the minimum amount that must be bid above the previous high bid. Bidders can increase their bids until the agreed time that ends the bidding for the item. At that time, the bidder with the highest bid on the paper is announced, and she wins the item.

Another option is a blind silent auction using a list. For this, each bidder is given a sheet of paper or multiple sheets with her name or bidder number on it. The bidder then writes down the item number on his sheet of paper and his maximum bid for the item. He gives the lists in to the auction organisers and the data are collated manually or entered into a computer. At a predetermined ending time for the auction, the organisers determine the winners of each item based on the highest price bid.

Inspecting The Items

Potential bidders can inspect the items in a couple of ways. The auction organisers might offer a time window for the bidders to inspect the items before the auction begins. This is more frequently used for silent auctions using the paddle process. When using a list, the auction organiser can either use the same policy, with an organised time to allow inspection of the items, or set each item on a table for inspection during bidding.

Tie Breaking

In a paddle auction, a tie is not permitted for a single auction item. If two individuals raise their paddles for an item at a given price, the auctioneer will raise the price. If nobody bids at the higher price, he will lower it to an amount between that price and the one for which there were multiple bidders. This will continue until there is only one bidder.

In a list auction, the auction organiser will list a specific amount each bid must increase over the previous bidder. Bidders cannot bid the same amount as the previous bidder. If this happens for the highest bid on a silent auction with a list, it is considered a rule violation, and the highest bidder following the rules for increasing the bid will be declared the winner. The individual who matched the bid will have her bid declared invalid.

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About the Author

Alan Kirk has been writing for online publications since 2006. He has more than 15 years' experience in catering, management and government relations. Kirk has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Maryland.

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