Running an Auction with a Timer

Auctions are an excellent way to sell stuff when no preset market price can be determined efficiently.

I am building an Auction Events Platform for Creators, where using fixed prices for physical creations would grossly undercut creators.

How does an auction work?

Calls in an Auction

In a traditional live auction, an auctioneer stays tuned to the bids from the audience. After an idle period with no bids, he/the auctioneer says,

X dollars, first time,

X dollars, second time,

X dollar, third time,


Of course, if a bid comes in, we start again.

Long Auctions

Over the last ten years, we have been running hybrid antique auctions, with the audience in the IRL hall and the audience online. These auctions last for a whole day, sometimes with 100-200 items.

We observed that the traditional mechanism of calls is too time-consuming, as the competition for a majority of items is relatively short. At the same time, a minority of items cause lengthy competitions.

Place a Timer on Calls

To speed things up, we decide to run the calls on a timer.

So, once an item comes up, we start a timer and reset it on each bid.

Once a bid comes in, we start a second timer, which sets a duration for each phase:

  • 1. From bid to the first call,
  • 2. From the first call to the second call,
  • 3. From the second call to the third call,
  • 4. From the third call to sold,

In each phase, we reset the timer once a bid comes in.

The auctioneer will no longer declare anything except sold.

We project this timer to the audience in the hall and show it to the audience online.

Superb User Experience

Our audience, both in the hall and online liked the quiet transition from bids to sold for most items.

The auctioneer took over the control from the timer once the competition heats up, as the audience became tuned.

The timer came with a gaming aspect - when the timer goes off, we play a ring sound, similar to boxing competition.

So we have been able to increase engagement significantly.

Creators as Auctioneers

To democratize auctions, we want the individual creators to be able to run an auction event efficiently. And in a way that would entertain and engage the audience IRL and online.

The timer is one of a collection of small mechanisms that we experiment with to make the auction event engaging and efficient.

Yoram Kornatzky

Yoram Kornatzky