Apps, Experiences Pushing Auction Prices Higher

March 4, 2014       Paul Clolery      

Auctions at fundraising galas can be a snore. They can also interrupt a meal, however rubber the chicken might be. Whether it’s a traditional bidding auction, a silent auction where bids are written down or new mobile bidding, if you don’t have great items, you’re not going to get premium dollars.

According to Katherine Sheane, marketing manager at 501 Auctions, sports memorabilia is hot, as are fine dining and fashion. According to Stuart Paskow of Mitch Stuart, Inc., experiential items such as travel and the Super Bowl bring way more than fair market value.

Mobile bidding is boosting returns, they both said. Instead of racing back and forth between the dinner and the auction tables, a mobile app allows interested bidders to wrestle for those items without tripping. They also cause pricing to go higher because of one-on-one, quiet competition, said Paskow.

Using data gathered from its 2013 auction events, Sheane said signed music or sports memorabilia, including autographed footballs, baseball jerseys or other equipment from a region’s favorite team, is guaranteed to attract top bidders. They raise between 370 percent and 630 percent of their fair market value. Also popular are tickets to local sporting events. You’ll always find a couple of fans willing to bid high.

Fine dining, such as steakhouses or celebrity establishments, last year brought in between 330 percent and 460 percent of their fair market value. “Happily, restaurant certificates are generally easy to come by, as restaurant owners enjoy the promotion they receive by being included in a charity auction,” said Sheane.

Following the dining theme, luxury kitchenware such as a high-end knife collection or the latest coffeemaker, inspire those looking to find a practical deal for their home.

Fashion is always a good category to include in any auction, she said. High-end items from designer favorites Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenburg, Michael Kors or Ralph Lauren do very well, especially during events as you move into the holiday season. Handbags, shopping certificates and accessories are among the most highly sought fashion items.

Whether its airline tickets or a weekend in New Orleans, travel and destinations always generate excitement, according to Paskow. “It is also important to add exotic trips to give it that wow factor,” said Paskow.

Using mobile apps has pushed prices 30 percent or more from the usual silent auction price level, he said.

VIP seating box access at a big concert, an opportunity to drive a dream car, or a private tour of the Coca-Cola factory, are some examples of experiences that have also done well, according to Sheane.

“As a general rule, anything that is unique, one of a kind, or limited will do very well at your event,” said Sheane.