Strategies for Winning a Dutch Auction on eBay

Multiple-item (Dutch) auctions on eBay are funky. Each winner pays the same amount for the item, and multiple-item auctions don’t have a supersecret reserve price. But winning a multiple-item auction isn’t all that different from winning other auctions. Therefore, wait until the closing minutes of the auction to bid, and then remember these key points to ensure optimum success:

  • The seller must sell all the items at the lowest winning price at the end of the auction, no matter what.

  • Winners are based on the highest bids received. If you up the ante, you could win the auction and pay only the lowest winning price, which may be lower than your bid. Confused yet? Say the minimum bid for each of ten Elvis watches is $10 and 20 people bid at $10, each person bidding for one watch. The first ten bidders win the watch. But suppose you come along at the end of the auction and bid $15 as the 21st bidder. You get a watch (as do the first nine people who bid $10), and you get the watch for the lowest successful bid — which is $10! Get it?

  • Know where you stand in the pecking order. You can see a list of high bidders (and their bids) by clicking the Bidders List link on the auction page, so you always know where you stand in the pecking order.

  • Avoid being the lowest or the highest high bidder. The highest bidder is sure to win, so the usual bidding strategy is to knock out the lowest high bidder. The lowest high bidder is said to be on the bubble on the verge of losing the auction by a couple of pennies. To avoid being the bidder on the bubble, keep your bid just above the second-lowest winning bid.

  • If you want to buy more than one of an item up for auction, make sure you have that number of successful high bids as the auction draws to a close. Huh? Remember, winners are based on the highest bids. If you’re in a multiple-item auction for ten items and place five $15 bids, nothing guarantees that you’ll win five of the items. Nine other people who want the item could bid $20 apiece. Then they each win one of the items at $15, and you end up with only one of the item. (At least you still pay only $15 for it.)

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