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Participating in live auction events

Overview

With live auction events, you have access to unique and premium antiques, art, and collectibles offered by auction houses in a live auction experience. Experienced auctioneers oversee the sale of each item, and you bid in actual time against other online bidders and bidders who are at the auction house in person.

With live auctions, items are curated and sold in events. An event is an offering of a collection of items by an auction house. Items in the collection are called lots.

Live auction events differ from auction-style listings on eBay in several ways:

  • Live auctions have a designated starting time but no fixed end time. The end time of any particular item is determined by the item's order in the event and the pace of the auction.

  • You must register for a live auction event in order to bid on individual lots.

  • Your bids must be in increments that are determined by the auction house holding the event.

  • The winning bidder pays a fee, called a buyer's premium, to the auction house. The amount appears on the item detail page and the bidding console

  • An event is held in a room with in-person bidders, in addition to bidders participating through eBay, and can last several hours.

  • Auctions for individual items, or lots, during a live auction event are fast-paced, and most last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. You won't see a countdown as you do with other auction-style listings on eBay.

  • You can search for, browse and watch live auction items using your mobile device, but you can't register for an event or bid on live auction items from your smartphone.

The buyer's premium

  • The buyer's premium is a fee paid to the auction house in addition to the winning bid amount. This fee, a percentage of the winning bid amount, usually ranges from 0% to 30%

  • The buyer's premium is clearly displayed when you view a lot, during event registration, and in the bidding console.

  • When you place a bid on a lot, you see both your bid amount and the buyer's premium amount.

Sign up for an event

You must sign up and be approved for each live auction event you want to participate in. Signing up is a way for both eBay and the auction house to confirm that you're a prospective buyer in good standing. You must be approved to bid on an item in a live auction by both eBay and the auction house holding the event.

When you find a live auction event with an item you're interested in, click Sign up. Don't worry--signing up is easy and we walk you through it. Just follow the on-screen instructions.

Keep these things in mind when signing up for a live auction event:

  • You must sign up for an event and be approved in order to be able to bid on individual lots.

  • Approval to bid on items is often granted immediately, or within a day, but may take up to 72 hours. Some auction houses require that you sign up 24 hours before an event, and they don't permit sign-up for auctions that have already started.

  • When you sign up for an event, we ask you to confirm or edit the information in your eBay account. If you edit your eBay account information, the change is saved and becomes part of your eBay account.

  • If you aren't already PayPal Verified, we ask for your credit card number. This is for ID verification only, not for payment. Learn more about getting verified on PayPal.

  • When you sign up, we show you the buyer's premium for the event. We ask you to acknowledge that you understand that this additional charge is added to your bid if you win an item.

Approval to bid

When you sign up for an event, you see a message letting you know whether you've been approved or declined, or if your approval is pending from the auction house. Some auction houses may contact you if they need more information. Note: eBay and the auction house have the right to decline any bidder, and may not provide a reason.

When you're approved, you see your bid limit (if there is one). If you'd like to request a higher bid limit, contact the auction house directly. Be sure to include the event name in your request.

Signing up for an event usually goes smoothly, but there's a small chance you could be declined. You could be declined if:

  • There are unpaid items or restrictions on your eBay account. Contact eBay Customer Service for assistance.

  • You're located outside the stated shipping region for the item.

  • There are other buyer restrictions from the auction house. Contact the auction house directly for more information.

Understand lots and event timing

Items being offered as part of a live auction event are called lots.

If you're interested in an event, add it to your calendar. When you do this, we send you an email reminder about the event. You can also add the individual lots you're interested in to your watch list.

If you want to bid on a lot, keep in mind that:

  • Events include a collection of individual lots and can sometimes last several hours.

  • The auctioneer for the event controls the auction, for people physically in the room as well as those bidding online, and decides the order in which the lots come up for sale.

  • In the bidding console, or event window, you see a slider bar containing thumbnails of the individual lots offered as part of the event. Lots usually come up for auction in the order in which they're listed in the thumbnails, but this isn't always the case. The auctioneer may decide to take an item out of order.

  • The upper left corner of the event page shows the lot currently up for bidding.

Bid on an item

Live auction events are exciting and fast-paced. They can take you by surprise, so it's helpful to get familiar with how live bidding works, and watch a few auctions in progress, before you actually place any bids.

Bid types

There are two types of bids for a lot during a live auction event:

  • Floor: A bid from someone physically in the room where the auction is being held.

  • Online: A bid from someone participating through eBay or another online platform.

On-increment bidding

In live auctions, bids can only be increased by a set amount. This is called the bid increment, and it's set by the auction house holding the event. In a live auction event, all bids must be on-increment.

For example, if an item has a current bid of $3,000 and the bid increment is $250, the next bid must be $3,250, then $3,500 (or more, as long as it's on-increment). You can't bid $3,342 since this amount is off-increment.

Advance bids

In many live auctions, advance bidding works just like other max bids on eBay, except:

  • Advance bidding is blind. You won't know if you're the highest bidder or if you've been outbid by another advance bid.

  • All bids have to be on-increment.

  • For many auctions, you can place an advance bid up until the start of the event. Some auction houses allow advance bids only within an hour of the auction start time.

  • You can see your advance bids in My eBay > Bids/Offers up until the event starts.

  • You can increase your advance bid by placing another advance bid up until the event starts.

  • If your advance bid wins the auction, a buyer's premium is added on top of your bid.

Bidding during the event

When you bid during a live auction:

  • You see your bid amount, along with the calculated buyer's premium. When you submit your bid, you're acknowledging that, should you win the auction, there's an additional fee on top of the bid amount.

  • When an auctioneer receives multiple online bids of the same amount, the first bid takes precedence.

  • Choosing between a floor bid and an online bid of the same amount is at the discretion of the auctioneer.

Canceling a bid

As a general rule, you can't retract or cancel a bid. Once you place an advance bid or a bid through the bidding console during an event, you agree to pay for the item if you're the winning bidder. However, honest mistakes sometimes occur. Learn more about retracting or canceling your bid.

About the bidding console

All lots and event details are displayed in the bidding console. Once the event starts, you also use it for placing bids and watching the action.

The bidding console contains:

  • The catalog of lots to be auctioned as part of the event. You can look through the catalog using the thumbnails.

  • Basic descriptions of each lot. If you need more information on a specific item, there's a link from the lot title to the View Item page. Typical questions about an item appear in the item description. You can contact the auction house for additional information. Since bidding can move very quickly, be sure to get all your questions answered before bidding starts.

  • A slider bar showing the upcoming lots for sale. Lots usually come up for auction in the order in which they appear in the slider bar, but the final order is at the discretion of the auctioneer.

  • The lot currently active, which appears at the top of the console.

If you're having trouble watching the live auction bidding in the bidding console, you may not be using a supported browser.

You won! What's next?

  • We email you after the event ends (not after the bidding on a particular lot is finished), to let you know you won.

  • The auction house sends you an invoice, including payment and shipping information.

  • You're responsible for working directly with the auction house seller to pay for your item and arrange and pay for shipping.

  • You can see your purchase in My eBay. If you don't, it may mean you didn't actually win. The auction house may have decided not to sell the item, or there might have been a clerical error.

  • Live auction items are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee, or in the case of Sotheby's live auction items, by the terms of guarantee as described in the Sotheby's conditions of sale.

Live auction terminology

The terms used to describe a live auction event are a little different from those used for other auction-style listings on eBay. Here's a quick guide:

Term What it means

Advance bid

A bid placed before a live auction event begins.

Auction house

The seller of record for all lots in a live auction event.

Bid increment

The minimum amount a bid must be increased by.

Buyer's premium

A fee paid to the auction house in addition to the winning bid amount. It's a percentage of the winning bid amount that usually ranges from 0% to 30%.

Catalog

Information about all the lots offered in a live auction event.

Event registration

The process of eBay and the auction house verifying the good standing of a buyer.

Fair warning

Last call for additional bids during a live auction.

Floor bidder

A bidder physically attending an event.

Lot

An individual unit being sold during a live auction event.

Sale

Another name for an event.

Winning bid

The winner of an auction.

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