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Auctioneer 1061.png

Next up, Ladies and Gentlemen, is this lovely trope about putting items up for sale. Not at a fixed price, but allowing people to put their own price on the item, as long as it's higher than the last price named. These are called bids.

It can be used for your basic comedies, dramas, thrillers and all situations with a need for tension, ladies and gentlemen. You can get your Mac Guffins being fought over with good guys and bad guys trying to out bid each other. For a limited time only, get this with the random civilian who starts bidding unaware of what they've got before them thus messing up everyones plans. Perhaps you just need a straight forward plot device to get you item from A to B? Well this is what you need. It makes a great laundering system for spy secrets and mafia money. You might think this bidding system is just for getting the item, it can be used as a sting wherein the heroes drive up the bargain to find out who the villain (who desperately needs it) really is.

As with all models in this range, you'll be getting the opportunity to signify wealth and opulence like you'll rarely find elsewhere. Somedays you'll just find yourself taking a character to the auction just to spend exorbitant amounts of money on random pieces to signify how wealthy they are. Expect the audience to gasp as mister moneybags raises the bids to an unprecedented level.

Oh no, this isn't just an ordinary trope, everyone. It's a Super-Trope, encompassing:

Shall I start the bidding at 20 Bonus Points? Thank you.

Do I hear 25? Yes, good sir.

30? 30 made of win points? Going once—30 from the main in the brown hat.

Do I hear 35? 35, it is. Now 40 from the woman with the blue hair ribbon.

40 going once, twice, SOLD!

Examples of Auction include:

File:Batman auction accursed item.jpg

I bid $150,000 on the film examples.

Anime and Manga

  • One Piece has a slave auction.
  • Last Exile: while Claus and Lavie are participating in an air race, Captain Alex Rowe attends an auction and causes a stir—he opens with a 10,000,000 Claudia bid for an artifact, where the reserve price was only 5,000,000.


  • The First Wives Club: In order to help further their revenge against their ex-husbands, Elise, the former movie star, sold all assets she and her ex-husband acquired during their marriage as a result of her work and sold them at a reasonable price to her friend Annie at the price of $1.00 and Annie set up the auction at Christie's. Then they had the girlfriend of the third ex-husband, come with some friends, who were allies of the titular first wives, and got her to buy most everything, especially if it was overpriced, and charge it to the third ex's bank accounts.
  • Hudson Hawk had an item blown up in an action to cover up it was a fake for a stolen item.
  • Hellboy II had one. one
  • As did Mouse Hunt.
  • In the film Octopussy, James Bond attended an auction at Sotheby's for a Faberge egg. Besides driving up the price to see how badly the bad guy wanted it, he also manages to palm the thing and substitute a fake.
    • This section of the film is based on the short story "The Property of a Lady", which has a somewhat different outcome.
  • The protagonist of Mickey Blue Eyes was an auctioneer.
  • Played for Laughs in Casino Royale 1967 film.
  • The Oscar-winning French film Indochine has one of these at the beginning; the main character and her Love Interest meet at one, where he begs her not to bet any higher because he loves the painting but cannot afford any more. She bids higher.
  • In Happy Gilmore, Happy raised enough money to pay off his grandma's house on the deadline when she never paid her taxes. But the IRS are auctioning the house and sold for more than the amount of money Happy has.
  • A classic moment from North by Northwest: Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) made a public nuisance of himself at an art auction(claiming that the paintings were fake, bidding 12 dollars when the highest preceding bid was 1000, etc.) so that the police would arrest him, thus keeping Vandamm (James Mason) from getting his hands on him.
  • The frame story of The Red Violin is an auction of instruments including the title object; each party bidding on it has some connection to the violin's past, explained in the side stories.


  • There is a novel (not Chasing Shakespeares) in which the protagonists find a locked trunk about to be auctioned which they think contains some evidence regarding the Shakespeare Authorship Question; unfortunately while they were examining it a random couple saw them do it and decided that the trunk must be valuable, so they began a bidding war over it.
  • In Bloodfever by Anne Marie Moning. Jericho and Mac attend an auction for a MacGuffin. Malluce planned to have an online auction for another MacGuffin, peripherally related to the other one.
  • The Ersatz Elevator, the sixth book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, featured an auction led by Count Olaf in disguise - and one of the items on sale was the Baudelaire siblings' kidnapped friends.
  • Harry Dresden found himself being put on e-Bay after being captured my a mid level baddie.

Live-Action TV

  • In Deep Space Nine, Quark held an auction for items Vash brought over from the Gamma Quadrant. Q had a little fun with it.
  • Auctions are used several times in Murder, She Wrote, typically as a MacGuffin that gets the murder plot rolling
  • Bones: there's an auction at which a famous movie prop sword is sold, but that sale is a fake (the rest of the auction is real) - they're trying to lure the person who killed the girl who owned it.
  • The Drew Carey Show: Drew's house is seized and sold at auction.
  • NYPD Blue: Andy and Andy Jr. go to an auto auction to buy Jr. a car, along with a friend of Andy's who is in the car dealership buisness and has asked all the other dealers there to not bid as a personal favor; but there is one other person there who isn't a dealer, and who wants the car for himself.
  • Kenan and Kel had a regular auction episode.
  • An episode of Angel features a demon killing other supernatural creatures and stealing the body parts that hold their powers, and then holding an auction to sell the body parts. One of the items at the auction is The Eyes of Seer—Angel's colleague Cordelia (fortunately, she's judged a small enough threat that the demon decides to leave them in her head until the auction's concluded).
  • In The Onedin Line there apparently an episode with a really cool form of auction where a candle was lit and the bidding went on until the candle burnt itself out.
    • Coffee is still traditionally sold this way in some places in Real Life.
  • The Tenth Kingdom had one with the Magic Mirror at stake.
  • The Gossip Girl episode "The Lost Boy" centers around an auction which becomes more than just another social gathering when Blair and Chuck find themselves needing to bid on the same item - she to get into an elite social group, he to assist in a business deal. Both were actually set up by Georgina to drive a wedge between them. The frantic bidding war concludes with both losing out to Serena, who bought the item to get back at them for interfering with her relationship with Carter.
  • Top Gear had one in their 13th series, where the mission was to buy a pre-1982 classic car for under 3000 pounds. Hammond got the first one on the block (wanting to just get it out of the way), Clarkson ended up spending his own money on top of the 3000 pounds, and May got the last one on the block (after the one he had wanted went for too much money).
  • The Price Is Right is a whole game show built around this trope, with a twist: many games require the players to guess as close as possible to a prize's correct price without going over.
  • In the early days of the Paid Program there were several set up to look like live auctions, where once the auction was over they'd halve the price and then let the TV audience call in to buy the item in question.
  • Storage Wars is a reality show showcasing the auctioning of storage rooms.
  • Auction Hunters is another show about the auctioning of storage rooms. It debuted around the same time as Storage Wars above. This show focuses specifically on a team of two buyers and their "greatest hits", so to speak. It airs on Spike TV.
  • Auction Kings is a show on the Discovery Channel based around an auction house. It's a Follow the Leader of Pawn Stars (as the two previous examples may also be).
  • The game show "Debt" had the "Gambling Debt" head-to-head round: a category with five unasked questions was shown, with a dollar amount. Players bid against each other to see how many questions they could answer. Bidding ended with a player bidding five, or being told "Prove It!" by the opponent. The winning bidder had to answer the number of questions he bid to get that dollar amount. If the bid wasn't fulfilled, the opponent won that dollar amount.
  • The reverse auction was used in Name That Tune, where in "Bid A Note," you had to bid to see how few if any notes you needed to guess a mystery tune after being given a clue about it.
    • Also used on the A&E series Shipping Wars. Independent shippers put in bids for jobs listed on uShip; the client can award a job to the lowest bidder, or to a higher one based on customer feedback.
  • The Jokers Wild used both normal and reverse auctions.
    • "Just One More" was a category where there was a question with multiple answers, and the contestants bid on how many answers they could get right in a row. If the winning bidder couldn't get all the answers, his opponent needed just one more right answer to win the question.
    • "How Low Will You Go?" was a reverse auction where a question was given, with a list of eight clues to the right answer. Players bid on how few clues were needed to answer it, but a wrong answer by the winning bidder meant the opponent got to hear all of the clues before answering.


  • Steve Goodman's song, "The Auctioneer".
  • John Michael Montgomery's song, "Sold" is structured around a couple meeting at an auction and falling in love with the chorus done in the style of an auctioneer's patter.
  • "Touch of the Master's Hand" in both song (sung by Wayne Watson here) and spoken gospel form. It involved a violin that wasn't fetching a good price, until a Violin Master played it—then it fetched in the thousands.



 Sold to the gentleman who keeps changing his voice!



Video Games

  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Hanging around the Treno auction house in Final Fantasy IX is the only way to find the Dark Matter, which can be equipped to allow casting one of the most powerful summon spells in the game (or tossed at an enemy to be used as a one-shot).
  • MMORPGs like World of Warcraft even have interactive player-versus-player auction houses.
  • Lost Odyssey's is way of averting Lost Forever.
  • The conclusion to Munch's Oddyssey has the pair blow a rich glukkons fortune (a fortune which they had been explicitly building up for the purpose) on a can of eggs belonging to Munch's species.
  • Neverwinter Nights features an illicit auction for a MacGuffin essential to the plot.
  • Forza Motorsport has the Auction House, where players can put their cars up for sale on auctions. The Auction House is a great place to get neat painted cars or specially tuned, limited-edition cars made by well-known tuners. Players putting a car up for auction set how much the initial price is, the "Buyout" price (like the "Buy Now" option on eBay), and the time of the auction. Players bidding will bid in pre-set increments, and in the final 2 minutes of an auction, every bid will reset the clock to 2 minutes remaining, preventing bid sniping.

Western Animation

  • Picture comes from Batman the Animated Series, where, as the caption states, an evil artifact was on sale.
    • Auctions were popular plot devices in BtAS In one episode, "The Strange Case of Bruce Wayne", Professor Hugo Strange used a device that could video-tape people's thoughts on Bruce Wayne, producing videotaped evidence that he was Batman. He attempted to auction the information to Joker, Penguin and Two-Face, who then tried to have him killed when they thought he was conning them (Batman had switched the tapes to protect his secret and discredit Strange). Another, "Harliquinade", had an underworld auction of a nuke. The Joker bid zero. And no one dared bid against him.
    • Yet another: Bruce Wayne places a winning bid on an antique timepiece, only for it to disappear at the last minute. Turns out the Clock King was testing a device that slows down local time, allowing him to move much faster than the eye can see, and stole the clock at the last minute. He then tosses it in a dumpster, remarking, "Already got one."
  • In Alvin and The Chipmunks, Alvin got caught in one to maintain a lie to a girl that he was rich.
  • A magic potion was sold in one in DuckTales.
  • The Simpsons has multiple examples:
    • Bart Simpson once bought an empty warehouse for one dollar in an auction.
    • When Krusty was caught for tax evasion, the IRS auctioned his house and the stuff inside it.
    • Homer buys Snake's cutom car in another seized property auction.
    • Homer pranks Ned by writing his name on the bid sheet for a silent auction item. "Ned Flanders, $50." Ned wins - a $100 bill. Which he then donates to the church.
    • Homer and Bart attend a rare coin auction in hope of buying a 1917 "Kissing Lincoln" one cent piece, but Mr. Burns wins it (and has won all the other auctions that day). Homer scams it out of Mr. Burns by asking for change for a nickel.
  • In Futurama, Fry became a billionaire and one of the things he did with his money was to go to an auction and buy every item.
    • In another episode, they visit the futuristic eBay where the Milky Way Galaxy is auctioned off:

 Auctioneer: Sold! To the being of inconceivable horror!

Being: Mwah ha ha ha! Will a money order be okay?

Auctioneer: Yes.


  • Family Guy: Peter attends a seized property auction to buy a boat with which to become a professional fisherman.
    • Also in a seperate episode, Stewie complains about his small stature, and a cutscene shows him attempting to bid on a Mind control device which is practically being given away, but Stewie's hand can barely be seen by the auctioneer as he yells in desperation.
    • There is also the episode which shows how Cleveland lost his job as an auctioneer. A cutscene shows him speaking at a hilariously unnatural (for him) high speed and he gets hit on the head resulting in the speed he speaks at now.
  • American Dragon Jake Long and his friend Spud, as well as The Rival, all participate in a charity auction.
  • King of the Hill: Hank, Dale, and Boomhauer are trying to get Bill's army barber chair from the army auction.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "My Bunny Lies Over the Ocean", a Scotsman challenged Bugs to a game of golf. When Bugs claimed two strokes in one hole, and the Scotsman insisted 55, Bugs held what turned into a reverse auction for his score, conning his adversary into lowering the bid to one!
  • In one episode of Superfriends, Darkseid bet one on a chunk of gold kryptonite. Everyone is too scared to bet against him, except for the Superfriends, much to his chagrin.
  • An Auction of Evil is the centrepiece of Darkwing Duck episode "In Like Blunt"; he has to recover a list of SHUSH agents. Which is a Batman Gambit on the villain's part to trap the titular Blunt.

Real Life

  • EBay is now synonymous with online auctions, although it's not the only one.
  • PBS Pledge Drives used to be auctions, where you'd call in your bid for an item they showed on screen.