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Most auctioneers have for years sold in certain increments. Those auctioneers’ “standard increments” have somewhat uniform (consistent) increases over any prior bid.

For example, some auctioneers would accept a $10 increase for any bid from $100 to about $250 and then switch to $25 increments until about $500, where the increment would increase to $50, and so forth.

This particular pattern is based upon this series of numbers: 1, 2.50, 5.00, 10.00, 25.00, 50.00, 100.00, 250.00, 500.00, 1,000.00, 2,500.00, 5,000.00, 10,000.00, 25,000.00, 50,000.00, 100,000.00 … where each number is a multiple of 2 or 2.5 of the previous number and the number 10%.

That sequence is 2.5, 2, 2, 2.5, 2, 2, 2.5, 2, 2, 2.5, 2, 2, 2.5, 2, 2, 2.5 … and so forth. Nevertheless, the increment would change when the next number in the series was 10% of that number. For instance, at $10 the next bid would be 10% or 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 … all the way to 24 where 10% of 25 is $2.50 so that next bid would have to be $27.50.

The bids would continue at $27.50, $30, $32.50, $35, $37.50 … until 10% of the next bid was $5. With that number being 50, the $2.50 increments would continue until $50 and then move to $5.00 increments or $55, etc.

Our suggestion here is primarily for online auctions, as computers can easily calculate these uniform sequences. This complete (up to $1,000,000) increment table would be as follows:

Current Bid Range Increment
$1 – $2.49 $0.1
$2.50 – $4.99 $0.25
$5 – $9.99 $0.50
$10 – $24 $1
$25 – $49 $2.50
$50 – $99 $5
$100- $249 $10
$250 – $499 $25
$500 – $999 $50
$1,000 – $2,499 $100
$2,500 – $4,999 $250
$5,000 – $9,999 $500
$10,000 – $24,999 $1,000
$25,000 – $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 – $99,999 $5,000
$100,000 – $249,999 $10,000
$250,000 – $499,999 $25,000
$500,000 – $999,999 $50,000

Online auction increments do not need to be standard nor based on a mathematical formula — and most I’ve seen are not. Fixed percentages (such as 10%) automatically increase the needed advances commensurate with the current bid.

It has certainly been clear to most auctioneers that bidders appreciate increments that are neither too high nor too low. For example, if the current bid is $1,000 the next required bid shouldn’t be $1,500 nor should it be $1,001.

With some sort of consistent formula, no bidders are necessarily advantaged nor disadvantaged at any price point. Relatedly, it seems prudent for all online auction platforms to have a way to force a certain bid to be placed — for instance, a bid of $1,000 could be “no more than $1,000 as necessary” or “$1,000 exactly.”

The issue more basically is that bidders make offers, not sellers/auctioneers. As such these offers are tendered by the bidders — so that offer should be able to be placed in the manner the bidder wishes subject to reasonable circumstantial constraints.

As we discuss in auction schools and otherwise if one bidder is at $5,000 and the next bidder is allowed to outbid the current bidder for $5,500, the next required bid should be (at minimum) $6,000. Otherwise, online bid increments that have a systematic approach hold up better in disputes.

Lastly, bid increments are always a topic of considerable discussion — including but not limited to — if at an absolute auction, the auctioneer can refuse a higher bid. It has been held both that set bid increments suggest a with reserve auction, and secondly, selling to the highest bidder would necessitate taking any higher bid.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.