How to Organize Sequential Auctions: Results of a Natural Experiment by Christie's
CentER Discussion Paper No. 2003-25
27 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2004
Date Written: March 2003
In empirical studies of sequential auctions of identical objects, prices have been found to decline. We study auctions of ancient Chinese porcelain recovered from shipwrecks. In these auctions, there are very long sequences of lots of identical objects. We find that the average price decline is smaller in long sequences. It is especially large for the first pair of lots auctioned; it is also larger when the price of the previous lot was larger than (the upper bound of the range of) the pre-sale estimate of the previous lot and when the number of items in lots that follow each other increases. As a consequence, it appears that sellers may have some control over the sequence of prices and, therefore, on their revenue. Our results point to the fact that a sequence of lots, each of which contains the same number of items, generates more revenue than lots with varying number of items.
Keywords: Sequential auctions, declining prices
JEL Classification: D44
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