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 (and a Motor Mouth), ladies and gentlemen. You can get your MacGuffins 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 everyone's 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:
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- One of GEICO's TV "Did You Know" TV ads has the punchline of "Well, did you know auctioneers make really bad cashiers?" Cut to a supermarket clerk give a customer her total, then suddenly breakout the rapid-fire auction-speak and sell that customer's entire order to the one behind her in line. (Note that this is also a culture-specific gag - while in the US and many other Western countries only really expensive items like cars and houses are haggled over, in other countries such as those around the Mediterranean it is the custom to haggle over things like produce.)
Anime & 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 bidding goes up to 50 billion, and only stops because Alex' opponent puts a gun to his head to keep him from running the price up further.
- The 2000 edition of Pay Day (which is in the Game Boy Advance version that also comes with Yahtzee and the Game of Life) has "Deal" cards that are "Auction Deals": instead of the Auction Deal only for the player who drew it, all the players can bid on it, highest bidder winning it. The catch is, only the player who drew it (or only the human players in the Game Boy Advance version as they must use the GB Advance or Nintendo DS that the game is played on) knows the true value of the Deal. Getting other players (especially the AI players) to bid where they either lose money on the Deal or don't make enough in proportion to the bid and how much time is left to redeem the Deal (which can only be done on a "Found A Buyer" space or a mail card that lets you move to the next "Found a Buyer" space) for can be game-changing (any Deal, especially an Auction Deal, drawn late in the game might get no buyers if a player doesn't think he can get a roll that would let him land on "Found a Buyer" in time; games can be as long as six 31-day months to as few as just one) as a Deal still held at the end of the game is worth NOTHING.
- This is what is supposed to be done to properties that players do not outright purchase when they land on an unowned space in Monopoly — the common House Rule of leaving it unpurchased is a major contributor to the marathon sessions the game can be notorious for.
Films — Live-Action
- 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: The Golden Army had one. One that ended with everyone eaten by tooth fairies.
- The protagonists of MouseHunt try to sell their mansion in one.
- 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. It was later revealed that Vandamm used the auction house as a cover to smuggle microfilm out of the country.
- 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.
- In Sinbad the Sailor, a Caliph orders that a ship Sinbad had discovered and hoped to salvage, believing it would lead him to the treasure of Alexander, be auctioned out from under Sinbad's nose. As the auctioneer asks for bids, Sinbad begins expounding the ship's features, while pointing out that its previous crew had died under mysterious circumstances and that the ship may be cursed, in an effort to discourage any bidders so he could keep the ship for himself. It doesn't quite work, but Sinbad is good at thinking on his feet.
- The protagonist couple of The War of the Roses meet during an auction.
- 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.
- In Song in the Silence, Lanen is daughter of a horse-breeder and early on goes to take the horses to sell at auction, at which point she'll take some of the profits and go on an adventure.
- In the Jules Verne novel The Purchase of the North Pole, a mysterious club offers the North Pole in auction to several nations.
- In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, book 2, The Magician actually starts at an exclusive art auction, introducing the new villain, Wicked Cultured Machiavelli. The items he's bidding on are actually fairly insignificant to the plot, making the scene useful mostly to establish his character. He receives a phone call from John Dee (another Evil Sorcerer who was introduced in the first book) while in the middle of bidding and things get more interesting from there.
- Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy opens with the titular protagonist being put up for auction at a slave market. He is purchased by the beggar Baslim the Cripple (who is not what he seems). Baslim is heavily subsidized by a Syndonian dandy, who the auctioneer had inadvertantly insulted earlier.
- Near the end of The Widow of Desire there is a fur auction held in the USSR. Protagonist Natalie Stuart takes the opportunity to hide evidence of a conspiracy within one of the pelts.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Quark holds an auction for items Vash brought over from the Gamma Quadrant. Q has a little fun with it.
- "In The Cards" also has an auction where Jake and Nog try to buy a 1951 Willie Mays baseball card for Captain Sisko. Unfortunately the card is part of a lot that another bidder wins, which sets off the Chain of Deals plot to get 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 & 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 10th 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).
- Quite a few game shows have had auctions in some form:
- 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. The original show (1956-65) was piloted as "Auction-Aire" as it took the form of a modified auction. Creator Bob Stewart developed it after seeing an auction house moderator conduct a contest using this format, only the closest bidder to the price without going over got to buy the item at the winning bid price.
- 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!" before then 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 Peter Tomarken version of Wipeout had the Challenge Round, where players bid against each other to see how many of eight correct answers out of twelve shown they could get right before hitting a Wipeout.
- The reverse auction was used in the Kennedy and Lange versions of 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.
- The Joker's 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 to fulfill the bid, 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 were given one clue to start, then bid on how few extra clues were needed to answer it. The winning bidder got to hear the clues if any were needed, but a wrong answer meant the opponent got to hear all of the clues before answering.
- Sister series Tic-Tac-Dough also had an "Auction" category during the Martindale/Caldwell years.
- Sale Of The Century did a Dutch Auction when for an Instant Bargain there was a tie for first place.
- 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).
- 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 season of "The Next Iron Chef" that crowned Chopped judge Geoffrey Zakarian as the latest "Iron Chef" had one challenge where a reverse auction happened with ingredients: each chef bid on how little time they needed to cook one of four ingredients revealed before each auction; the chef who didn't win a bid on any of the four had to cook the fifth mystery ingredient five minutes sooner than the lowest bid (if the lowest bid was 25 minutes, that chef had only 20 minutes to cook something that might normally take longer).
- Cutthroat Kitchen had contestants start with $25,000, and use that cash to buy ways to sabotage their opponents (and sometimes help themselves) as they tried to cook a certain dish each of three rounds. The contestant eliminated each round lost all the money he or she had at that time, and the winner of the show kept whatever wasn't spent.
- Castle; in "The Last Call", the victim of the week discovered a stash of Mayor Beau James Walker's legendary (and highly expensive) whisky and tried to cut a deal with an auction house; the head of the auction house ends up killing him to claim the whiskey for himself. Castle, Beckett, Esposito and Ryan crash one of his auctions to quietly make him aware that he's busted.
- MacGyver: In "The Odd Triple", Pete deliberately drives up the bidding at a wine auction in an attempt to stall for time.
- City Guys: In "Get to Preppin'," Al and El-Train sell a 1975 basketball trophy on an online auction site. When they find out that Manny High's 1975 basketball team is coming to take a photo with the trophy to be featured in the local newspaper after they had already sold it, El-Train has a decoy made. The problem? He used a gold balloon as a makeshift basketball, which ends up floating away when uncovered. Ms. Noble lowers the boom and reveals that she bought it back online, knowing that Al and El-Train sold the trophy anyway after she told them not to use the homeroom computer for personal (i.e., non-research) use.
- On Person of Interest sports memorabilia auctions were used as part of a money laundering scheme. A relative of a Dirty Cop would put up a worthless item up for auction and the crooked auctioneer would authenticate it as valuable memorabilia. An antique dealer would then bid on the auction and win the item. The antique dealer was funded by the mob and the setup was used to funnel pay off money to the Dirty Cop who would then distributed it to his partners. A con man discovers the setup and tricks the antique dealer into bidding on a real item. The antique dealer later discards the item thinking that it is a worthless fake and the con man walks away with a rare autographed baseball worth a fortune.
- Leroy Van Dyke'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.
- Played for laughs in various episodes of The Goon Show
Sold to the gentleman who keeps changing his voice!
- Played for Laughs on an episode of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again; Tim Brooke-Taylor auctions off a telescope, with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie bidding for it, and Oddie gets it for five pounds. Next item to be auctioned off is a five-pound note...
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has an auction minigame in Windfall Island. The prizes put for sale are two Treasure Charts, a Piece of Heart, Joy Pendants and (only in the HD remake) a Swift Sail.
- Final Fantasy VI has an auction house in Jidoor. There are some items that you can't win, such as a talking chocobo, but the items you can get include two espers (Golem and Zona Seeker) and some rare relics.
- 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 way of averting Permanently Missable Content.
- 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.
- Chances are good that you are going to participate in one of these in Itadaki Street. If a player is forced to sell their property back to the bank, the bank will go into an auction with the three non-sellers, which usually ends up being a cheaper way to acquire the property than trying to buy out that property directly...that is, if you win.
- Early Tycoon style game Dino Park Tycoon has auctions enabled—you could get a 'slightly used' dinosaur for relatively cheap, or put up one of your own dinos for sale. Most notably, the auction was a Game Breaker in the DOS release—there was a way to force the Mad Scientist in the audience to constantly increase the bid on the current dinosaur up for sale, even if he was bidding over himself. If you used this glitch when your dinosaur came up on the block, you could eventually force the computer-controlled scientist to overpay for a dinosaur by tens of thousands of dollars and pass most of that money on to you...provided you had both the patience to wait through the very slow early bidding process as well as the restraint to not get greedy with the glitch and trigger an underflow that would roll the price back down to the lowest possible starting bid. Subsequent Tycoon games from other developers excluded auctions after this.
- In Drakensang 2: River of Time there is a mini-quest where a river sprite is auctioned off. The player can trry to outbid the others, scare the original seller before the auction into giving the sprite up or scare the buyer.
- Auctions were popular plot devices in Batman: The Animated Series.
- In "The Strange Secret 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).
- "Harliquinade" has an underworld auction of a nuke. The Joker bids zero. And no-one dares bid against him.
- In "Time Out of Joint", 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 "The Demon Within", an Artifact of Doom was up for auction, and kicks off the plot.
- 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 an episode, 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?
Being: BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!
- Family Guy:
- Peter attends a seized property auction to buy a boat with which to become a professional fisherman.
- Also in a separate 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.
- Looney Tunes:
- In the 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!
- The cartoon "Porky And Teabiscuit" (1938) has Porky at a market delivering some products and collecting $12 for it. He happens upon an auction where the auctioneer is taking bids for a piece of rope. When Porky tells another patron that the time is 12:00, the auctioneer mistakes it for a $12 bid, and awards Porky the rope for the $12. At the other end of the rope is a broken down nag that Porky winds up entering in a horse race.
- As a joke, in Porky & Daffy (1938), Daffy (as a prize fighter) tweaks the beak of the pelican referee so it sounds like the pelican is talking like an auctioneer. After the pelican says "All done?", Daffy quips, "Sold to the American tabasco company!"
- In one episode of Super Friends, Darkseid bid $1 on a chunk of gold kryptonite. Everyone is too scared to bid against him, except for the Super Friends, 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.
- Hurricanes: Stavros Garkos sent a representative to an auction to buy an ancient ball he believes could be used as evidence that soccer was invented in Greece. Hispanola Hurricanes player stats was at the auction to buy a blazer worn by his Coach Jock Stone back when Stone worked for the Inverfinnan Celtics. Napper tagged along and accidentally outbid Garkos for the ball. Napper eventually sold the ball to Garkos in another auction.