There are not many entertaining party games that are educational but a game of Auction will encourage simple arithmetic and money management for all and provide insights into the value of everyday and luxury items. Best of all this game costs almost nothing to prepare and it is a lot of fun to play.
This version of Auction also involves some strategy as individuals try to out bid or ‘bid up’ each other.
The game of Auction needs to be planned ahead of time so that items for the auction can be selected and their value recorded. No real items (or money) are used, but the organizer will need to research items, and their selling price, that have recently been sold. The best place to get such information is EBay, you can choose expensive cars, watches, fashion dresses etc. You can also choose unusual objects (for example art, or fossils) or objects which most people know, have value (such Gold, Silver or Jewelry). In addition you can auction off a house or other property that has recently been sold in your area or in New York or somewhere where the house prices are unbelievably high.
Having researched the list of objects to be auctioned the organizer makes a card for each item, which has the name of the object on it with a detailed description to help the participants guess its value. A list of the object and price it sold for is also made and kept by the host, separately.
The party guests are then allocated an amount of money (each guest starts with the same amount of money). There is no need to give out ‘fake’ money (unless you prefer) as the participants can keep a running balance of their ‘cash’ by subtracting the amount they paid for an item. The idea is that at the end of the auction the person with the highest “net worth” (that is item values plus money unspent) is the winner. In some cases, spending nothing and keeping the original amount might be good enough to win. If you are auctioning off high value items you might need to start each player with a balance of $20 Million or so, to be able to cover the high end items. If you prefer (for younger guests) you might just auction off less expensive items like kids toys etc. and start each player with a balance of $500 or less.
The items are then auctioned off as with a real auction. There are no reserve prices as the idea is to ‘sell’ everything and the Auctioneer needs to get into the part to try and sell the items for the highest possible amount, although the Auctioneer should never reveal the items true worth. In order to get the bids started in the right ‘ballpark” a low‘ estimate’ can be given, i.e. this item is worth at least $10,000 so the bidding can start in a realistic range.
The party guests need to get a list of all items that are being auctioned off (with the low estimates also listed against each item) so that the auction bidders can plan their spending and strategy. A simple auction catalog (single page that list the items and low estimates) can be given out to each guest just before the auction starts.
When an item has been purchased the item card and price paid are given to the highest bidder (the real value of the item is not disclosed until the end of the auction). It is up to the players bidding to know how much money they have left (by keeping a balance) and bid accordingly. If a player spends more money than they have, then their last item purchased is re-auctioned. For younger guests it is advisable to have an older person assisting with the arithmetic.
At the end of the auction, the value of the items is revealed and each person can then calculate what “net worth” they have in items and cash. The person with the highest net worth is declared the winner.