Selling to the Highest Bidder
by Daniel Howard
Auctions add drama to the buying and selling of pretty much anything.
In their simplest form, auctions are events where customers bid on items, and whoever is willing to pay the most gets to take them home. There are many variations of auctions, but the most common is the English auction. People call out the prices they are willing to pay in an open room and compete against other bidders. An auctioneer runs the event and keeps track of the bids. Another common version often found in fundraisers is the silent auction, where bids are written down. Occasionally, the auction will be timed by something with an uncertain time limit, such as a candle burning down, to prevent people from making last-minute bids.
Auctions are traditionally used to sell valuable objects, such as works of art, antiques, and real estate. The world's largest auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, have both been around since the 1700s. The tradition of auctions goes back even further, though, as goods won in war were auctioned off by the Roman Empire. The largest auction in all of history was when the Praetorian Guard killed Emperor Pertinax and sold the entire Roman Empire to Didius Julianus.
Since then, modern auctions have undergone some major changes. While people still gather for traditional auctions, the Internet has made it easier for people to participate online. The best example is eBay, a website which allows anyone to auction anything from socks to cars, with items selling from only a few dollars to a few million. Customers furiously compete with each other to get bargains on things they want until the last minute. Thanks to these mini-auctions, eBay has become a multi-billion-dollar company.
从那时起，现代的拍卖经历了一些重大的变革。尽管人们还是会聚集起来进行传统的拍卖会，但网络却让人们参与在线拍卖更加容易。最好的例子就是 eBay 拍卖网，这是一个能让所有人拍卖东西的网站，从袜子到车子都能卖，拍卖的物品从价格只要几块钱到好几百万的都有。客户在网站上激烈地竞争到最后来获得他们想要的东西。多亏有这些小型的拍卖会，eBay 现在已成为了身价数十亿美元的大公司。