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Comparing Open and Sealed Bid Auctions: Evidence from Timber Auctions

  • Susan Athey
  • Jonathan Levin
  • Enrique Seira

We study entry and bidding patterns in sealed bid and open auctions with heterogeneous bidders. Using data from U.S. Forest Service timber auctions, we document a set of systematic effects of auction format: sealed bid auctions attract more small bidders, shift the allocation towards these bidders, and can also generate higher revenue. We show that a private value auction model with endogenous participation can account for these qualitative effects of auction format. We estimate the model's parameters and show that it can explain the quantitative effects as well. Finally, we use the model to provide an assessment of bidder competitiveness, which has important consequences for auction choice.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14590.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Publication status: published as Susan Athey & Jonathan Levin & Enrique Seira, 2011. "Comparing open and Sealed Bid Auctions: Evidence from Timber Auctions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 207-257.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14590
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  1. Pesendorfer, Martin, 2000. "A Study of Collusion in First-Price Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 381-411, July.
  2. Porter, Robert H & Zona, J Douglas, 1993. "Detection of Bid Rigging in Procurement Auctions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 518-38, June.
  3. Philip A. Haile & Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2004. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values in First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions," Working Papers 2004.149, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  4. Susan Athey & Jonathan Levin & Enrique Seira, 2008. "Comparing Open and Sealed Bid Auctions: Evidence from Timber Auctions," NBER Working Papers 14590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Marshall, R.C. & Richard J.F., 1995. "Bider Collusion at Forest Service Timber Sales," Papers 7-95-3, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  6. Robert H. Porter & J. Douglas Zona, 1997. "Ohio School Milk Markets: An Analysis of Bidding," NBER Working Papers 6037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Susan Athey & Philip A. Haile, 2002. "Identification of Standard Auction Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2107-2140, November.
  8. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "What Really Matters in Auction Design, from Auctions: Theory and Practice
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  9. Berry, Steven T, 1992. "Estimation of a Model of Entry in the Airline Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 889-917, July.
  10. Lance Brannman & Luke M. Froeb, 2000. "Mergers, Cartels, Set-Asides, and Bidding Preferences in Asymmetric Oral Auctions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(2), pages 283-290, May.
  11. Patrick Bajari & Ali Hortacsu, 2000. "Winner's Curse, Reserve Prices and Endogenous Entry: Empirical Insights from eBay Auctions," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1927, Econometric Society.
  12. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Auctions: Theory and Practice," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number auction1.
  13. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Survey of Auction Theory, from Auctions: Theory and Practice
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  14. Maskin, Eric & Riley, John, 2000. "Asymmetric Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 413-38, July.
  15. Haile, P.A., 1997. "Auctions with Resale Markets: An Application to U.S. Forest Service Timber Sales," Working papers 9702, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  16. Guerre, E. & Perrigne, I. & Vuong, Q., 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of First-Price Auctions," Papers 9504, Southern California - Department of Economics.
  17. Steven A. Matthews, 1985. "Comparing Auctions for Risk Averse Buyers: A Buyer's Pointof View," Discussion Papers 664R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  18. Mireia Jofre-Bonet & Martin Pesendorfer, 2001. "Estimation of a Dynamic Auction Game," NBER Working Papers 8626, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 235-267, 01.
  20. Haile,P.A. & Tamer,E.T., 2000. "Inference with an incomplete model of English auctions," Working papers 18, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  21. Susan Athey & Jonathan Levin, 1999. "Information and Competition in U.S. Forest Service Timber Auctions," Working papers 99-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  22. Tong Li & Xiaoyong Zheng, 2006. "Entry and competition effects in first-price auctions: theory and evidence from procurement auctions," CeMMAP working papers CWP13/06, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  23. Donald W.K. Andrews, 1996. "A Conditional Kolmogorov Test," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1111R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  24. Emmanuel Guerre & Isabelle Perrigne & Quang Vuong, 2000. "Optimal Nonparametric Estimation of First-Price Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(3), pages 525-574, May.
  25. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Introduction to Auctions: Theory and Practice
    [Auctions: Theory and Practice]
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  26. Jonathan Levin & Susan Athey & Enrique Seira, 2004. "Comparing Open and Sealed Bid Auctions: Theory and Evidence from Timber Auctions," Working Papers 2004.142, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  27. Harry J. Paarsch & Bjarne Brendstrup, 2004. "Nonparametric Estimation of Dutch and First-Price, Sealed-Bid Auction Models with Asymmetric Bidders," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 39, Econometric Society.
  28. Matthew Shum, 2000. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1598, Econometric Society.
  29. Tong Li, 2005. "Econometrics of first-price auctions with entry and binding reservation prices," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 126(1), pages 173-200, May.
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