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The Amsterdam Auction

  • Jacob K. Goeree

    (University of Virginia)

  • Theo Offerman

    (University of Amsterdam)

Auctions used to sell houses often attract a diverse group of bidders, with realtors and speculators out for a bargain competing against buyers with a real interest in the house. Value asymmetries such as these necessitate careful consideration of the auction format as revenue equivalence cannot be expected to hold. From a theoretical viewpoint, Myerson's (1981) mechanism design approach has identified the seller's optimal choice. The proposed mechanism entails assigning credits to weaker bidders to promote competition and setting bidder-specific reserve prices. In practice, however, sellers often lack the detailed information needed to choose credits and reserve prices optimally, nor can they always discriminate among bidders. A more practical solution to the seller's problem is suggested by the "Amsterdam auction," where a premium is offered to encourage weak bidders to compete aggressively. This auction format, which has been used to sell houses in Amsterdam for centuries, treats all bidders the same and does not rely on detailed information about their value-distributions. In this paper, we consider premium auctions like the one in Amsterdam and demonstrate their revenue-generating virtues in asymmetric situations. We report the results of an experiment, which compares the standard first-price and English formats with two premium auctions in symmetric and asymmetric settings. The introduction of a premium leads weak bidders to set an endogenous reserve price for stronger rivals, with a dramatic effect on the sales price. Awarding a premium raises revenues, especially since Bertrand competition between weaker bidders virtually dissipates the premium to be paid.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 0205002.

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Date of creation: 15 May 2002
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Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0205002
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  1. Estelle Cantillon, 2000. "The Effect of Bidders' Asymmetries on Expected Revenue in Auctions," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1279, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Cox, James C & Smith, Vernon L & Walker, James M, 1988. " Theory and Individual Behavior of First-Price Auctions," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 61-99, March.
  3. Professor Paul Klemperer, 2000. "What Really Matters in Auction Design," Microeconomics 0004008, EconWPA.
  4. Corns, Allan & Schotter, Andrew, 1996. "Can Affirmative Action be Cost-Effective? An Experimental Examination of Price-Preference Auctions," Working Papers 96-02, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  5. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Price competition and market concentration: an experimental study," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 7-22, January.
  6. McAfee, R Preston & Vincent, Daniel, 1992. "Updating the Reserve Price in Common-Value Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 512-18, May.
  7. Paul Pezanis-Christou, 2002. "On the impact of low-balling: Experimental results in asymmetric auctions," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 69-89.
  8. Heidrun C. Hoppe & Philippe Jehiel & Benny Moldovanu, 2006. "License Auctions and Market Structure," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(2), pages 371-396, 06.
  9. Klemperer, Paul, 1998. "Auctions with almost common values: The 'Wallet Game' and its applications," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 757-769, May.
  10. John H. Kagel & Dan Levin, 1999. "Common Value Auctions with Insider Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(5), pages 1219-1238, September.
  11. S. Baranzoni & P. Bianchi & L. Lambertini, 2000. "Market Structure," Working Papers 368, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  12. Maskin, Eric & Riley, John, 2000. "Asymmetric Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 413-38, July.
  13. Roger B. Myerson, 1978. "Optimal Auction Design," Discussion Papers 362, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  14. Abbink, Klaus & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 1995. "RatImage - research Assistance Toolbox for Computer-Aided Human Behavior Experiments," Discussion Paper Serie B 325, University of Bonn, Germany.
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