Chinese auctions are often used at fundraising, charity and church events. The origins of the name are unclear, but some speculate that it is because Chinese people used to be considered crafty and deceptive, and thus equated with deceptive or unseen processes in the auctions.
Whether this is the reason or not, labelling something specifically Chinese is seen as quite offensive today, and the auctions often go by different names.
How Chinese Auctions Work
There are a few different versions of these games. The first type is very similar to raffles, and participants buy as many tickets as they wish to. The key different between the events is that in a raffle, multiple prizes are drawn for from a single pool. In an auction, each prize has its own pool. This game might also be called Pick a Prize, Tricky Tray, Penny Social or Penny Prize.
You can choose which pools you want your tickets to go into in an auction, allowing you to focus on the rewards that you want the most. Since the tickets are inexpensive, you can buy hundreds at a time and strategically decide how many you want to bid in each pool. Once all the ticket purchases are completed, the draws will take place and a winning ticket from each pool will be drawn.
In the other type of Chinese auction, all of the possible prizes are wrapped and each bidder gets a single ticket. The first ticket is drawn to see who can choose a prize first, and so on until everyone has something. Only then can the rewards be unwrapped! This type of auction is often called a White Elephant Gift Exchange or a Yankee Swap.
To mix things up with a Yankee Swap, it’s also possible to have all the prizes unwrapped and on display. The tickets that are drawn then win the prizes in a certain order, so you’ll know what you’re getting as soon as your see your number.
Chinese Auctions Online
These auctions add a lot of excitement to any live event they are part of, but the first type explained above has also become very popular online. Different items are up for auction on a variety of websites. An organisation or individual might choose to run their auction through one of these professional sites, to ensure that everything is above-board, or to create digital tickets for online buyers themselves.
Those doing it for themselves will probably need to print the tickets out, and then hold the draw itself live. This is necessary from a purely practical point of view, and should not present too much of a problem because these auctions tend to be quite small.
If you are using a professional online service bidders will be able to select the prizes they want to compete for, and how many tickets they want to use on each, while sitting in front of their device. The winners are then announced on the same website at a set time and date. Since this is all done remotely, it’s important to check that the site is endorsed for safety and fairness by trusted authorities before spending any real money. Once you know you’re in good hands, you can launch your own auction to raise money or start trying to win big.