What Is a Candle Auction? – Definition, Meaning, and Importance

Understanding the term “candle auction”

A candle is used in the Candle Auction, as the name indicates. And the candle serves as the starting and ending point for the chosen time. Before the auction begins, a candle is set alight. As for the last point, the choice is available till the candlelight goes out. This means that the last offer made shortly before the candle goes out wins. We may also remark that the bidding is over when the candle’s flame has been extinguished.

In this kind of auction, buyers have no notion when the sale will close, thus they are less likely to make a last-minute offer. Bidders are more likely to take the auction seriously when it is set out this way. It’s also known as “auction by the light of the candle.”

Candle auctions have a long history

As an English auction variant, it was quite popular in the 1600s and 1700s. In 1941, an auction of this kind was reportedly used in England. A reference to such an auction may be found in the House of Lords’ archives.

John Milton, an English poet, and thinker described this auction. According to Milton, this kind of auction is the most likely to acquire the genuine value of the objects being auctioned off at the moment.

A second and a third occurrence of this kind are documented in Samuel Pepys’ London diaries. When his employer auctioned off excess ships by a candle, John Pepys, the English diarist, and naval administrator was known for his work. Pepys even mentions a conversation he had with a winning bidder in his journal. That bidder made the observation that a candle’s wick usually flares up a little just before it burns out. The bidder then utilizes this signal to make their final bid.

Is This Auction Still Relevant?

In the 17th century, Candle Auctions began to go away. In the early 19th century, however, Lloyd’s Coffee House in London did employ this auction to sell ships.

This kind of auction is really uncommon nowadays. However, some groups continue the practice by auctioning off their goods during this event. This form of auction, for example, is used by local authorities in Chedzoy, Somerset, to sell a parcel of church land every 21 years. In Leigh, Dorset, a candle auction is used to sell off two parcels of land each year.

Online auctions are also using this style of auction, but with a contemporary twist. For example, computers increasingly replace candles in online auctions to randomly choose the auction’s finish time. Auction sniping is avoided by using this method of bidding in online auctions.

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