Auctionair – Snotty Sealed bid auction site


I have just come across Auctionair – a sealed bid auction site which seems to deal in charity auctions and luxury products.

Auction air use two types of auctions:

  • High bid auctions.  This is sealed bid auction where the highest bidder wins.  The sealed bid nature of the auction means that the individual bidders do not know what other bids have been made
  • Low bid auctions.  In this case the lowest unique bid wins. Gambling basically.

According to the site the company originated from inflight auctions on British airways and they run auction though the website and also a catalogue.  In this way the site is more like a traditional auction house than eBay i.e. low volume, high value items and specialist auctions. I noticed that over the weekend they were running a promotion with the FT.

It seems that this site plays on the perception of eBay as a low value marketplace.  Brands that would not like to be associated with eBay can use Auction Air to sell their products, as they feel that it will not affect their brand. 

I think that this is all a bit daft.  I would suspect (but I have no evidence for this) that sealed bids result in lower sale prices.  Perhaps sealed bid originated because of the British reluctance to talk about anything as vulgar as money. My view is that luxury brands and charities should swallow their pride and sell on eBay.  The will almost certainly get more exposure and more money.

Like all of eBay competitors the volumes are tiny and strangely seller are by invitation only despite the fact that they are selling some pretty run of the mill products such as TVs.  Not much for eBay to worry about here.


  1. Trevor,

    I think you’ve completely misunderstood the Auctionair business model. Like other similar auctions (bidjam, bidclever), they make most of their revenue from the bids (for which they charge anything up to £5 a pop), not from margin on the products. The fact that they sell for a much lower price than via eBay is part of the attraction to the bidder.

    They’re not trying to compete with eBay.

    I also saw the ad in the FT. There are some things about Auctionair’s model and marketing that surprise me … but they’ve clearly carved out a nice little niche for themselves with over 11,000 winning bids. (Not as impressive as TeleBid’s 46,000 in Germany … but that’s another story).

  2. Thisbee_81 says:

    This isn't anything like a real auction – the business model is that the notion of sealed bids will make more people participate (no one is priced out of the market by the current bid) and the bidder is charged for each bid they put in. The idea is that they get as many people to bid as possible (believing that they might get a bargain) at GBP5 each, which more than covers the cost of the item.

    It's legal but it's a little scam-tastic.

  3. Guest says:

    Hey, I use Auctionair from time to time (just the high bid section). I bought my last holiday and an iPhone from the them. I wouldn't exactly call Auctionair 'snotty'. I thought the sealed bids were a pretty good idea as it prevents a 'bidding war' – just try bidding on eBay concert tickets. I like the sealed bid thing on Auctionair because I can place my offer and go away and not think about it again. 

    I think you're right – it's never going to rival eBay. But knowing there are no dodgy sellers on the site, and the fact that I can make my bid over the phone to an actual person makes me less nervous than buying through someone on eBay. Might just be me though…

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