Tap to Read ➤

How to Organize a Chinese Auction

Akshay Chavan Mar 14, 2019
The success of a Chinese auction depends on how well it is organized. Here we tell you what a Chinese auction actually is, and how to organize one.

Did You Know?

Despite its name, the Chinese auction originated in America during the early 1900s. It was named the 'Chinese' auction because, back then, all Chinese items were considered mysterious.
A Chinese auction is a great way to raise money for non-profit causes, or simply to spend a fun-filled evening with friends. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not an auction restricted to a particular community or race. Actually, it is not a true auction at all, where the item goes to the highest bidder.
In a Chinese auction, participants bid for items that they wish to acquire, by dropping tickets in a container beside the item, out of which, a single ticket is selected by the organizers.
The participants are allowed to purchase and submit as many tickets as they wish, and obviously, the higher the number of tickets submitted, the more the chances of that person winning that item. Besides, most of the items in Chinese auctions are donated by local charities.
This is different from a silent auction, where, instead of tickets, participants are required to write their name and bidding price in a list beside the item, which goes to the highest bidder. Some important Chinese auction rules and ideas are given ahead.

Chinese Auction Ideas


Select an appropriate location for the event, depending on the number of expected attendees. Look for a spacious room with several compartments, which can help in setting up a good arrangement. A large hall would be a good location, and scheduling the auction for a weekend evening will be convenient for all.


It is important to market your event to attract more visitors, and raise money. You can do this by putting up posters, sending emails, distributing flyers, or an advertisement in local newspaper for big events. Mention details of the auction, along with the date, time, and place. You can also include a photo of the big prize, to make it more attractive.


You can solicit items by asking for donations from local charities and businesses. These can include gift coupons, books, paintings, and other merchandise. Electronic devices and collector's items are extremely popular in such events. In return, you can put up a list of the donors as sponsors at the event, as a good advertisement.
You can have services in the prizes, such as a cut lawn, a shoveled driveway, or party invitations. When selecting items, keep in mind the type of crowd you want to attract. Arrange the items in different categories according to price, so that visitors don't get confused. Some low-value items can be kept together, or with more valuable items, to raise worth.

Selecting the Type

Selecting the right type of auction can make it more appealing for your intended group of visitors, besides spicing up the action. There are four types of Chinese auctions, each with different rules, that you can choose from.
In basic version, all items are arranged on tables, with their individual ticket baskets beside them. Visitors buy tickets, circulate around the avenue inspecting the items, and put their tickets in the basket beside the item(s) they want. Someone then goes to each item and selects a ticket from its basket; the person whose ticket is selected gets the item.
The second type of auction is performed on stage, and an auctioneer is needed. The visitors remain seated, as the items are displayed one by one, and interested visitors can then bid for the item by offering as many tickets as they wish, which are collected by volunteers. At the end, a lucky ticket is drawn from the total collected for each item.
The third type involves a display of all available items, with a common drum in which the tickets are collected, as opposed to individual baskets for each item. After the ticket collection, the first ticket that is drawn gets the first prize, the second one gets the next, and so on.
The last type is for friendly occasions and informal get-together. In this, each visitor is required to come with a wrapped prize to the event, and all items are piled atop a table. Tickets are collected, and the person whose ticket is drawn first gets to select his prize first, the second from the remaining ones, and so on.

Running the Auction

  • The tickets for the auction can be sold directly, and even online which will attract more visitors, as they don't have to come personally to buy tickets.
  • Tickets should be cheap, with offers to encourage bulk purchases. 5 for $1 would be a perfect example. Sell a double-rolled variety, in which attendees get to keep a stub after submitting the tickets, which helps them check their number when the ticket is drawn.
  • Before the arrival of visitors, make sure that there is adequate seating arrangement for all.
  • In a basic type of auction, set up a ticket counter near the entrance.
  • When carrying out the auction on stage, assign one or more volunteers with the task of selling tickets on the move.
  • Arrange the items on the tables covered with neat and attractive tablecloths. Keep a gift bag, fishbowl, or basket beside each to contain the tickets. The items and their bags can carry an identical label to avoid confusion.
  • Allow visitors at least one hour to go around and inspect the items displayed, and for submitting their tickets.
  • After the hour passes, have the visitors seated, and a volunteer can go around selecting a ticket from each basket, and announcing the number. After each call, wait for a hand to go up among the visitors, and assign a volunteer with tallying the number of the ticket and the visitor's stub.
  • When it's halftime, refreshments can be served, and the visitors should be allowed some time to relax and have a good time. Alternately, setting up food and refreshment stalls at the venue can be used to generate more revenue.
  • After the refreshment break is over, the drawing of tickets can continue, until all the items are auctioned.
  • Some surprise items can be introduced at the end, to generate more buzz. Participants may need to buy more tickets, which should be made available as and when needed.
In conclusion, raising a good amount of money during a Chinese auction depends on a couple of factors, such as, the value and number of items displayed, offers and pricing of tickets, and successful advertising.