Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Fixed Revenue Auctions: Theory and Behavior

Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Fixed Revenue Auctions: Theory and Behavior

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

There are numerous varieties of auction institutions used in practice and studied in the economics literature. The four standard mechanisms for selling a fixed quantity as in a single unit or lot are the English, Dutch, first-price sealed bid, and second-price sealed bid auctions. The widely known theoretical results are that the English and second-price auctions are equivalent as are the Dutch and first-price auctions. One of the most insightful theoretical results of private value auctions is that under certain assumptions the expected revenue is constant across the four mechanisms (see McAfee and McMillan 1987; Milgrom 1987; Myerson 1981). But behavioral examinations of private value auctions have consistently found that the relationships among the formats are not so straightforward. English clock auctions generate truthful revelation as predicted; however, second-price auctions, which should also generate truthful revelation, do not reliably do so in a laboratory setting (Harstad 2000; Kagel, Harstad, and Levine 1987). Further, revenue equivalence does not hold between first-price and second-price auctions (Coppinger, Smith, and Titus 1980). (1) In part, this is due to the fact that many bidders in first-price auctions act as if they are risk averse. Furthermore, Dutch auctions and first-price sealed bid auctions are not behaviorally isomorphic; observed prices are significantly lower in the Dutch clock auctions than in first-price auctions (Cox, Roberson, and Smith 1982).

Almost exclusively, the focus of previous work has been on auctions determining the selling price for a prespecified lot. (2) However, in some situations, a seller may be more concerned about raising a fixed amount of revenue. For example, a business may sell off just enough inventory to gain the needed liquidity to undertake a particular project. A person may pawn just enough items to secure money with which to pay the monthly bills. Alternatively, in a procurement setting, a buyer may desire to acquire as much as possible for some nonfungible fixed budget. For example, a researcher whose grant is expiring may buy as many supplies as possible with the remaining money or a firm may have a fixed advertising budget with which to buy the most effective campaign. Though not typically thought of in this way, auctions can be used to solve these types of problems as well. (3) We define a fixed revenue auction to be a bidding mechanism in which a prespecified total payment is exchanged for a variable quantity of a good. (4) Wessen and Porter (1997) developed a fixed revenue auction to cover the $326,000 cost of moving antennae for the Cassini mission to Saturn. The auction allowed competing research teams to place bids in terms of the mass they desired on the craft and the price per unit for the mass.

The goal of this paper is to understand the behavioral properties of fixed revenue auctions utilizing the four standard mechanisms. To enable comparisons with the extensive literature on auctions, the environment is designed to allow the maximum similarity between auctions in the two dimensions. This includes placing nontrivial restrictions on buyer values to yield a theoretical equivalence between auction dimensions. Given this, one might be inclined to suppose that the behavioral properties are a forgone conclusion. This need not be the case as evidenced by the aforementioned lack of isomorphism between first-price and Dutch auctions and between English and second-price auctions in the standard setting. Experiments have shown that even simple changes in framing can impact behavior. (5) For example, framing a lottery as a gain or a loss can change the value one places on the lottery and framing the ultimatum game as a buyer-seller interaction can lead to behavior more consistent with material self-interest. A change in auction dimension, however, is more than a simple framing effect; it is a change in the underlying decision problem. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.