A Nickel Auction

Brooke Walker introduces us to a group of women who found a unique way to shop during the down economy.

How much can a few nickels get you, these days? Well, at one auction in Bountiful, quite a bit!

Once a month, the bids come pouring in. But these bids are not made in dollars; these bids are made in nickels. It’s called a Nickel Auction.

“On average, I usually spend less than a dollar,” participant Ginger Gunnell said. “It’s great because something I would normally take to the DI, I can at least make a few bucks off of.”

It’s an idea Julie Winegar picked up from her sister.

“She has a group of friends, they do it once a month,” Winegar explains. “Their nickel auction has been going for about twenty years.”

The concept is simple. You sign up, in the order you arrive. Each person has ten minutes to sell as many items as they can. At the end of each round, a designated recorder announces individual totals owed. A bowl is then passed around to collect the money.

The bidding can get pretty intense.

“Some items nobody needs so you take it back home with you,” Winegar said. “But other items are hot. Once we had a vacuum. We had three girls that really wanted that vacuum and it bid up by five, ten, fifty cents – all the way up to fifteen dollars!”

But buyers go home happy and they usually break even.

“You come here with your unwanted items and five dollars in change – and you leave with, pretty much, five dollars in change,” Winegar explains. “You make your money selling your items and then you purchase using the money you just made.”

Throw in a few treats to “sweeten the deal,” and it’s guilt free buying at its best!

“In the heat of the moment, you’re sometimes not sure if you want the item of not, but you keep bidding and bidding and bidding,” participant Audrey Wendell said. “But it’s OK because it’s only five cents!”


• Those attending can bring whatever they want to try to sell (items you are going to give to goodwill, grocery items you really aren’t going to consume, bottles of lotions or bath essentials, partially used scrapbooking supplies, clothing, books, home décor, etc.)

• Since all good gatherings require good food, everyone brings a potluck dish to share.

• As you arrive, you sign up for a selling slot.

• Participants sell in the order they arrive. Each seller has a 10 minutes time limit. All bids start at five cents and bids need to be dividable by 5 (no 38 cent bids, here!). You can jump the bidding, but the amount must be dividable by five. The bidding can go as high as the bidders are willing to go, no limits.
*Some auctions opt to allow the seller to set a starting bid.

• For timing purposes, no commentary about the item being sold is allowed (Example: “I bought this three years ago, my daughter loves it,” etc.)

• Once the item is bid out, toss the item to the winning bidder and someone (working as scribe) writes down the name of the person and the price they committed to.

• Then the next item starts, same process!

• When that seller is all done, the scribe shouts out the totals for all the winning bidders, they put their money in a bucket of sorts that gets passed around the room (like a collection plate) and it all goes to that seller.

The next seller starts.

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