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What Auction Items To Avoid For Your Next Event

Author: Adie M.

Auctions can be a great way to fundraise for your non-profit. People come together to support a charity, and end up having fun and maybe getting a few nice items in return.

There are a lot of factors that go into a successful auction. You have to organize the event planning, make sure people come, and get items to sell.

But one of the biggest make-or-break factors in whether your auction is successful is in what you choose to sell. 

There are some items that will be very popular - things like spa packages from a well-known spa, or travel vouchers. Another great option is gift baskets filled with a variety of goodies.  

But there are also a lot of items that simply won’t sell well. This means you’ll be stuck with the item, but can also mess with the mood of the auction.

If there are items people don’t want and aren’t bidding for, you can lose the attention of your audience. This means you could get less engagement even on higher-value items. 

Below, we’ll break down some of the major items to avoid so that you can start your auction off on the right foot. 

5 Auction items To Avoid Putting Up For Bid


While artwork might seem like the ideal kind of thing to sell at a silent auction, it can actually be the opposite.

People generally like art but tend to have very specific tastes. Your landscape painting might be absolutely stunning, but it can fall flat if no one is interested in owning a landscape painting.

Because art is so personal, it can be a very risky item to try and auction off. Buying a piece of artwork to put up in your home is a serious commitment, and it’s asking a lot of people to bid for something so specific. 

Vintage Or Antique Items

As with artwork, these kinds of items can be very hit-or-miss. If you happen to have someone who collects antique dinner plates, you’ll manage to sell your item.

But you’re really going out on a limb that these vintage items will align perfectly with someone’s interest.

When buying a piece of vintage furniture or décor, you are committing to having that object in your home, and that is a lot to ask of people. People have different styles and tastes, so not everyone would want something that comes from another era. There is also the issue of some people being hesitant to have secondhand items. 

Vintage items can often be expensive and you are unlikely to get a great return on investment with them. 

Clothes as auction items


Clothing is even more specific than art or vintage items. Not only does someone have to like the item, but it also has to be their size. This makes clothing a very niche item to sell.

By selling clothing, you are drastically narrowing the pool of potential bidders. If you’re selling a size 6 dress, you are automatically excluding men, and anyone bigger or smaller than a size 6.

This means that clothing is definitely something to avoid when hosting a silent auction. A much better alternative would be a gift voucher to a clothing store.

This means that the bidder can get whatever they want. If you are able to get donated gift cards, you can end up making serious money to go towards your cause. 

Professional Services

Vouchers can be a great attraction at silent auctions. However, vouchers for services like accounting or haircuts are not a great choice.

This is because people usually have their own accountant or hairstylist who they trust. So, they are unlikely to want to switch to someone that they don’t know. 

You want to keep your vouchers nice and general to allow the bidders to have control over how they can use them. 

Try to keep to more luxurious services, like a spa day or a manicure. People are more likely to go out of their comfort zone for something like this. 

Items With A Lot Of Restrictions Or Constraints

You want to let people bid on things that they’ll want to buy. If the travel voucher you are selling comes with a million terms and conditions, people are less likely to bid on it. 

The same is true of vouchers that have a very close expiration date. Getting a voucher like this causes more stress than it is worth.

For similar reasons, you wouldn’t want to auction off something like a puppy that requires a huge investment of time and money from the buyer. 

What To Do If You’re Left With Items That Didn’t Sell

This is every auctioneer’s nightmare. You’ve worked so hard to source items to raise money for your wonderful cause and no one wanted to bid for them.

Hopefully, by using this list as a guide, you can avoid this awkward situation. If you do have items left over, you can look into donating them to other worthy causes.

A lot of charities need various items, and things like clothes, vouchers and even furniture can greatly benefit people who need them.

You might not have raised money on these items, but you can still do good with them. 

Donating to charity organizations

Final Thoughts

A good rule of thumb is to avoid items that require a very specific taste. You can never know the preferences of your audience and so some kinds of items are not a good idea. Luckily, there are plenty of great options for auction items.

You want to keep things general to avoid things not being to anyone’s taste. Options like vouchers offer a lot more flexibility and someone can end up with something that they really love.

It’s also important to think about the fact that not everyone wants an item to take home. They might be at the fundraiser to support the cause but aren’t keen on taking home a second-hand vase. 

Of course, if you are hosting this auction for a very specific demographic, you can get more particular about the kind of items you put up for auction. If you’re hosting the auction for golf club members, golf memorabilia is likely to be successful.

While there are some things that we advise you to avoid, it all comes down to how well you know your audience.