Philippe Février, William Roos and Michael Visser
This paper studies multi-unit ascending (English) auctions with a buyer’s option. The buyer’s option gives the winner of an auction the right to purchase any number of units at the winning price. We develop a theoretical model and derive the optimal strategies for the bidders. The model predicts various behavioral implications (e.g., the winner never exercises the option, the price declines…) that are tested using a unique data set on wine auctions held at the Paris-based auction house Drouot. We also analyze why the buyer’s option is used. Estimating the model in a structural econometric way, and using counterfactual comparisons, we find that the buyer’s option does not affect the seller’s revenue (relative to a system where the units are auctioned sequentially without the option). Drouot, however, saves a lot of time with the option and this effect represents a considerable amount of money. The time-saving effect seems thus to be the primary purpose of the buyer’s option.