Live vs. Absentee Bidding

Win Rate Graph

Bidding at auction is fun and exciting, but even more so if you go in with a strategy. We asked some of our most experienced buyers for advice and combined their strategies with our own data on bidding live and absentee. What did we find? Live bidding increases the chances of winning the items you love by 20 percent! 

Auctions vs. Retail Sites 

Bidding at auction is entirely different from buying an item at a traditional retailer. On a typical e-commerce site (like Amazon), you can search for what you’re looking for and buy it immediately. 

On Invaluable, pieces at auction change daily, and most are rare, one-of-a-kind finds that don’t often go up for sale. Once that stunning landscape painting is gone, it’s gone forever. 

Invaluable sellers often specialize in specific categories. Freeman’s, for example, specializes in fine and modern art, while Tajanis an expert in jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts. A great way to discover new auction houses is to shop by category or use the advanced search on Invaluable. 

Once you find an item you want, there are two ways to make it yours: live or absentee bidding. 

Absentee Bidding 

Absentee bidding refers to bid placed before the start of a live auction. On Invaluable, sellers upload their catalogs days or weeks ahead of the sale date to give bidders time to find and browse the items. This buffer period makes absentee bidding an easy, low-pressure way to participate in the auction. 

Reasons to Leave an Absentee Bid 

Lock in Your Bid 

If you stumbled across an item you love, the best way to keep track of it is to save it or leave a bid. An absentee bid enables you to bid and walk away without having to worry about actively participating in the auction at the right time. 

You can leave just one bid or set a maximum amount so that Invaluable will place incremental bids on your behalf to ensure you remain the highest bidder up to your maximum bid 

Stick to Your Budget 

Live auctions are exciting and fun experiences, so it’s all too easy to get carried away. Leaving an absentee bid prevents you from bidding more than you budgeted for. As a bonus, we’ll let you know if you’ve been outbid so that you can choose to up your bid or pass on the item. 

Discourage Other Bidders 

Leaving the first absentee bid has been shown to discourage other bidders right up to the start of the auction. 

Have a Back-Up Plan 

Absentee bidding provides an excellent back-up for when you are flying, have a poor internet connection, or are in any other scenario that prevents you from bidding live. 

Cons of Absentee Bidding 

While it’s convenient, easy, and less stressful, absentee bidding only yields a 40 percent success rate on Invaluable. Therefore, it is considered a less competitive alternative to live bidding, which has a 60 percent success rate. 


Absentee bidding gives you a statistically lower success rate. On the other hand, it prevents you from overbidding and allows you to participate in an auction that you may not be able to see live. “I bid ahead of time. I have a busy life, and I don’t have time to watch the auction as it goes on the computer,” says Carol, an Invaluable desktop user. 

Live Bidding 

Live bidding lets you experience thousands of auctions worldwide with your device of choice and an internet connection. Invaluable’s online bidding screen incorporates all the aspects of being at the at the auction house in person – even down to a live video stream of the auctioneer. 



Live bidding screen on Invaluable 

Reasons to Place a Live Bid 

Enjoy a Hassle-Free Experience 

Bidding live eliminates the need to call in or have a representative on the auction house floor – all you need is your device and an internet connection. Bob, an avid armor and beer stein collector, told us he loves bidding live on the Invaluable app while walking his three Siberian Huskies. 

Bid in the Moment 

Bidding live offers you plenty of opportunities for competitive, up-to-the-second bidding on items at auction. You could get a great deal by bidding live if an item is sold under value because the room is bidding low. “Live bidding allows you to gauge the level of interest in an item,” says Invaluable user, Tony. For Anissa, closely monitoring the action and swooping in on rare opportunities provides more control. 

Discover New Items 

Live bidding is a great way to discover new items you may have missed in your initial skim of the catalog. You may find some hidden gems amidst lots leading up to the one you’re interested in. 

Delivers Success 

Finally, live bidding raises your chances of winning an item by 20 percent, according to a recent analysis from Invaluable. Of 2.7 million lots analyzed, absentee bidders won 40 percent of the times they bid, and live bids won 60 percent of their bid. “Bidding live really does seem to up one’s chance of winning,” says user Rob. 

What’s Your Plan? 

Absentee bidding can be your go-to strategy or your first step in the auction process, serving as a reminder to bid live on the day of the sale. It’s also a great way to begin your online bidding experience if you’re new to the auction world and wish to take things at a slower pace. While both formats have yielded winning results, be sure to try your hand at live bidding when it comes to items you’re particularly keen on – the odds will definitely be in your favor!