While researching your penny auction strategy, no doubts you’ve read a lot of general statements about what is the best time to bid on penny auctions. I do not know what the statements were based on, but here is the hard data for November 2010.

We surveyed two sites: Beezid and BigDeal. The following plot shows you how, on average, the difficulty index varied by the hour and the auction volume for both sites.

Beezid Strategy

If you look at Beezid, you will see there is always a low early in the morning. That is because in November, they had bids back auctions every morning. Since all bids are refunded, the cost to bidders lowers dramatically. All that is left is what the winners pay for the items they win. Hence, the difficulty index is very low. This is a special case: you must view this as a lower risk and not as the auction being easier to win. Actually, a lot of people are bidding because it costs nothing.  So, the auction is very difficult to win, but you lose nothing by playing.

Other than that, the difficulty varied around the site average most of the day. These variations were quite small and are probably not significant. The only exception to that were auctions that ended between 10 PM and midnight. They were significantly more difficult to win.

The orange line shows the number of items put up for auction remained quite stable during the day on Beezid.

BigDeal Strategy

In the case of BigDeal, the difficulty index remained quite stable. The only obvious exception to that was in the wee hours of the morning. The reason is plain to see, the number of auctions won nearly dropped to zero. This is because BigDeal started no auction during the night. Hence, the auctions that ended at night, were those that were bitterly fought over for long periods of time.

Please note that you cannot compare the difficulty indexes between sites on this graphs. They have been indexed so that, for each site, 1 (one) is the site’s average over the month. Another post lets you compare Beezid vs. BigDeal. In it, you will see the difficulty index of each and every item put up for auction on both sites. You will also get the absolute difficulty index which means you will be able to answer questions like « where should I bid for an iPad penny auction? »

Difficulty index over a week

We put in the graph below to give you a sense of how the difficulty index varied all day long over one week. This will help you put the previous plot in perspective. You will notice that for any given hour the difficulty index varied a lot day after day. Many factors may come into play to explain this. For example, there is an unusual spike on the morning of the 18th at 6am. This is due to players who fought bitterly over a 200$ Best Buy gift card. The auction ended at 6:54 am and we estimate bidders spent 3,441$ on that auction. This resulted in an amazing difficulty index of 17.21 which skewed the average upwards. In the end the winner was ljhs678 and he paid an estimated total of 523.23$ for his card after placing 536 bids. Take cover, power bidder alert!

As you can see many events and factors can cause any particular auction to behave differently. This Beezid Birthday Bash event was another good example!

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