How to Start a Quarter Auction

A quarter auction is a fun way to raise money for charity.
A quarter auction is a fun way to raise money for charity. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Quarter auctions are a type of raffle. Raffles are generally illegal unless they are used to raise money for charity, so quarter auctions are only used as charitable fundraisers. In a quarter auction, people bid on items using quarters. Anyone who wants to bid on an item will place one or more quarters in a bucket and the winner is picked at random. Quarter auctions are popular with operators of direct sales businesses, such as Mary Kay Cosmetics and Avon, but any person or organization can start a quarter auction and use it as a fun way to support a favorite charity.

Things You'll Need

  • Items to auction
  • Venue
  • Auction paddles
  • Numbered ping-pong balls
  • Small buckets

Check with your states' gaming department, or local Sheriff's department in order to determine if raffles are legal in your state. Raffles and games of chance that raise money for charity are legal in many states, but some states, such as Hawaii and Arkansas, ban all types of raffle.

Chose a charity to support. Generally, in order for the auction to be legal, all the profit must go to a charity registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Find a venue in which to hold the auction. This can be a church hall, community center or even a restaurant. If all the auction proceeds will go to charity, ask the venue to let you use the space for free as a donation to the charity.

Collect donations for the auction. If you are running the auction with direct sales businesses, you should find 10 direct sales operators and ask them each to donate 10 items to the auction. In some quarter auctions, operators are reimbursed the price of their items from the proceeds. If you are not affiliated with a direct sales business, visit stores in your area and ask for donations. If you are running the auction for a school fundraiser, you can ask parents to contribute items or services for auction.

Advertise your auction. If your auction is being run as a part of direct sales marketing, each vendor who is contributing items to the auction should encourage customers to come to the auction. You can also advertise using flyers posted in local businesses, in school newsletters or through sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Purchase the supplies you will need for the auction. This includes paddles for the bidders. Each paddle should have a unique number on it. If you do not want to buy paddles, you can make them using cardboard and writing the numbers on them with permanent marker. You will also need small buckets for collecting the bids, ping-pong balls or small pieces of paper with numbers on them corresponding to the numbers on the paddles and a large bucket to draw them from. You may also need chairs and tables for people to sit at.

Determine how much a quarter will be worth. For example, in many auctions, a quarter is worth $10, so anyone wanting to bid on an item worth $40 would need to bid four quarters. Many auctions also charge for paddles, such as $2 per paddle. Bidders can buy as many paddles as they like, to enable them to bid several times on a single item. Charging money for the paddles also allows you to cover the cost of the paddles and other auction supplies.

Set up the venue and get everything ready. Place all tables and chairs so that bidders have a clear view of the items and of the bucket containing the ping-pong balls. Place small buckets on each table for individual bids.

Introduce each item by holding it up, describing it and stating its retail value. Bidders “bid” on the item by placing the correct number of quarters in the small buckets on each table. Each bidder then holds up their paddle. Pull a numbered ping-pong ball or strip of paper from the bucket and read out the number. If there is no paddle being held up with that number, call out “no bid” and pull out another strip of paper. Continue until someone wins the item. Continue the auction until all the items have been “sold.”

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