How SuperRare Timed Auctions Work

Deep dive into our next-generation system for digital art auctions, secured by Ethereum

Jon Perkins
Dec 7, 2020 · 8 min read

Our product and engineering team has been heads down for the past couple of months working on a complete redesign of auctions and bidding on SuperRare. We’re beyond excited to share it with you!

Early access launch for SuperRare Auction Week on Dec. 7th, 2020; Full public feature launch Dec. 14th, 2020.

Why timed auctions?

Since our launch in 2018, there have been two ways to collect and sell artworks on SuperRare: buy-it-now, and an open, passive bidding system. While this bidding system worked for the early phase of the cryptoart market and served to facilitate more than $5M in artwork sales, it has several shortcomings. Buyers didn’t have enough information about the seller’s intent– for example when, and for how much, are they hoping to sell a given work. And sellers often had to do extra manual work such as announcing starting prices on Twitter or running ad hoc auctions in Discord. The goal of the new timed auction systems is to make the bidding and selling process easier, more fun and more successful for both artists and collectors.

Three years of learning and community feedback built in ❤️

Luckily, this early period gave us lots of insight into how a better auction system might be designed– big thanks to everyone who has given us feedback and helped inform the new system design. For example, the new Reserve Auction system is partly inspired by the “Coldie Method,” pioneered by artist Coldie in which a reserve price triggers a 24 hour auction, which can be extended by bids near the end of the auction. (Those that are technically-minded might even find a Coldie reference on-chain somewhere in the smart contracts 😎).

Secure, on-chain auctions powered by Ethereum

When designing the new system, we considered implementing the timed auction functionality at the UI layer like many projects do in the NFT ecosystem. This type of system is much easier to build, but is generally less secure. We ultimately decided to go all in and build the most secure, future-proof, and bulletproof system we could in the interest of providing the best place to sell and collect cryptoart.

SuperRare auctions are completely non-custodial (meaning your artwork and bids are never touched by us or anyone else) and all settlement happens directly on-chain, making it highly secure and tamper proof.

Want a deep dive into how SuperRare Auctions work? Read on!

What’s New, What’s the Same

We are introducing two types of auctions: Scheduled Auctions and Reserve Auctions, each detailed below.

Sellers will still be able to set a price at which collectors can simply buy their artwork at any time.

Artworks can still receive open offers if they’re not under auction, but the name is changing from bid to offer to distinguish it from bidding in an auction. Artworks that are counting down to the start of a Scheduled Auction are not available for making offers.

Scheduled Auctions

In a Scheduled Auction, the seller of an artwork chooses three parameters:

  • Start date & time
  • End date & time
  • Starting bid price (bidders won’t be able to bid below this amount — optional)

When an auction is scheduled, a countdown timer appears on the artwork indicating when bidding will start.

At the start of the auction, a countdown timer is started, indicating the time remaining.

Bidding is available at amounts equal to or higher than the starting bid price. Bids placed during an auction cannot be cancelled. If a bidder is outbid, their bid is returned.

If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended by 15 minutes from the time of the bid.

The high bid at the end of the auction wins the auction.

Scheduled Auctions Step by Step– Seller’s perspective:

  1. Configure and save auction parameters: start time, end time, and (optionally) starting bid price (ETH)
  2. Artwork now displays a timer counting down to the auction start. No bids can be placed during this time. Your followers are notified of the Scheduled Auction.
  3. Auction starts at scheduled time. Artwork now displays a timer counting down to the auction end. Bidding is available for bids that at least match the starting bid price.
  4. You get notified as bids are placed. If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended to 15 minutes after the time of the bid.
  5. At the end of the auction, it closes automatically. You and the buyer are notified that it needs to be settled. (Settling is a one-time action taken at the end of each auction, which just releases the artwork and ETH from the auction smart contract)
  6. If the buyer doesn’t do it first, you can settle the auction via your dashboard page or via the artwork card 3-dot menu, and the money and artwork change hands.

Scheduled Auctions Step by Step– Buyer’s perspective:

  1. Get notified that an artist or collector you follow has scheduled an upcoming auction. Offers are not available on the work until the auction starts.
  2. At the time of the auction start, the work is available for bidding. If the seller has set a starting bid price, your bid must meet or exceed it.
  3. If you get outbid, your funds will be returned immediately and you can place a higher bid.
  4. If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended to 15 minutes after the time of the bid.
  5. At the end of the auction, it closes automatically. You and the seller are notified that it needs to be settled. (Settling is a one-time action taken at the end of each auction, which just releases the artwork and ETH from the auction smart contract)
  6. If the seller doesn’t do it first, you can settle the auction via your notifications page, and the money and artwork change hands.

Reserve Auctions

When setting up a Reserve Auction, the seller of an artwork chooses a public reserve price which, when met, kicks off the timed auction

Reserve auctions don’t have a scheduled start time. Instead, the artwork has an indicator that a reserve price is set, and is available for bidding starting at the reserve price.

The first bid must be at least the reserve price. When the reserve price is met by the first bid, the auction is triggered and the timer starts a 24-hour countdown to the end of the auction.

Bids placed during an active timed auction cannot be cancelled. If a bidder is outbid, their bid is returned.

If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended by 15 minutes.

The high bid at the end of the auction wins the auction.

Reserve Auctions Step by Step– Seller’s perspective:

  1. Configure the public reserve price in ETH. If there is a standing offer on the artwork, your reserve price must exceed it.
  2. Your followers are notified of the Reserve Auction. Artwork now displays an indicator that a reserve auction is set and displays the reserve price. Artwork is available for bids starting at the reserve price.
  3. When a bid is placed that meets or exceeds your reserve price the auction is triggered, starting a 24-hour countdown to the end of the auction
  4. Your followers are notified of the timed auction kickoff and bidding is available until the end of the auction.
  5. You get notified as bids are placed. If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended to 15 minutes after the time of the bid.
  6. At the end of the auction, it closes automatically and notifies you and seller that it needs to be settled. (Settling is a one-time action taken at the end of each auction, which just releases the artwork and ETH from the auction smart contract)
  7. If the buyer doesn’t do it first, you can settle the auction via your notifications page or via the artwork card 3-dot menu, and the money and artwork change hands.

Reserve Auctions Step by Step– Buyer’s perspective:

  1. Get notified that an artist or collector you follow has set up a reserve auction on an artwork with X reserve price
  2. The artwork has an indicator that it has a reserve auction set with X reserve price.
  3. You cannot bid beneath the reserve price
  4. If you place a bid that meets or exceeds the seller’s reserve price, the auction is triggered starting a 24-hour countdown to the end of the auction
  5. If a bid is placed within the last 15 minutes of an auction, the auction time is extended to 15 minutes after the time of the bid.
  6. At the end of the auction, it closes automatically and notifies you and seller that it needs to be settled. (Settling is a one-time action taken at the end of each auction, which just releases the artwork and ETH from the auction smart contract)
  7. If the seller doesn’t do it first, you can settle the auction via your notifications page, and the money and artwork change hands.

FAQ

Q: Can an artwork have a Buy Now price while under auction, or counting down to a Scheduled Auction?

A: No, Buy Now prices will be hidden from the UI as soon as an auction is configured

Q: Is an artwork available for offers if it is counting down to a Scheduled Auction?

A: No. If an artwork has a Scheduled Auction, offers are closed until the auction bidding starts.

Q: Are bids placed in an auction able to be withdrawn?

A: No, bids placed in an auction cannot be withdrawn for the duration of the auction. If a bid is outbid, it will be returned.

Q: Can open offers still be withdrawn outside of auctions?

A: Yes, offers can always be withdrawn

Q: What if I have an open offer on an artwork and the owner sets up a Scheduled Auction or Reserve Auction on it– can I withdraw my offer?

A: Yes.

Q: Can auctions be cancelled?

A: Scheduled Auctions can be cancelled before they begin. Reserve Auctions can be cancelled before the timed auction has been kicked off. If a timed auction in a Scheduled or Reserve Auction has begun, it cannot be cancelled.

Q: Can I set up an auction if a piece has an existing offer?

A: Yes, but the existing offer will be hidden from the UI as soon as the auction is configured. The person with the existing offer will be able to withdraw it, even during the auction.

Have any additional questions? Let us know and we’ll add them!

SuperRare 💎

The future of the CryptoArt market — a network governed by artists, collectors and curators