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Tophatter Auctions - How Does Tophatter Work?

Updated on October 22, 2012

What is Tophatter? is a unique auction style website. It differs from eBay in that Tophatter simulates a real life physical auction house. Buyers and sellers come together in a virtual "room" to bid on products, also known as "lots", as they come up in a queue. Lots can be viewed beforehand and throughout the auction but can only be bid on when they reach the top of the queue for live bidding. The exception to this is when an item is in standby. I will explain more about standby in the next section.

Each auction room includes a chatroom that allows you to communicate with other buyers and sellers and even puts you in the spotlight if you are present in the room when your lot queues up for bidding. The focus is put on you so that you can actively answer questions and push your product.

Direct vs Standby Scheduling

Direct scheduling and standby scheduling were confusing concepts to me at first. It took a couple schedules for me to figure out what they really meant. I hope I can make it clearer for you than Tophatter originally did for me.

Direct Scheduling

Direct scheduling means that you are guaranteed a slot in the staff run auctions you select. These spots are limited and you must submit at the right time to acquire a slot. You can direct schedule a lot in an auction about four days before the auction takes place. Direct scheduling is not an option when scheduling with community run auctions.

Standby Scheduling

Standby scheduling means that your lot will only receive a slot in an auction if someone bids on it before hand. This is the only time pre-bidding can occur. It is nice because, if someone does pre-bid, you are guaranteed that sale. But, I rarely see this happen for other sellers and I have never had the fortune of receiving a pre-bid on my own standby lots. Standby scheduling is included in both staff run and community auctions.

Typically, in staff run auctions, you can schedule standby around two days in advance but sometimes you can schedule as soon as a few hours before and even during the auction. When scheduling a lot in a community auction, your lots will always be submitted as standby until the auction host approves them for a slot in their auction.

Types of Tophatter Auctions

There are two types of Tophatter auctions. The auctions run by Tophatter staff and those run by members of the Tophatter community. You can have much success in both types but both also have their advantages and disadvantages.

Staff Run Auctions


-Guaranteed exposure. If you direct schedule and sometimes even standby into a staff run auction, you will receive views on your lot and some people will even visit your website if you include one.

-Great for networking within the chatroom.


-Longer waiting period between scheduling an auction and the date of the auction especially if using direct scheduling.

-There is a limit to the amount of lots you can schedule at one time. Starting out, you can only schedule one at a time whether direct or standby.

-Higher and varying fees than community auction. Fees will be explained in the next section.

Community Auctions


-Unlimited scheduling of lots.

-Larger focus of items with both broad and narrow themes. Some auctions will let you schedule anything while others will only allow specific colors or styles of items.

-Auctions can be started for charitable donations. Anything for a good cause is a pro.

-Great networking within the chatroom.

-Lower fees than staff run auctions.


-Scheduled lots are automatically put on standby until approved by the auction host. Some lots may never be approved and will stay in standby until you unscheduled them even after the auction is over.

-Some hosts do not allow public scheduling and you must be invited. Often you can email or Facebook the host to receive and invite. They will include the information on the auction page.

-Less exposure and fewer views. Community auctions rely completely on outside promotion by the host, participants and require RSVP's to schedule lots.

This is what an auction room can look like.

Tophatter Fees

It is completely free to join Tophatter and schedule your lots for auction. You are only charged a commission or flat fee when your lots sale. Fees vary depending on the month, theme, and type of auction. Many auctions take a percentage of what you sale your lot for with a minimum of $1 commission. This means that, if you sale a lot for $9, you will be charged the $1 minimum instead of $0.90. Other auctions take a flat fee.

The current fees as of September 2012 are:

All Community Auctions: 5% with no minimum

Jewelry: 13% with $1 minimum

Supplies: 10% with $1 minimum

Daily Bazaar: $1.70 flat fee

Early Bird Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum

Global Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum

Night Owl Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum

Weekend Bazaar: 10% with $1 minimum

Handmade: $1.25 flat fee

All other staff run auctions: 10% with $1 minimum

How Tophatter can Help Your Business

If you are a seller of handmade items like myself, Tophatter is a great networking tool. But, it’s is not limited to handmade sellers. Anyone can promote their business with Tophatter as long as they have physical stock. Since each auction room has a chatroom, you can talk to other buyers and sellers about anything, especially your business. I wouldn’t go obviously promoting yourself but becoming friendly with other members will influence them to click on your name or even visit your online shop/website.

Also, with every sale I make, I include a business card with a personal thank you note handwritten on the back. This way a buyer can visit my online shop or website to make future purchases or maybe even tell their friends and family.

Tophatter App

Tophatter now has an app for your iPhone, iPod, and iPad. It currently only supports staff run auctions but it's still new and improving. It is awesome for keeping track of your auctions while you are on the go and I have gotten a lot of use out of it thus far.

You can participate in auction chatrooms, bid, and even promote your lots in the spotlight from this app completely free!

Get the Tophatter App on iTunes

Seller Poll

Do you sell on Tophatter?

See results

Buyer Poll

Have you bought anything from Tophatter?

See results


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    • profile image


      2 months ago

      My account has been cancelled and it says to contact them to reactivate my account but I don't know how to contact them

    • profile image

      Thomas Stryker 

      4 months ago

      After vacation, my password was messed up. Multiple tries for a new updated password have gone unanswered. Help?

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Um, it's sell not sale in many instances in your article.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      nice lens

    • TransplantedSoul profile image


      6 years ago

      This does sound like a bit more of a human way to buy and sell things.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Sounds interesting.

    • m massie profile image

      m massie 

      6 years ago

      I've never heard of this but I am totally checking it out now, how interesting! I could have sworn nobody could come up with anything truly unique on the internet anymore and I was wrong!

    • abraxo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you! Glad you found it interesting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      As an interesting read, I recommend it to my lenses.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      This seems like a great idea! I can see this taking off, and improving as it goes along, and becoming well used ~ I am intrigued to go visit it! Thanks for the helpful insider info! B : )

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Ebay could use some competition. The fees for Tophatter do seem on the high side, though.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      6 years ago from Kansas

      Sounds like a unique auction site. Will have to check to out.

    • abraxo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @julieannbrady: That would be a pretty awesome idea. Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It sounds like a cool idea ... now if they could hook up something like Skype to show the bidders?


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