During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was customary in some parts of England to have auctions by candlelight. When the candle went out, the auction was over. This technique was used to prevent people from knowing exactly when the auction would end and making a bid at the last second. The practice gained popularity.
In fact, Samuel Pepy’s diary from 1660 showed that there were two occasions on which the Admiralty sold surplus ships using candles. The diary entries also show that a highly successful bidder realized that the candle-wick always flares up slightly before expiring. The bidder would always shout his final and winning bid when he saw the wick flare up. Candle auctions lost popularity after Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb.
It is clear that auctions have a fascinating history. Next time you’re at The Castle for an auction you can think back to some of these incredible facts.
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