Chapter 227: Auction
The first buyer turned out to be a sentimentalist. He wanted to purchase the Mark II Eternal Edition for himself and not for any business purposes. Evidently, he had a lot of money to spare.
Ves had the feeling the man earned his money through less than legal means. His name turned up very few records and the details he provided about himself hardly illuminated his life.
No matter what, a sale was a sale and the man possessed enough legal standing to sign a contract.
The first sale opened the floodgates. After a couple of more potential buyers tried the mechs first-hand in a virtual environment, they became sold to the idea of owning the mech.
Their backgrounds ranged from retired mercenary commanders to well-off business owners. Ves soon reached his daily quota of ten Mark II’s sold in the next couple of hours.
Once the quota had been met, most potential customers that came afterwards expressed regret for arriving too late. Many of them had visited his booth earlier and mentally dismissed his designs as overpriced, but once they heard how his Mark II caught fire they came back too late.
Antje smiled with satisfaction at the sight. “Herd mentality is at work now. Your Mark II Eternal Edition has turned into a must-own design. If nothing goes wrong, most of these latecomers will be back tomorrow.”
“Hopefully they’ll still be in a rush after a good night’s sleep. I’d hate to see them lose their drive to purchase my mechs after they had some time to reflect.” Ves remarked. “Herd mentality only works as long as there’s momentum propelling them forward.”
Ten Marc Antony Mark II Eternal Edition mechs represented around 400 million credits in value! If Ves sold out for the next three days, he’d make over 1.2 billion credits in revenue alone! After deducting all of his expenses, he’d still end up with roughly a third of that incredible sum, enough to fill up his current shortfall.
“It will be better if my Caesar Augustus start getting sold as well.”
Many potential customers still shied away from the Caesar Augustus Eternal Edition. Its intimidating price tag of 80 million credits sounded a bit too ludicrous even for enthusiasts. The ability to make a direct comparison between the Eternal Edition and the original model hurt a lot. They could get an original Caesar Augustus for well under 60 million credits, after all!
Maybe Ves had been a little bit too greedy for charging a 20 million credit premium on an intangible benefit. If nobody pointed out the design’s excellent X-Factor, how could his potential customers not feel scammed if they decided to purchase a model?
At least the Mark II benefited from not having a direct comparison. While unmech variants of the Caesar Augustus existed, their specs different substantially from each other. The Mark II also acquitted itself well if someone compared its specs to those other variants that lacked compressed armor.
Once the first day of the festival transitioned to the evening, the events in the main hall started amping up. While many visitors left the side halls to join the festivities, many more guests arrived from elsewhere who found the press of the crowd intimidating. The side halls received plenty of fresh faces, and the number of people who congregated around his booth never diminished.
Every sales representative focused on pushing the Caesar Augustus. Despite setting a daily quota of three mechs, the fish simply refused to take the bait. Ves began to grow more concerned. His happiness for selling out the Mark II aside, he’d miss out on a lot of lost opportunities if his more expensive product line did poorly.
After a while, Antje came back to him after getting a pulse of his well-heeled crowd.
“There are still people who are eying the Caesar Augustus.” She began. “Yet they’re holding back due to their price. Their willingness to buy is pretty high, but not high enough to justify 80 million credits. Worse, they know that others are holding the same doubts. I think they’ve reached a tacit agreement to wait out your resolve.”
“What does that mean?” Ves frowned. “Are they sure that no one will snap up my mech at my asking price?”
“That’s exactly right. The seasoned collectors among them are familiar with this game. When they think a seller is demanding too much, they discourage everyone from making the first step. This forces the seller to lower prices. It’s an open conspiracy.”
Essentially, the two sides waited out each other’s patience. The first side to give in lost the advantage. While Ves found the issue rather thorny, at least the willingness to buy his centerpiece model exist.
He worked his brain over the problem. “All we need to break their game is to force out a single sale. Once the first quota is sold, the second and third will be snapped up instantly.”
“Again, the first step is the hardest. We don’t have any other means to compel a sale.”
Props and visual spectacles helped set the mood, but Ves had exhausted his options. The hall manager didn’t allow him to turn on the Caesar Augustus because it didn’t feature a Festive Cloud Generator. The striking looks of the Marc Antony and the Marcus Aurelius with their constant emission of colored vapor made the Caesar Augustus look plain.
“It will help if we turn off the two other mechs.”
Antje shook her head. “We’ll cut off all the buzz we generated so far. We can’t stop midway. Besides, you still plan to auction the Marcus Aurelius, right? We have to do it when it appears at its best.”
That gave Ves an idea. “The schedule called for auctioning the Marcus Aurelius in the late evening, but why not do it now? I think we can work up a buying fever if we auction the Marcus Aurelius. Those who didn’t manage to get their hands on my exclusive variant can set their sights on the Caesar Augustus instead.”
“That’s a great idea, but there are a lot of risks involved if we auction your exclusive mech too early.” The sales manager warned. “The lack of buying fever among your more expensive models may lead to an anemic bidding procedure. To my judgement, it’s still too soon.”
Something had to change. Either Ves decided to hold the auction now, or wait out the patience of his buyers. He preferred to take action immediately.
“Hold the auction now. Don’t worry too much about the risks. I’m sure that there are people here who have been eying the Marcus Aurelius. It’s a unique variant and only four of them will ever exist.”
They held an informal auction in an hour, leaving enough time for those who kept their eye on his mech to return to his booth. Antje took care of the arrangements and made some space in front of his booth.
She also employed a specialized auction software that tracked all of the bids. Eligible bidders merely had to speak out to register their bids, which would be displayed in the open by the largest projector they possessed.
If anyone wanted to stay anonymous for some reason, they could also input their bids into their comms. As long as they verified their identities and proved they had enough money, the bidders had the option to hide their names and affiliations.
As the skies darkened outside Ansel, the auction finally went underway. Ves tried to hype up the crowd by taking the stage and explaining what he did to the Marcus Aurelius. He devoted his speech on both its technical aspects and its vision.
“This is more than a Caesar Augustus with a cape. This is a symbol!” Ves proclaimed as he gestured his hands towards his newest variant. “Imagine putting it in front of your headquarters or your collection hall. Who would diminish you when you own the king of mechs? Best of all, the model is extremely enduring and will last for hundreds of years with proper maintenance. Even as it ages, its essential quality will remain!”
Ves expected that anyone who bought this mech would never deploy it in battle, so he emphasized its brilliance as a display model. Once he finished his speech, he left the stage for Antje who finally started the auction.
“The price starts at zero credits! Please bid in increments of 100,000 bright credits. No other currencies or bartering will be accepted. Who wants to make the first bid?”
“I do!” A random mercenary laughed. “I’ll take it for 100,000 credits!”
“3 million credits!”
“You pussies! We’ll be stuck here for the entire night if you two go on like that! 30 million credits!”
“I can say the same for you! Do you really think this eye candy is worth 30 million? I bid 45 million credits!”
A low murmur ran through the crowd as they heard that sum. 45 million credits was considered the floor price for a Caesar Augustus.
Now that the opportunistic low-ball offers stopped, the pace of the bidding reached a calmer stage. It took a few seconds for a new bid to follow-up on the old one. The bidders each looked at each other as if trying to figure out if they reached their limit.
The mass of people who gathered to join the fun made it difficult to figure out who still wanted to bid. Ves himself estimated the auction started with over a hundred bidders, but now that the price surpassed bargain bin territory, only around twenty serious bidders still remained.
“55 million credits.”
“56 million credits.”
“60 million credits.”
“61 million credits!”
The auction further slowed down after reaching the magical figure of 60 million credits. For the same sum, the bidders could order an original Caesar Augustus fabricated by National Aeromotives themselves. Any bid that surpassed this sum meant that the bidder placed a lot of value on what Ves had contributed to the original design.
“63 million credits.”
“63.5 million credits.”
“64 million credits.”
“64.5 million credits.”
The remaining bidders began to grow reluctant. Some stayed patient and refrained from speaking out, while others started making bids anonymously.
“An anonymous bidder just put up 67 million credits!” Antje announced as the projection shifted. “Come on, is that all? Will you allow this precious mech to get away from your grasp?”
“Enough!” A powerful voice boomed. A man in military uniform stood up and silenced the tentative bidders in an instant. “I bid 80 million credits!”
Another commotion ran through the watching crowd. They never imagined a single mech in this festival could reach such a value. Even more remarkable was that the bidder came from the Mech Corps. People guessed whether he made his bid on behalf of a senior officer or a division.
Even Ves found the presence of the soldier to be puzzling. Did someone in the Mech Corps decide to do him a favor? He couldn’t imagine any other reason why they wanted to get their hands on an outdated mech.
“Favor or not, at least a mental barrier is broken now.”
With this bid, the Marcus Aurelius matched the asking price for the Caesar Augustus Eternal Edition. Any further bids represented a strong desire to own its first copy.
Only four bidders remained at this stage. The military officer competed against what looked like a collector, a CEO and an anonymous bidder. It all came down to nerve and the size of their wallets at this point.
For some reason, the final bid stalled at this amount. Antje waited for a dozen seconds, but the crowd remained as still as a graveyard. Eventually, she had to move the auction along.
“Alright folks, the current bid stands at 90.6 million credits. Going once”
Not even a peep emerged from the frozen audience.
Just when Ves thought the limit had been reached, the man that looked like a CEO lost his patience. “110 million! This is my final offer!”
The vast sum came as a shock. Even Ves hadn’t imagined such a massive bump in bids. While everyone blinked at the astonishing figure, Antje hurried the closing moments of the auction along.
“Going once, going twice”
Ves thought Antje must be deliberately inducing haste to prompt the other hesitant bidders into action. Whatever her intentions, her gamble failed as no one showed any willingness to put up a higher bid.
The crowd erupted in hysterics as the Marcus Aurelius had been successfully nabbed by the businessman. The other bidders in contention had to throw in the towel when faced with such extravagance.
Ves didn’t know whether the winner had been smart or foolish for raising the bar by an extra twenty million credits. Perhaps he thought that raising the sum by ten million credits provided too little shock.
The news traveled throughout the halls. More people started pouring in from elsewhere in order to catch a glimpse of a mech worth 110 million credits. While the main hall showed off many mechs that sold for more, it was still a milestone for the side halls.
As for the losers of the auction, they quietly approached his sales representatives and bought his stalled Caesar Augustus. Ves instantly achieved his daily quota of selling three of them a day. His face practically lit up in smiles when he heard the news.