Monday, March 28, 2011

Lehigh Valley definitions: Tricky Tray or "Chinese" Auction

When I moved to the Lehigh Valley, I noticed signs posted along the road, in church parking lots and in front of schools for "Tricky Tray." I had never heard this term before, so I asked someone. They didn't know what it was. I asked another person and she said it was some kind of fundraiser. Another person asked me whether that was like a Chinese auction. You're asking me if it's like a Chinese auction? When I don't know what the terms Tricky Tray or Chinese auction mean? And what makes it Chinese, exactly?

Here's the definition so you look smart at the PTO meeting or water cooler when someone drops these terms:

Tricky Tray

Synonyms: penny sale, penny auction, penny social, gift auction, chinese auction, silent auction, brown bag auction, basket social dark horse, basket games

A fund raising event for a church, school or other organization where guests buy tickets, then place them in a container next to the item they would like to win. Items can be a single item or a group of items based on a theme. Once everyone has had the opportunity to place his or her tickets in the container, the drawing for the prizes begins. If your number matches the winning number drawn, you win that prize. Source:

Chinese auction

A combination of a raffle and an auction that is typically featured at charity, church festival and numerous other events. Can also be known as penny social, tricky tray or pick-a-prize according to local custom, or to avoid any reference to nationality. The difference between a raffle and a Chinese auction is that in a raffle with multiple prizes, there is one "hat" from which names are drawn, but in a Chinese auction each prize has its own "hat." This allows ticket buyers to choose which prize to focus on. It is unclear whether this type of auction actually originates in China; it is much more likely that the term derives from "chance auction," which is also another name for this type of auction. The term "Chinese" may have been used in this case to convey that this type of auction was mysterious, intriguing, or secretive. Source: Wikipedia


  1. Anonymous3/28/2011

    Thank you! I have been wondering about this since we moved here!

  2. Anonymous, so glad that it was helpful! Let me know if there are any other mysteries you're wondering about - I'll investigate if I don't know the answer myself!

  3. I believe it's called Chinese auction, because like their cuisine it involves a lot of different selections

  4. Don, that is an interesting idea. I haven't heard that one yet!