A Note on Revenue Effects of Asymmetry in Private-Value Auctions

Todd R. Kaplan & Shmuel Zamir

We formulate a way to study whether the asymmetry of buyers (in the sense of having different prior probability distributions of valuations) is helpful to the seller in private-value auctions (asked first by Cantillon [2001]). In our proposed formulation, this question corresponds to two important questions previously asked: Does a first-price auction have higher revenue than a second-price auction when buyers have asymmetric distributions (asked by Maskin and Riley[2000])? And does a seller enhance revenue by releasing information (asked by Milgrom and Weber[1982])? This is shown by constructing two Harsanyi games of incomplete information each having the same ex-ante distribution of valuations but in one beliefs are symmetric while in the other beliefs are sometimes asymmetric. Our main result is that answers to all three questions coincide when values are independent and are related when values are affiliated.

February, 2002
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