At camp, it's known as "a game so arbitrary, anyone can win." Sheer luck determines who garners the most points, and the frenzied collecting never fails to evoke giggle fits.
"The trick with the auction was to wear and bring as much junk and useless stuff as possible. We would all go to the gym, and Gary, the director, would call out something like 'paper clip.' Whoever had a paper clip would choose a door, and whatever was behind the door they got to keep for their cabin. It could be anything from mothballs to a cruise on a pontoon boat. It was exciting."
-- Hannah D., Camp Birch Knoll, Wisconsin
To prepare, have the auctioneer secretly make a list of items with randomly assigned point values. For example: writing instrument, 8 points; something with flowers on it, 25 points.
Be sure to include general categories ("something rectangular"), and assign negative points to a few items ("a sharp item, minus 12 points"). You can download our complete list here.
To play, give everyone three minutes to fill their pillowcases with household items, being sure to note areas and types or items that are off-limits (china cabinet, anything on the wall, bedrooms, et cetera).
When the time is up, the auctioneer reads from the list.
If a player has an item, he holds it up to receive credit.
The player with the most points becomes the next auctioneer.
Finally, have kids return their items as quickly as they can. The first player to put everything back gets an extra 10 points toward the next round.