Secret Elephant Auction

This is a modified version of the white elephant gift exchange, now with less stealing and more giving. 
This gift exchange rule set focuses on avoiding awkwardness with anonymity and rewarding generosity while still enhancing the game aspect of the classic White Elephant gift exchange. 


  1. Everyone brings some amount of cash or gift-cards in addition to their bought present of pre-determined value and optionally a theme.
    1. optionally, agree beforehand on an amount of cash everyone should bring along with their present.
  2. Put all cash into a basket or container without revealing how much you placed into it. Count the cash. Split the total amount of cash by the total number of people playing, this is everyone’s starting bank.
  3. Everyone picks a present and unwraps it. This is not your present. Number each present.
  4. Everyone is given a stack of envelopes (or folded form) with a form and pre-written number inside of it. This number is the present you own. Keep your number a secret. If you wish to have a present other than your own, you (secretly) write which present number you want (your bid value will always be all of your bank) and place it inside the envelope. Request ALL presents you wish to bid on in this envelope in order of most wanted first. (If your most wanted request is denied, the rest of your requests will be considered in order) Everyone starts with equal cash, but this will be kept track of on paper or with the (free printable) game pieces, don’t remove the cash from the pile until all rounds are over.
  5. The auction works in two rounds, the request round and the answer round.
  6. Request round: During the request round, everyone writes which present(s) they want to bid on. Envelopes are shuffled then opened, these requests will be left open and view-able during the answer round.
  7. Answer round: During the answer round, everyone replies to the requests, if nobody requested anything from you, deposit an empty envelope. If you own a present that is requested, you can give it up, if you do, you get to swap presents with whoever requested your present AND you get to keep the extra cash. To accept a trade, simply write accept or deny on your envelope for the answer round.
  8. If a trade is accepted, each party of the trade must remember the number of the present that they now own and use that number from now on or until they swap again, use the printable game pieces to keep track of which present owner owns how much money so that everyone knows the value of a bid.
  9. If two or more people request the same present and the present owner agrees to a swap, start a tie-breaker round. Everyone participates in this round, if you aren’t a part of the request, simply deposit an empty envelope, if you are a part of the tied request, fill out “withdraw” or “hold bid” on your form. any of the requesters who withdraw their request will split the cash evenly with the original present owner and any other requesters who withdraw. If nobody withdraws, or if more than one bid is held, then use to roll a number until it matches one of the bid holder’s number, this person gets the present. losers of the roll, get their money back and anybody who did withdraw still gets an even split of the cash. If everybody withdraws, do the same thing (still split the money between those who withdrew and didn’t win the roll).
  10. when all requests are agreed to or rejected, start a new round. Any cash you earn (or didn’t spend) from the first round can be used to make a new request, or you can keep it and stick with the present you have.
  11. Repeat until a round goes by where all requests are declined.
  12. Reveal which presents belong to who, any last minute non-anonymous goodwill trades can still be made, but you can only offer to swap your present with others who wanted it, no new requests should be made. No cash exchange will take place in these goodwill exchanges.
We are aware that the printable game piece link is broken right now. We promise we’ll have this fixed shortly, please be patient in the meantime :)