Glossary   »   B   »  Bid
published-date Published: October 7, 2023
update-date Last Update: November 9, 2023


What Is a Bid?

A bid is how much you’re willing to pay for something, whether that’s at an auction, in the stock market, or when companies compete for projects. It’s your offer to buy, and it states your price and the amount you want.

Market makers in the stock market also do it, but they have to show both the bid and the asking price.

How a Bid Works

In the market, buyers and sellers make trades happen. Sellers offer up goods, and buyers are there to snatch them up. This action goes down in places like auctions, stock markets, and shops.

Bidding can take many forms. At auctions, you can bid in person or online. In the stock market, you use a broker. Sometimes bids are secret, like with sealed bids, to keep things fair and avoid fights.

Companies bid for big jobs too, like government or big business projects. They might be for things like building roads, setting up IT systems, or health services.

The Bid-Ask Spread

The difference between the bid (what buyers are willing to pay) and the ask (what sellers want to get) shows us supply and demand. The closer these numbers are, the more people want that financial product.

For stocks, the spread is the difference in cents or dollars. For currencies, it’s usually a tiny amount, like a few pips.

Market Makers

Market makers, often called specialists, play a crucial role in maintaining the marketplace’s efficiency and liquidity. They quote both bid and ask prices, stepping in when electronic price matching doesn’t work, allowing investors to trade securities. While specialists always have to quote a price for stocks they trade, no rules limit the bid-ask spread.

In the foreign exchange market, interbank traders act as market makers. They consistently offer two-way prices to both direct counterparties and electronic trading systems. During market volatility and uncertainty, their spreads expand. Unlike stock market counterparts, they don’t have to provide a price in low-liquidity markets.

These folks are key in keeping the market running smoothly. They quote bids and asks and step in when automatic systems can’t match prices. They keep trades flowing but aren’t restricted on how wide their spreads can be.

Different Ways to Bid

  • Auctions: This is where you go head-to-head with others to buy things like art or property. You could do this face-to-face or online.
  • Online Bidding: Think eBay. You bid against others virtually for whatever you’re after.
  • Sealed Bids: Here, bids are a secret. Everyone puts their best offer in an envelope, and the highest sealed bid wins. This is common for contracts or property sales.


  • Auction House Bidding: Like at Sotheby’s, where someone might drop millions on a rare diamond.
  • Space Trip Bidding: Like when someone paid $28 million to join Jeff Bezos in space.

Bottom Line

Bidding lets you buy all kinds of stuff through auctions and markets. It’s competitive, with everyone trying to outdo each other’s prices. You can bid on almost anything, from land and animals to luxury items and stocks.

Remember, the bid-ask spread can tell you a lot about what’s happening with supply and demand for that item. And always stick to your budget, even when you’re trying to outbid the competition.