So, how does the Secret Postcard Auction work?

So, how does the Secret Postcard Auction work?

Following the huge success of the 2020 Secret Postcard Auction, we're pleased that this event returns online this September (until 23 September). 

This hotly anticipated fundraising auction offers the chance to purchase unique works of art by leading figures from the art and cultural world from just £40, while supporting the RWA as a registered charity. If you are new to the auction you may like to know how it works...


What is The RWA Secret Postcard Auction?

The Secret Postcard Auction offers you the chance to purchase unique works of art by leading figures from the art and cultural world. 

All artworks are signed on the back, so buyers either have to guess who the big name artists are or just buy what they like. Bidding on each work starts at just £40, which is a very reasonable price for a unique piece of art, and if it turns out to be by a Turner Prize winner or other leading artist, it might just be the bargain of the century!

This year, as last year, we are hosting the auction online only. 

Which artists are participating?

This year we’ve got another amazing line-up with hundreds of artworks to bid on. Postcards have come from Turner Prize artists Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Richard Long and Alison Wilding; Royal Academicians Rebecca Salter PRA, Sir Frank Bowling, Eileen Cooper, Frederick Cuming, Ken Howard, Terry Setch, Anthony Whishaw & Bill Woodrow; RWA Academicians P. J Crook, Paul Emsley, Kurt Jackson, Luke Jerram, Janette Kerr, Fiona Robinson PRWA and many more; internationally renowned painters Basil Beattie, Glenys Cour, Susie Hamilton, Maggi Hambling, Rebecca Fortnum & Shani Rhys James; much loved artist-illustrators Glen Baxter, Helen Craig, Simon Drew, Chris Riddell & Sam Toft and brilliant talents better known in other fields such as Philippa Perry, Vic Reeves and Timothy Spall. 

A full list of artists can be found here

How big are the artworks?

Unless otherwise stated, all pieces measure c.7" x 5" (19 x 14 cm)... so a generous size for a ‘postcard’! These truly are artworks. 

Please note: we have done our best to present the most accurate representation of each artwork, but colours may vary from what is shown on screen. 

Are the artworks signed?

Yes - we have asked the artists to sign their works on the back, so you either have to guess who the big name artists are or just bid on what you like. Each postcard is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the RWA director. 

What time does the online event start and when does bidding close? 

Bidding opens at midday on 13 September and will close between 9pm-9.30pm on 23 September.   

PLEASE NOTE: To help items achieve their full value and to reduce ‘auction sniping’, our auction platform automatically extends the end time of an item by 3 minutes when it receives a bid during the final 3 minutes. This process repeats until no new bids are received during the final 3 minutes of the item bidding window, or the auction has been extended for a maximum of 30 minutes beyond the original end time.

How do I bid online?

This year the event will be held on an online auction platform. Subscribe to our newsletter to be first to receive the link. 

Bids start at £40. Each bid must be at least £5 more than the previous bid. There is no limit on how many bids each postcard can receive or how many each bidder can make, so if someone outbids you, feel free to increase your bid to outbid them! If your bid is the highest by the close of the online event (around 9pm on 23 September) then you win! 

A proxy bid allows you to enter the maximum amount you're willing to spend with the goal of winning the item at the lowest possible price. The system will bid for you, up to your maximum proxy bid amount, as additional bids are entered on the item.

An exact bid is the amount you want the item's current selling price to immediately jump to. Your bid amount will not change as additional bids are entered on the item.

Please note that you will need to create an account before you can place a bid.

Will I be notified If I am outbid?

Yes on the email you signed up with. Make sure to keep an eye on your emails!  

If I win, how do I pay?

You will receive an email confirmation directing you to pay online for your winning lots. Please be sure to check the email you signed up with. 

When do I need to have paid by?

We would be grateful if you would pay as soon as possible. Please note if you have not paid within 72 hours of the auction ending (9pm on 23 September) then we reserve the right to offer the item to the second highest bidder and to exclude the non-payer from future auctions. We do not announce who did which artwork until all payments are received. 

Can I remove bids whilst the auction is in progress?

If you accidentally enter the wrong amount and need to remove a bid, please contact the auction administrators on Please note bids cannot be removed once the auction has ended (see below). 

Can I change my mind if I no longer want an artwork and the auction has ended?

A bid on this item is considered a contract, and should you win the item you are obliged to purchase it. The name of the artist will only be revealed once payment for this item has been received. Please ensure that you have read pick the shipping instructions before bidding. 

Will there be a separate auction for the 10 postcards with the most bids, as in previous years?

As last year, there won’t be a separate auction for any of the postcards. 

When will all the artists and their works be revealed?

All postcards will be viewable on after the auction, and will include the artists' names, so you can see if you were right in your hunch about whose was whose! We do not publicise the winning bid amounts for each postcard. 

How will I receive my winning postcard/postcards?

Most postcards will be sent by Royal Mail Special Delivery Signed For, insured up to the value of £1000. The charge for this service is £8. Especially large or heavy postcards may incur slightly higher postage fees - this will be indicated on the auction lot. International delivery is also available. Multiple items may be sent together at a slightly reduced fee.

Pick up in person is not an option this year because our building is closed for the Light and Inspiration capital project.  Insured delivery may be requested in special circumstances by contacting 

What if I don’t have regular access to a computer, or if I’m busy on the night the auction ends? Can I leave a proxy bid?

If you have intermittent access to a computer then you can leave a proxy bid and the computer will bid for you. Please scroll up to read ‘How do I bid online?’ for more information on proxy bidding. 

Where do the proceeds go?

All proceeds raised by the sale of the cards will go towards supporting the RWA (Registered Charity 1070163)

Unfortunately, due to the extraordinary situation we presently find ourselves in, and despite prudent financial management of the Light and Inspiration project, we are facing escalating costs and a significant delay that will result in us losing over £100,000 from next year’s income.  This means that the income from the Secret Postcard Auction - always important - is even more crucial now.  It is also essential for us to continue to work in partnership with communities to deliver life-enhancing creativity across Bristol and beyond.

“We’re so grateful to all the artists who have been so generous in donating work to support the RWA as a charity. It’s great fun trying to guess whose is whose, and whatever your taste or purse, with bids starting at £40 and the chance to snap up a unique artwork that will bring joy for years (and may be worth thousands), please do join in, and dig deep to support us" - Alison Bevan, RWA Director 

Can I make a larger donation?

If you would be willing to consider making a larger donation to the RWA, please click here or contact our Head of Development, Kate Foster 



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