[WARNING! While Auction 98 has closed, strict federal anti-collusion rules remain in effect for several more weeks, until the down payment deadline, which should be announced shortly. Parties who were involved in any way in the auction – including folks who filed applications but then elected not to participate in the auction – should refrain from discussing any aspect of the auction with anyone who was similarly involved in the auction.]

Stick a fork into Auction 98 – it’s done, as of August 6 (although the FCC’s formal public notice to that effect probably won’t show up on your doorstep for a few more days). The good news: if all the winning bidders actually pay, the guv’mint should be getting north of $4 million (from a total of more than $5 million bid – remember that you have to back out the bidding credits to which some of the bids were subject). And even better news: the FCC was able to cash out 11 re-treads that went unsold in past auctions. But 29 permits attracted no bids at all.

Of the 102 permits that did move, prices were all over the map. Nearly half sold for less than $10,000, with eight coming in at under $1,000. But 11 went for more than $100K each. Overall, the results of the latest auction are in line with previous auctions and indicate that there are still active and well-funded players in the FM game.

The highest ticket item on the block turned out to be a Class A permit in beautiful Westfield, New York, just across the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Throughway from Lake Erie. Bidders slugged it out for six full days before reaching the final high bid of $714,000. That wasn’t the only pitched battle. It took four days to resolve bidding wars for Columbia, Missouri and Toquerville, Utah – $421K and $370K, respectively – and eight (count ‘em, eight) days to get to the gavel for Llano, Texas ($231K).

At the lower range of the scale, for a mere $830 a Class C3 in Owyhee, Nevada could have been yours. (True fact: Owyhee gets its name from a 19th century spelling of “Hawaii”.) Or you could have had yourself a Class A in Memphis – that’s right, Memphis – for a paltry $610. (Did we mention that that would be Memphis, Texas, not the one in Tennessee?)

The successful bidders will have approximately four weeks to pony up their money to Uncle Sam.

Auction 98 marks a decade of the FCC-conducted FM auctions. Through the auction of 1,100 FM radio permits over the years the government has raised more than a quarter billion dollars.

Over the years bidding patterns have changed. When the auctions began in 2004, pent-up demand, attractive markets and eager bidders combined to generate nearly $150 million for 250 permits. Things have calmed down since. The cheapest permit back in 2004 was sold for $5,500 (a Class A in Kotzebue, Alaska); during the most recent three auctions, numerous permits – including Memphis (Texas, that is) – have sold for less than $800. That’s less than a pair of Tony Lama boots. Clearly, the days of repeatedly doubling your bid are over.

For readers who prefer a conveniently packaged historical perspective, here’s a table showing some highlights by the numbers:

auction 98 table.REV 3