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Before Steam begins their Winter Sale, they're holding a special Holiday Auction. This auction gives players a new use for all of their unwanted items.
Steam users can recycle items like Trading Cards, backgrounds and emoticons into a new currency called Gems. These Steam Gems can then be spend in auctions for a couple thousand Steam games.
"You can start placing your bids now," Valve says. "The first auction round ends on Monday Dec 15 at 7:45 AM PST with a new round ending every 45 minutes until the last auction round ends on Thursday Dec 18 10AM PST. One of each title will be awarded to the top bidder at the end of each round. That means 100 copies of nearly 2,000 titles are up for auction for a grand total of up to 200,000."
Participating in the auction will allow you to earn an Auction Badge. By creating gems, you'll get Level 1 of the badge. Level 2 and Level 3 can then be attained by placing a bid and winning an auction, respectively.
If you lose an auction, the Gems will be returned to your inventory. They'll remain there after the Holiday Auctions conclude. You can't change the Gems back into the items you recycled. However, they can be spent to create Booster Packs of Steam Cards. Gems can also be traded or sold in bulk through the Steam Community Market.
"Valve won't be liable for bids or transactions that are late, misdirected, garbled, or otherwise invalid," the company warns. "Attempts to transact or bid by automated means may be blocked or otherwise rejected. If the Holiday Auction is disrupted for any reason, Valve may, in its sole discretion, reverse invalid transactions or provide an alternative for game auctions and/or other Steam Gem transactions."
Steam Trading Cards are digital collectibles introduced two years ago. They're earned randomly while playing Steam games that support the feature. When you earn the entire set of cards for a game, you can turn them into a badge. Badge holders also get bonus items like emoticons, profile backgrounds and coupons.
These unwanted items can be sold or traded through the Community Market. However, many of them are only worth a few cents. It's possible that players will get more value for them through these auctions.
The Holiday Auction will lead right into the Steam Winter Sale. Valve notes that this sale will begin at 1 PM PST on December 18th. That start date shouldn't be a surprise to you. PayPal Japan actually leaked that date earlier today. It's nice to get official confirmation, though.