Update 2: Valve has posted an update on the Steam Holiday Auction page stating that auctions will resume shortly. Here is the complete statement:
"We apologize for the interruption. The Yeti has been contained. We had an issue with gems that means we need to reset and start again.
– All gems created by you will be returned to your inventory
– Gem purchases from the Community market will be reimbursed
– Auction bids have been canceled and the auction will be reset
– Trades involving gems are being investigated on a case-by-case basis"
Update 1: The Steam Holiday Auction is currently suspended, due to what the official site says are "some issues with gems." Kotaku is reporting that these issues are some exploits that some less-than-honest Steam users are using to duplicate or artificially inflate their gem count.
Valve just announced a new promotion called Steam Auction that will allow you turn Steam Community items into gems that can be use to bid on new games.
Steam users can now turn unused items like trading cards, backgrounds, and emoticons into "Steam Gems." These gems can be used as currency to bid on a series of auctions rounds that will end every 45 minutes from December 15 at 7:45 a.m. until December 18 at 10 a.m. The first round is currently live on the Steam Holiday Auction site. The first round includes games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Star Wars Battlefront II, and The Talos Principle.
Different items have different values, Valve says you should craft Trading Cards into badges, as "the resulting emoticons and backgrounds have high gem values." There's a FAQ on the site that will answer more of your questions. Head over the and start bidding!
Steam is a popular service, and it's things like this that engender so much consumer loyalty. It's definitlely a creative way to create some excitement around Steam in the busy holiday season, and also rewards the service's most loyal customers.