Jim, I am unaware of reverse offer for sale idea you mentioned. Do you have any references you could share so I can read up on this?
I was under the impression that for the first sale or offer for sale clock to begin, the inventor had to be selling the actual invention or offering for sale the invention, once it is in condition to be made. Also that offering to sell or license the patent for an invention was not considered an offer for sale of the invention (at least in the US). Is this understanding incorrect?
Let me take a stab at the latter part first.
The offer to sell can be by anyone, not just the inventor/assignee. Offering to license the patent is not the same as offering to selling the invention.
The test for whether the offer is to sell the invention rather than some vague idea isn't whether the invention is "in a condition to be made." The test is whether the technology is "ready for patenting." As an example, if I offer to sell a spinning wheel that spins cotton into gold, but I have no idea how I'll get it to work, it's not ready for patenting and my offer doesn't count in 102(b). On the other hand, if I know enough about the technology that I could write an enabling written description of the invention, my offer counts under 102(b).
I don't have a cite for that, but it's older law (5-10 years old, I think) repeated in a fairly recent Federal Circuit case -- in the last year or so, I believe.
As for the reverse offer to sell, I was surprised, too, the first time a poster here mentioned it. It's probably been at least a year or two, and many older posts seem to be gone after the recent database repair here. Hopefully, they'll see this and re-post the case(s). I vaguely recall something about that in the MPEP -- something small, perhaps just a parenthetical after a case citation. I did a quick search of the forums and didn't find anything.
For what it's worth, the apparent harshness of such a rule is eased a bit by the fact that it just starts a one-year deadline. I don't believe the same rule (or even mere offers to sell) applies in most absolute novelty jurisdictions.
P.S. I did a quick search and only found a citation that the offer to sell need not be from the inventor or assignee. In re Caveney, 761 F. 2d 671 - Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit 1985