eBay is 20 years old this year. The first time I used it was in an office – and then it was by proxy. The website wasn’t as well known then, so I wasn’t sure about setting up an account. If I wanted to buy anything I’d pass the auction details onto a colleague and ask him to pay for me and have the items delivered to the office.
He never asked me what I bought, but I can guarantee it wasn’t anything as weird as the items on this list.
1. A broken laser pointer
This was the first thing ever listed on the site, by its creator Pierre Omidyar. It was in 1995. He put it up as a technical test, but someone bought it for $14.83.
2. Sundried bees
Ashamed of bringing the least interesting snacks to your book group? Tired of the Green-Joneses sneering at your sundried tomatoes? Take the lead with unusual food with a jar of Californian sundried yellowjacket bees. (Top trivia: the Yellowjackets are also a motorcycle club in the US.)
3. Britney Spears’ hair
When the pop star was having a tough time in 2008, she shaved off her hair. The> auction was reportedly set up by the hairdresser who did the cutting, though she had to set up her own website to sell the hair once eBay pulled the auction. I’ve no idea if she got the $1m she was asking.
4. A woman’s virginity
A 20-year-old Brazilian woman offered her virginity for sale. A Japanese buyer paid £500,000 for it. Fortunately, the ‘seller’ withdrew from the deal over misgivings about the buyer. I suspect she was actually more interested in celebrity than virginity, since she was reportedly in talks to appear on a documentary on the subject.
5. A man’s virginity
This sold for about £2,000 and, again, the seller didn’t go through with it. This time because the woman that won the auction was actually a man. (Interestingly, the seller did this to help deal with social anxiety, reasoning that being totally open about his life would give him less to worry about.)
6. Ghost in a jar
Bit of a mystery this one. It’s clear that someone tried to sell a ‘haunted’ jar on eBay, but I can’t be sure if it was simply a joke, or a silly way to raise serious money for medical expenses. While the >winning bid was $50,000, the sale never went through. Perhaps a poltergeist had had access to a computer?
7. A lost film
Typical afternoon, you buy an old roll of film on eBay and it turns out to have a lost Charlie Chaplin film, called Zepped, that might be worth more than >a million quid.
8. A famous sign
You know that sign you see in movies about Hollywood – hint: it’s a big sign saying Hollywood? The original sign from 1923 sold for $450,000 in 2005. Apparently, the sign was meant to advertise a suburban housing development called Hollywoodland. The last four letters were taken off as part of a deal where the sign was supposed to represent the area as a whole and not just the houses.
9. A man’s life
In a good way, that is. In 2008 a chap from County Durham, who’d moved to Australia, decided to put everything he owned – house, cars and even a chance to take his job – up for sale. He got £192,000 for the lot. I think he ended up living in the jungle (out of choice). Help, I’m on eBay, get me into a jungle?
10. A really big yacht
Really big. $168,000,000 big. Back in 2006, a ‘gigayacht’ was rumoured to have been sold to billionaire Roman Abramovich on the website. Well, that was according to a press release put out by… the company selling the yacht. Was Abramovich up all night clicking refresh on the auction?
11. An enormous barbecue
What do you put on your huge yacht? A massive barbecue. Sold for $350,000, this BBQ was actually built on the back of a truck and was 74ft long. It had a walk-in cooler and beer taps. Unfortunately, the listing said they couldn’t ship to the UK.
12. Holy toast
In 2004, a ten-year old piece of toast sold for $28,000. You’d have to be crazy to buy that, right? Wrong! You’d only be crazy if the toast didn’t include cheese and a (blurry) image of the Virgin Mary. Suddenly you’ve bagged a bread bargain.
13. A baby’s name
In 2009, a woman from Arkansas auctioned off the right to name her unborn son to help pay off some debts. The winning bid of $6,800 was never honoured; it was a radio show host trying to drive the price up, hoping that someone else would win, saying it was ‘good radio content’. (He ended up leaving the show.)
14. Rare sweets
When Hostess, a famous sweet manufacturer was going out of business in the US, an enterprising entrepreneur decided to buy up stock of their most famous sweet – cream-filled cakes called Twinkies – and sell them. At one point a seller was trying to auction a single sweet with a starting bid of $5,000.
15. A singer’s sister
James ‘He’s beautiful’ Blunt flogged his sister on the website in 2004. He came home one day to find her crying because she couldn’t get to a funeral in Ireland due to travel strikes. Blunt put her up for sale as a ‘damsel in distress’. The winning bidder had a helicopter with which to fly her over; the sister ended up >marrying her eBay hero.
16. A letter from Einstein
A 1954 letter from Einstein to a philosopher, in which the physicist writes about his disbelief in God, was sold for more than $3,000,000 in 2012. Before being sold it was reportedly kept in an airtight vault. (And, I’m guessing, away from candles, shredders and toddlers with crayons.)
17. A suit of armour
For a guinea pig, made to ‘better prepare’ the seller’s guinea pig, Lucky, for ‘the dangers of the modern world’. After lucky went to Valhalla, it was sold on behalf of the non-profit Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue organisation in Virginia. The winning bidder paid $1,150. It even came with a tiny helmet.
18. A politician’s tie
Former mayor of Toronto Rob Ford was a man you’d expect to see in a TV series rather than real life; he was known for doing all sorts of dodgy things, mainly relating to putting all sorts of dodgy things into his body. A tie he wore during a confessional press conference sold for $1,445 this year. Amazingly, Ford not only listed the tie himself, he offered to sign a certificate of authenticity.
19. A Buffett lunch
Two downsides to this auction: first, it wasn’t all you could eat. Second, it cost $2.3 million. That’s a lot of money, but it did buy lunch with Warren Buffett, the 20th century’s most successful investor, with a net worth of $67 billion. The winning bidder? The chairman of an online gaming company in China. I’d have been so tempted to crack a Chinese buffet joke.
20. A new species
In 2004, Dr. Simon Coppard, at the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, was told about a sea urchin being sold on eBay. When he looked at it, he realised he’d not seen it before. After more research, he came to the conclusion it was an entirely new species. Accordingly, the price of the urchin jumped from $8 to $138.