It’s often said that there are some things that money simply can’t buy. Anyone who still thinks that that’s the case should spend a little time browsing the wares on offer at eBay, the online auction site. Since its inception back in 1995, eBay has become an award-winning global sales phenomenon, a site on which it’s possible to sell absolutely anything, as long as it’s not considered illegal or offensive.
And the really weird thing about eBay – and perhaps the key to its success – is that people will buy absolutely anything. The proof? In 2004, Coventry University student Bill Bennett auctioned a single Cornflake as a joke. In just a few days, the cornflake sold for £1.20 ($1.90).
The beauty of eBay is that it provides an easy sales channel for unusual items that the vendor might otherwise find too expensive, or difficult, to sell by other means. This aspect of the online auction site has resulted in the posting of some truly outrageous and extraordinary items for sale. Here’s our rundown of the top 10 epic eBay auctions to date…
10. Lotus Esprit Turbo Sports Car
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as Birmingham radio DJ Tim Shaw found to his dismay in June 2005. Interviewing glamour model Jodie Marsh on his radio show, Shaw announced on air (as a joke, hopefully) that he would leave his wife, Hayley, and children for the model. Hayley didn’t see the funny side, and promptly advertised her husband’s beloved black Lotus Esprit Turbo (valued around £25,000) on eBay at the “buy it now” price of fifty pence. Unsurprisingly, the bargain sports car sold within a few minutes of appearing on the auction site, and was promptly collected by the –presumably ecstatic – buyer.
Hayley Shaw’s action was vindicated; her wayward husband issued a formal apology live on British TV’s popular “Richard and Judy” show, and later bought back his Lotus for £5,000.
9. Captain Kirk’s Charitable Kidney Stone
When legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner began to experience excruciating back pain in 2005, he was taken to the hospital, where surgeons discovered that the cause of the pain was a kidney stone. Having successfully – if not without discomfort – passed the stone, Shatner asked the hospital if he could keep the offending item. His plan was to auction the ultimate Star Trek souvenir on eBay in order to raise money for charity. Although organ sales are prohibited under trafficking law, kidney stones are evidently exempt because, in 2006, the Golden Palace Casino bid $75,000 (around £48,000) to successfully beam up the Shat’s kidney stone.
8. The Chance To Spend Eternity On Top Of Marilyn Monroe
In 2009, Los Angeles widow Elsie Poncher arranged for the remains of her late businessman husband, Richard, to be exhumed in order to sell his burial plot on eBay to raise enough money to pay off the mortgage of her Beverley Hills home. The unique selling point of this eBay lot? Richard Poncher’s burial plot was directly above Marilyn Monroe’s in LA’s Westwood Village Cemetery, wherein Roy Orbison and Dean Martin also rest in peace. Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine; has his future burial site there as well…next to Marilyn Monroe. Elsie’s plot to sell the plot was a huge success: it sold for $4.6 million (around £3 million).
7. A Large (And Genuine) Piece Of The Planet Mars
In 1962 a meteorite of Martian origin fell to earth in central Nigeria. The largest specimen of the 1.3 billion-year-old meteorite – which was named Zagami – weighed 18000 grams (around 40 pounds), and was part of a privately-owned collection until it was placed for auction on eBay in September 2005. The asking price of $450,000 (£290,000) bought not only a handsomely-sized chunk of the Red Planet, but also a certificate of authenticity signed by renowned geologist and “meteor expert” Dr John Saul.
6. Roman Abramovich’s Yacht
Where does a Russian billionaire businessman (currently the 68th richest person in the world) and owner of Chelsea FC go shopping when he wants to buy a new luxury yacht? Well – duh! – eBay, of course. In February 2006, Abramovich’s winning eBay bid for an ultramodern 170-meter yacht, which featured a helicopter hangar, eight guest cabins,10 multi-level VIP Suites, a gymnasium, cinema , salon and luxury office, was a mere $168 million (around £108 million) with an immediate 50% deposit required to secure the deal.
5. Not Just Any Old Pair Of Jeans…
…but the oldest known pair of Levi Strauss denim jeans, sold on eBay in 2001 for $46,532 (£30,000). Discovered in a mining town in Nevada, Texas in 1998, the jeans dated back to the 1880s; the decade during which Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday and others were fighting it out at the OK Corrall in Arizona, and electric light made its debut in New York. Levi Strauss began producing his jeans in 1873 so, if you can find an earlier pair than those sold in 2001, you might start your very own gold rush. In case you’re wondering who would pay almost $50,000 for an old pair of jeans, the answer is that they returned home: Levi Strauss & Co. bought them.
4. Max, The 50,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth
Named ‘Max’ by his Dutch owner, one of the best-preserved and most complete examples of a prehistoric woolly mammoth skeleton appeared as an eBay listing in 2004. Whilst Max was clearly no longer woolly, an enterprising buyer with an aptitude for extracting DNA and cloning might be able to knock themselves up a few living woolly mammoths, and create a real-life Jurassic Park. The reason for sale was that Max’s owner needed back the space that a full-sized woolly mammoth occupies; clearly this wasn’t a deterrent for the purchaser, who found Max a new home for the sum of £61,000 (around $95,000).
3. The Most Infamous Book Depository Window In The World
As iconic, and perhaps macabre, relics of America history go, perhaps none is stranger than the item listed on eBay in February 2007. The lot comprised a complete window and frame from the sixth floor room of the Texas Schoolbook Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. Apparently, the owner of the Book Depository had the iconic window removed after souvenir hunters began to remove pieces of it following the assassination. The window, along with documents certifying its authenticity was eventually sold to an anonymous bidder for $3,001,501 (almost £2 million).
2. One Russian Prototype Space Shuttle, Used Condition
Sadly, some items – no matter how awesome – just don’t get sold on eBay. Who could resist the opportunity to own their own one-eighth scale model of Russia’s space shuttle “Buran”? Back in 2002, it seems as though no one wanted their own piece of Soviet space-race history, despite the fact that the 15’6” long BOR-5 prototype shuttle had been on several aerodynamics test flights between 1983 and 1988. The highest bid of $98,000 (£63,000) didn’t meet the seller’s reserve price and so, for now at least, the BOR-5 Soviet Space Shuttle prototype remains in mothballs.
1. Sex-Symbol Superstar Snot
Appearing on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in 2008, Hollywood actress Scarlet Johansson apologised to the host that she was suffering from a cold before blowing her nose twice into a paper handkerchief. Scarlet stuffed the snotty tissue into her handbag, but later autographed it and offered it for sale on eBay, with the proceeds to go to charity. Subsequently, the celebrity mucus-ridden hankie (there was reportedly a bit of lipstick on it too) sold to a charitable bidder for $5,300 (£3,600). Forget woolly mammoths – if ever there was a great opportunity for a spot of DNA cloning…
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