20 Insane Things People Have Attempted to Sell on eBay
Over the course of more than 20 years, eBay has developed a bizarre underbelly. While some eBay users are busy searching for household goods, others are scouring the darkest corners of the auction site in search of everything from human skulls to companionship.
In honor of eBay’s dark side, we’ve compiled a list of 20 of the most outrageous items ever sold on the site.
A “100% authentic Grandma” was sold in 1999 for $1,000,300 – an impressive sum considering bidding started at $10. The granny was described as having been born in the early 1900s and having endured two world wars and the Clinton presidency. Accessories such as dentures, a quilt, old lady clothes and foot cream were included. In fine print, the seller warned: “Grandma is known to spout profanity at times, and does get cranky if not given her medicene (note: medicene is not included).” [sic.] Due presumably to a lack of tabloid interest in eBay at the time, details of the transaction remain unclear.
Following suit a decade later, a 10-year-old girl who was tired of caring for her sickly grandmother also took to eBay. According to local news reports, young Zoe Pemberton put her “annoying and moaning” grandmother Marion Goodall up for auction. Bidding reached £20,000 before eBay shut the sale down, citing policy violations. Fortunately for Pemberton, Goodall reportedly thought the whole thing was hilarious.
2. A T-Shirt (Accompanied by an Imaginary Friend)
Two years ago 22-year-old Georgia Horrocks sold her imaginary friend Bernard’s t-shirt, and threw Bernard in as an added bonus. “I have recently come to the decision that it is time to sell my Imaginary friend Bernard who was created during a time of emotional instability. My psychiatrist recommended that I say goodbye to Bernard, and although I would like some financial compensation it is more important that he finds a good home,” the ad read.
As she explained in the item’s description, the T-shirt was sent via post, while her pal was sent via Georgia’s imagination to the winning bidder’s side. The happy auction winner got the T-shirt, a full character description of Bernard and few of Georgia’s favorite memories with him just under $69.
3. Justin Timberlake’s French Toast
In 2000, a New York radio station put Justin Timberlake’s half-eaten piece of French toast under the hummer, and according to news reports, a teenaged fan purchased it on eBay for $1,025. The breakfast leftovers came complete with the fork he used, the plate he ate from and extra syrup – presumably in case the buyer wished to pick up eating where Justin left off. The radio station promised that all proceeds would go to charity.
A user professing to be a 17-year-old high school student took to eBay in 1999 in an effort to lose his virginity to the highest bidder. He boasted several impressive accomplishments, claiming that he was in the top 5% of his class and a member of the National Honor Society and that he played lead trumpet in the jazz band.
“I think I am desirable if I can find the right woman (or man, I’m willing to experiment),” he stated, adding that he did not wish to sacrifice his flower to anyone over the age of 60. The auction attracted 17 bids, surging from $10 to $10 million, before being shut down by eBay.
5. Einstein’s Handwritten Denial on God
In 2008, a letter handwritten by legendary physicist Albert Einstein denying the existence of God sold for just over $3 million via eBay. Einstein had written the letter in 1954 to philosopher Erik Gutkind, in response to the latter’s book “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”
“…The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this,” Einstein wrote in the letter, according to Reuters. The anonymous seller turned an enormous profit, having reportedly purchased the letter at a London auction for a comparatively paltry $404,000.
6. The Original Hollywood Sign
In 2005, Hollywood producer and entrepreneur Dan Bliss took to eBay to auction off the original iteration of the iconic Hollywood sign for $450,400.
By that point, the sign had already been through a lot: in 1923 the Hollywoodland Real Estate Group erected it as an outdoor ad campaign. Some 50 years later, the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board granted the sign official landmark status, but demanded its complete reconstruction. The biggest names in showbiz came to the rescue, sponsoring the new letters for nearly 30 grand each. At that point, a nightclub producer purchased the original, which gathered dust in a storage facility for 25 years, at which point Dan Bliss purchased it. He initially planned to sell pieces of it as jewelry, but decided to auction it off due to a lack of time for the project, according to local media reports.
7. A human kidney
In 1999, a gruesome trend spread like wildfire across the auction site: the sale of human kidneys. It seems to have begun with a user who put his “fully functional” kidney on the auction block at a starting price of $25,000. Bidding reached $5,750,000 before eBay administrators caught wind of the auction and abruptly shut it down.
In the week following the much publicized auction, eBay administrators shut down more than 75 kidney auctions, the Associated Press reported at the time. Disturbingly, the report noted that several human-baby auctions had also been removed in the process. Despite the fact that human organ sales are forbidden both by the law and eBay’s internal policies, some people just don’t know how to take a hint.
8. Babies and Small Children
Speaking of selling human babies, as we mentioned above, eBay can be a dark and twisted market. In 1999, a seller took to the site to offer up “24 small children,” eight of which purportedly had “over-sized heads, and were supposed to be called back, but never were.” The seller does not appear to have been a marketing genius, as evidenced by the fact that he or she offered the children for $14 a head, or $6,000 for the whole lot. The auction was only live for about three hours before being yanked off the site by eBay administrators. During that time, it received five bids, reaching $51.00.
Fast-forward 17 years and little has changed. A 40-day-old baby was place on auction in October of this year. The auction was online for less than half an hour before eBay administers shut it down. Police are reportedly investigating the incident.
9. A lock of Justin Bieber’s Hair
In 2011, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made headlines by putting a lock of popstar Justin Bieber’s hair up for auction. The comedienne had famously tweeted that all she wanted for her birthday was a bit of Bieber’s iconic mop. Once she got her wish, she decided to use it to support a cause that was dear to her heart.
She put the teen idol’s hair up for auction, vowing that all proceeds would go toward supporting The Gentle Barn, a charity that supports abused farm animals and children. Ultimately, Ellen raised $40,668 for the charity, and one lucky belieber got an autographed box containing the popstar’s hair.
10. Best Friends for a Weekend
Four Australian pals decided over beers one night that it would be a great idea to use eBay to auction off their companionship. Their ad promised that the winning bidder would be their “best mate” for a weekend filled with “some beers, some snags, some good conversation and a hell of a lot of laughs.” After five days online, eBay closed down the auction, but then reinstated it the same day, realizing that it was not in violation of any of the company’s internal policies.
According to local news reports, their auction initially attracted bids reaching as high as $45 million. However, once they started validating the bids, the found that serious bidders were only willing to pay in the four digits. The winning bidder paid $1,300 for a weekend of camaraderie with the four blokes.
11. Britney Spears’ Pregnancy Test
In 2005, Britney Spears’ used pregnancy test was sold on eBay for $5,001. The test, which revealed that the popstar was with child, was reportedly retrieved from the bathroom of a Los Angeles hotel where Spears stayed with her then-husband Kevin Federline. Proceeds from the sale went to support the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Easter Seal Society, which helps children with disabilities.
The buyer, an online casino called GoldenPalace.com, has an intimate history with eBay’s underbelly. In 2004 the casino spent $28,000 for a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich that was said to resemble the Virgin Mary. In 2005, it paid $15,000 for a unique advertising opportunity. Read on for more details…
12. Ad Space on a Forehead
Young mother Karolyne Smith took to eBay in 2005 and offered to permanently tattoo her forehead as directed by the highest bidder. Why? In her own words: “you can tell from my pics o LOVE ATTENTION i go to TONS of the biggest nite clubs in SLC and LOVE to be the center of attention YES i am your typical BLONDE i LOVE to draw attention to myself in a POSITIVE FUN WAY… and what better way to promote your company then on MY PERSONAL FOREHEAD With a PERMANENT TATTOO.” [sic.] She later added that she would use the money to send her son to private school. GoldenPalace.com paid $10,000 for the right to tattoo its logo across the attention-seeking blonde’s forehead.
Smith may have taken a cue from 20-year-old Andrew Fischer from Omaha, Nebraska who – several months earlier – had rented out his own forehead as advertising space. The winning bidder – a snoring remedy company called SnoreStop – paid Fischer $37,375 to sport a temporary tattoo of the company’s logo across his forehead.
13. Serial Killer Fingernails
In 1979, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris raped, tortured and killed at least five teenage girls. Bittaker was sentenced to death and Norris was handed a sentence of 45 years to life in exchange for having agreed to testify against Bittaker. The duo gained notoriety for the cruel and gruesome nature of their crimes.
Two decades after the pair committed their grisly murders, a seller took to eBay offering up three of Bittaker’s fingernails taped to the back of a Christmas card. According to the sales pitch, the postcard contained a lengthy note from the serial killer, as well as his thumb print in black ink. Bidding started and ended at $9.99.
14. The Meaning of Life
An intriguing message appeared on eBay in 2000 stating: “I have discovered the reason for our existence and will be happy to share this information with the highest bidder.” The item was sold for $3.26.
15. An Apparently Lackluster Sense of Humor
“Family and friends have been begging me to get rid of it. They says it has to go. They are just plain sick and tired of my puns, the slapstick, my pratfalls and the practical jokes. That is why I have decided to sell my sense of humor to the highest bidder.” So pleads a 2000 eBay sales pitch. The seller vowed to send the winning bidder a blank sheet of paper representing the sale item.
Sadly, the general public also rejected the seller’s sense of humor. Bidding started at $9.99, but the auction closed after three days without a single bidder.
16. An Ass Kicking
In 2001, a creative seller advertised an item called “I will kick your ass.” The seller – who claimed to be 6 feet tall and weigh more than 230 pounds – offered to show up to the home of the highest bidder and kick their ass. The seller vowed not to kill the buyer or break any bones.
The bizarre offer carried several conditions: the buyer could not press charges or fight back in any capacity. Furthermore, the buyer would have to pay for the seller’s round-trip travel costs. “Do not pick me up, as I will be attacking you completely randomly,” the seller warned. “Upon my arrival, I will select a random time to come over and kick your ass. It may be when you are sleeping, or showering, or any other time during the day/night when you are most vulnerable.” By the time the auction was shut down, it had received dozens of bids with offers reaching well into the millions.
17. Antique Dental Equipment
Speaking of pain, an astonishing variety of antique dental equipment is available on eBay. An antique tooth extractor that sold on eBay for $245 earlier this month was described in the following terms: “While they may have called this a dental bidirectional key back in the day, I prefer to called this tool a whole lot of pain!” Dental keys were used from the 1700s until the early 20th century to extract diseased teeth. After dentists stuck them into their patients’ mouths, they would tighten the device’s claws around the problematic tooth, and then would twist the instrument back and forth until it came loose – often causing extensive damage. These tools, which closely resemble medieval torture devices, give a whole new meaning to the words “twist and shout.”
Another dental key, dating back to the 1800s, is currently on auction. Bidding is to start at $295, though – perhaps unsurprisingly, no bidders have yet come forward.
18. The Opportunity to Name a Baby
In 2009, cash strapped Arkansas mom Lavonne Drummond attempted to auction off the right to name her seventh child, with whom she was pregnant at the time. However, things didn’t go as smoothly as she hoped; eBay reportedly shut down her first four auctions, citing various policy violations.
The fifth time was almost the charm. Drummond managed to successfully finish the auction, with the highest bid reaching $6,800. Sadly for Drummond, the winner refused to pay up – telling her that he was simply trying to help her succeed with the auction, and didn’t expect to win.
19. New Zealand
In 2006, an Australian citizen decided to put neighboring country New Zealand up for auction. Bidding started at one cent and quickly surged to $3,000 before being yanked off the site by eBay administrators.
“Unfortunately (New Zealand) wasn’t something that we felt the person who was selling it actually owned, but it was a good bit of fun,” eBay Australia spokesperson Sian Gipslis told The Gaea Times in 2009.
20. Ian Usher’s whole life
Shortly after Brit Ian Usher moved with his wife to Australia, she left him. Longing for a fresh start, Usher made the bold decision to put his whole life up for sale, including his house and everything inside of it, his car, his jet ski, his motorbike, an introduction to all his friends and a trial job at the shop where he worked.
Though bidding reached into the millions, many bids were inauthentic. Ultimately, Usher sold everything for just under $400,000. After the sale, he began traveling the world in a bid to achieve 100 goals in 100 days. According to Usher’s blog, he has since found love and is still traveling the world. Meanwhile, Disney has reportedly purchased the movie rights to a book he self-published about selling his life.