eBay is the internet’s garage sale. You can find anything and everything on it, even if you don’t need it. Especially if you don’t need it. It’s one of the greatest marketplaces ever conceived. It started out as a rather humble auction site before it ballooned into one of the largest and most important shopping sites in the entire world. It was the brainchild of Pierre Omidyar back in 1995, and it was so unbelievably successful that he became an internet billionaire in 1998 at the tender age of 31. Many people dream of being millionaires by 30. His ambitions were far higher it seems.
In the 22 years that it’s been online (yes, 22 years… man the internet is old now. We have lots of people who cannot remember a time when there was no internet or eBay. Wow. The 80s generation are officially old folks now. We should grow massive beards and start talking about how much more awesome 16-bit computing was and how we squeezed out so much out of 4 MEGABYTES of RAM…)…
OK so let me repeat that, in the 22 years that it has been online, it has gone through a LOT of insanity. I mean A LOT. Some of it more insane than others. So let’s dig in, one fact at a time, into the sheer bizarreness that is eBay.
20. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED AUCTIONWEB
eBay is such a nice name to say, but it does make you wonder why an online auction house was called ‘eBay’ to begin with. E… electronic bay? I mean Email does stand for electronic mail. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. And at any rate, the original name was a rather plain ‘auctionweb’, and I’m going to be very honest, that’s the single most 90s website name ever. I should know, I first accessed the internet in the grand old year of 1998 and it was entirely to find cheats for video games. Now all I do is write and watch YouTube videos, which is something that I never thought would even be possible…
19. IT WAS CALLED THAT BECAUSE ECHOBAY WAS ALREADY TAKEN
So what was up with eBay? It turned out that Pierre Omidyar wanted to use the name ‘echobay’ for the web name (why I don’t know) but let’s not forget this… he originally started eBay as a HOBBY. He never intended to make it the big business it has become. It’s one of those amazing flukes in the history of technology and business that someone says ‘hey I’ll just finish this crummy thing and then go about my life… No wait, this has become my life. In fact, I hit the jackpot!’
18. NEW SPECIES OF ANIMALS WERE DISCOVERED ON EBAY
Of all the places you expect to discover new forms of life on, an internet auction/marketplace would be pretty low on the list, right after a fast food place (actually no, I take that back… we still have no idea WHAT is in their patties…) but such a thing actually did happen.
In 2006, someone was selling a new kind of sea urchin, and it was discovered as a new species. This was the cause of much amusement from marine biologists who probably should have been doing their job looking for SpongeBob Square Pants and not looking for his merchandise online.
17. EBAY OWNS THEIR OWN MEANS OF PAYMENT
So you want to buy or sell something on eBay. Say you discover a rare VHS-to-DVD copy of the Star Wars Christmas Special that George Lucas himself wanted to smash before it was saved by a gallant nerd. You obviously cannot pay by cash because your arms aren’t that long, so you need something a little more plasticky to make it work, notably a credit card. You probably realize you will need a PayPal account to do this, another online giant.
But… eBay owns that. Isn’t that unfair that they’re practically a monopoly at this point? It just seems really strange that we think of the internet as a big Wild West when it probably has been quite tame for quite some time now. I guess the only time it was really wild was the pre-2005 era before Facebook and YouTube appeared (and forget about MySpace… that never happened, OK?)
16. ALMOST NOTHING IS OFF LIMITS TO BEING SOLD
There have been cars sold, islands sold, yachts sold, and… military secrets sold? Yeah, this is strange, but here’s the skinny…. In 2011 a classified stealth fighter aircraft canopy appeared on eBay and was sold for $620,238, and then it promptly vanished.
Before you start panicking, this canopy came from a cancelled A-12 Avenger II stealth aircraft. The project didn’t go anywhere, and the technology is probably already aging (but still would be extremely advanced compared to what some third world nations have). We don’t know where it went, or what just a canopy could do (or what information could be gathered from it) but at least it isn’t capable of nuclear devastation, so rest easy, OK?
15. NASA SHOPS ON EBAY
NASA is one of the most high-tech research organizations in the world. They’re the ones that send research probes all over the solar system, put several men on the moon, and sent the rover to Mars on a quarter of the budget of the 2012 Olympics, and is otherwise the pinnacle of human civilization
But there’s an irony to all their high-tech ordeals… you see, when you’ve been sending and building tech that goes back to the 60s, you’re going to be forced to deal with technology that is technically obsolete. By that I mean that your cell phone is actually far more powerful than some satellites orbiting earth. What that also means is that they need processors that haven’t been made since the mid-80s. The only place to get them was to bid on them on eBay at times. It’s such a sorry thing to happen, but also hilarious at the same time…
14. MOST SALES ON EBAY AREN’T AUCTIONS
This probably had to happen, but despite being famous and originally founded for auctions, only 15% of all transactions made now in 2017 are auction only. Most of the interactions now are ‘Buy it Now’ in terms of how quick they are. This is why I always mention eBay as a marketplace more than an auction house. It’s the natural order of things, in addition to orders like fryers and hotplates to make my orders for my desperate attempt at a joke.
13. JAMES BLUNT TRIED TO SELL HIS SISTER
10 years ago James Blunt was all over the airwaves with his rather awkward songs and strange obsessions with his break up. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. James Blunt once tried to sell his sister online. Now as we know slavery has been rightly prohibited for quite some time. But that didn’t stop Mr. Blunt from trying to sell his sister as some weird thing to get her to Ireland. It was a really bizarre story that ended up with her marrying the guy who tried to ‘rescue’ her from the whole ordeal. It would actually be hilarious if it wasn’t so insane.
12. WARREN BUFFET SELLS LUNCH DATES
I heard a rumor that Warren Buffett does this every year. I don’t know if that’s true and don’t think it is, but it is confirmed that in 2010 he did auction off a lunch date with himself on eBay… and it netted him quite the tidy sum of $2.63 million. They say time is money, and in this case you can place the exact money to time value with one of the richest men on the planet. If you’ve got a spare $2.63 million lying around, you’re probably already doing pretty well for yourself, so we don’t really see the need to spend that on a lunch date with Mr. Buffet, even if it is a priceless opportunity to pick the brain of one of the wealthiest men in the world.
11. THE MOST EXPENSIVE ITEM SOLD WAS A YACHT
Another interesting factoid is just how expensive or costly something can be online. I mean most people know you can buy cars online and a good quality car is like… what? $30,000 at the most? Unless you’re going to some luxury vehicle, but then you’d probably want to see it personally at the dealership.
But no, that was not to be done! Impossible… when you want luxury, only eBay can do, and even then, only the most expensive yacht out there, too. 168 MILLION dollars worth of yacht to be exact, when it was transacted by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2006. OK so this is kind of cheating since they only paid $85 million, but that was technically the down payment, because come on… $168 million up front? What do you think we are? Billionaires? Oh wait.
10. THE MOST EXPENSIVE ITEM SOLD ON A MOBILE DEVICE WAS AN AIRPLANE
So we all know we can buy things through our mobile phones now, too. No more of this sitting down on laptops or desktops. We’re people on the GO and we need to do things FAST and MOBILE… Airplanes are also very fast and very mobile, so it stands to reason that the most expensive thing ever sold on a mobile device would be an airplane. In 2010, a Piper PA-46-310P Malibu propeller driven aircraft was sold for $265,000, making it the most expensive item sold on a mobile device so far.
9. CANADIAN SOLD SNOW ON EBAY
Canada is full of snow and strangely polite people. In addition to being strangely polite, they are also capable of other strange stuff, such as the tale of a man who decided to auction off the snow bank in front of his house to raise money for charity. It’s so utterly strange and leaves us with so many unanswered questions. How you can even ship that stuff? Wouldn’t the container required to keep it cold cost more than the snow itself? I must know! Perhaps the strangest part is that someone actually big $3,550 to claim ownership of the snowbank.
8. CANADIANS BUY ONE PAIR OF JEANS EVERY 6 MINUTES FROM EBAY
While Canadians might like to sell snow on eBay, they do buy normal, sane, and boring things, like jeans… It’s one of the most popular places for Canadians to go shopping for jeans, too. So popular they buy one every 6 minutes, or 10 every hour, or… what am I talking about again? OK so it’s a random factoid. I’m in Canada and as such I succumb to the same level of bizarreness (you may sue me now).
7. BRAZIL TRIED TO SELL AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER
When a country gets desperate for money, the first thing they do is usually not to sell their aircraft carriers online. But that’s exactly what Brazil did. It was a World War 2 era aircraft carrier that was finally decommissioned in 2001. They apparently decided to remove all the weapons and let the buyer decide what they want to do with it. I wonder just what exactly an aging aircraft carrier that requires thousands of people to run and has a displacement of 17,500 tons COULD do…
6. SALES ON EBAY ARE BIGGER THAN SOME NATIONS’ GDPS
It says a lot when some company has a massive amount of revenue, but it’s a little amusing when that revenue is greater than the GDP of some countries. According to this report, eBay had more income than the GDP of Cuba in 2014. Cuba is a hotspot for tourism and cigars and other cool stuff, but then again, while you can’t bask on beautiful, sun-drenched beaches on eBay, you can buy an airplane, swim gear, and probably an island to go do all these things on.
5. ENTIRE TOWNS WERE SOLD
Yeah, this happened, an entire town was sold on eBay. No… not one town, but at least two towns were up for sale. Buford in Wyoming and Bridgeville, California were both either sold or went on sale for whoever could meet the price. Buford was not biggie, since it only had one resident in it, but Bridgeville had twenty people living there. But small towns are really not the best places to settle down or even own. I mean if you’re a super villain who needs a fortress, then why settle for a teeny tiny little town where the people living there probably wouldn’t do anything other than give you a nice ‘howdy stranger’ every once in a while? Wouldn’t it be nice if you buy an entire country?
4. THE LARGEST PRANK AUCTION MADE $10 MILLION
Amid Australians trying to sell New Zealand as a joke, this is the single biggest prank auction ever devised. Apparently some smartass decided to play a joke on people and put the whole of country of Iceland up for sale. The crazy thing is, unlike the aircraft carrier bid from above (which was 100% real by the way), people actually bid on Iceland and the price got as high as $10 million before eBay staff caught wind of the joke and pulled the plug… some people are such party poopers, you know that?
3. A MAN SOLD HIS ENTIRE LIFE ON EBAY
So there’s this dude who got dumped by his girlfriend and decided life wasn’t worth living anymore. Normally this is would be a tragic case of suicide, but in this case it is a comedic case of someone selling EVERYTHING he had. This included his house, car, job, and his friends. How does that work? ‘OK Jimmy, we aren’t friends, but this stranger from eBay totally is, just hang out and down some brewskis like we always do’. It’s just a really weird situation and I still don’t fully understand what it means to this day.
2. PEOPLE MET AND GOT MARRIED ON EBAY
A man sold his life after getting dumped. But a couple met and married online through eBay. It was like the good olden days in the marketplaces of yore when women carried baskets and sold apples and the men came in with their wares to hawk them, too. Except this was entirely digital and the people involved were likely in their underwear and in various states of hygiene. But it didn’t stop them from getting married. I wonder how that really happened. I mean the story has been confirmed by various media outlets, but I still scratch my head about the whole thing. It’s pretty heartwarming anyway.
1. A TEEN’S VIRGINITY WAS ALMOST SOLD…
So with weddings and stuff comes the inevitable wedding night, where virginities are lost. Of course some people find weddings boring and just want to get to the boning. Virginity auctions are actually a thing, but there has been at least one confirmed case of someone doing it on eBay when Francis D. Cornworth, a 17-year-old high-school senior, tried to sell his virginity. The amazing thing is, it went from 10 dollars at first to 10 MILLION dollars before the staff discovered it and had it pulled. It’s not known whether or not he was serious about selling it (anyone with 10 million dollars to burn on a minor’s virginity with a massive lead on his/her identity is also not quite intelligent, either).
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