1. A Chunk of Mars
Starting price: $450,000
Sold for: $450,000
The odds against a rock forming on Mars, being knocked into space by an asteroid, and crash-landing on Earth are, well, astronomical. In fact, of the roughly 60,000 meteorite specimens known to science, only 124 have originated from Mars. A fragment from one of these was auctioned in 2003.
2. One of Albert Einstein’s Handwritten Letters
Starting price: $3,000,000
Sold for: $3,000,100
In 1954, the great physicist penned a candid letter to Jewish philosopher Erik Gutkind in which he defended his views on ethics, religion, and human nature. Nearly six decades later, it caused a minor media sensation by showing up on eBay.
3. The Original “HOLLYWOOD” Sign
Starting price: $300,000
Sold for: $450,400
Built in 1923 as a real estate gimmick, the maiden set of oversize Hollywood letters overlooked L.A. until it was replaced by a newer group in 1978. The former landmark finally found a home after being auctioned off in 2005.
4. The Town of Bridgeville, CA
Starting price: $700,000
“You get an entire working town,” proclaimed a 2002 ad. “With the proper development, Bridgeville can become an economic powerhouse.” An anonymous businessman emerged victorious by laying down an impressive $1.77 million but backed out of the deal upon actually visiting some of the town’s dilapidated homes. Nevertheless, the town did find a new buyer, who proceeded to resell it through eBay in 2006—this time for $1.25 million. Since then, Bridgeville has changed hands yet again (without eBay’s help).
5. A New Species of Sea Urchin
Starting price: $9.50
Sold for: $138
Draped in warm hues of cream and purple, the Coelopleurus exquisitus urchin is a dazzling creature. But incredibly, marine biologists didn’t discover it by exploring the open sea; they found it on eBay. Two colleagues at the Natural History Museum in London determined that a specimen being sold there by one collector did, in fact, hail from a species previously unknown to science.
6. The Meaning of Life
Starting price: 1 cent
Sold for: $3.26
A mystical North Carolinian decided to give Monty Python a run for its money back in 2000. “I have discovered the reason for our existence,” he wrote, “and will be happy to share this information with the highest bidder.” Since then, neither the buyer nor the seller has gone public with the contents of his revelation.