Aug. 20, 2002 -- -- I thought I was doing well when I put a molar under my pillow and got a dollar from the tooth fairy.
Imagine my profound sadness when I heard someone sold used dentures last year on eBay for $38.99. Another guy sold his wisdom teeth for $20.
After leafing through all the unbelievable junk in Marc Hartzman's Found on Ebay (Universe), I may never look at a trashcan the same way again.
I may even sell my trash can. I'll even throw in all the contents. Anyone care to make an opening bid?
Even if you look beyond the "genuine" dinosaur poop, the Enron ethics manuals, and garden gnomes shaped like John F. Kennedy, you wouldn't believe what can be found on eBay. And what sells.
Look at these eBay specials: two "rare" mutant M&Ms that are joined like Siamese twins (final selling price: $1); a monkey-shaped peach pit ($5.55); a penis-shaped Cheeto ($1.25) and a "real" hornet's nest (hornets not included, $2.55).
Hartzman's book beautifully illustrates all these treasures. But perhaps it'd be more interesting to see pictures of the buyers.
Key Word: Gross
"People sell all these things, not just because they can, but because it's fun," said Hartzman, a 27-year-old advertising copywriter who collects circus and sideshow memorabilia.
"As for buyers, I think each one has his own story."
To find weird eBay merchandise, all you have to do is go to the Web site's search engine and plug in random words, like "gross" or "disgusting."
Pop in the right word and you might find a "used but clean" Speedo style swimsuit ($20.50) that a middle-aged man wore in the early 1990s, when he "was younger and had a body."
Bidding for that swimsuit started at $4. Not bad.
The Yard-Sale Mentality
If eBay and other Internet auction sites have energized America's yard-sale mentality, they have also given rise to a new form of self-expression: The joke sale.
When a piece of French toast partially eaten by Justin Timberlake sells for $1,025, there's a simple explanation. He's Justin Timberlake. He's in 'N Sync. Anything he touches is gold.
But how do you explain why some eBay buyer bought one used size-9 work boot? That's exactly half a pair of shoes.
"Somebody stole the left boot so I must sell the right boot," the seller said.
"Now, you might laugh, but realize that this boot, being almost two years old, has seen many places including, but not limited to, Seattle, Washington, most of the state of Oregon, … all of my three kids' [butts] …: and last but not least, the underside of my bed."
The boot sold for $1.25.
Call it cheap humor. But it works.
"With the listing fee, an auction like that is just a laugh," Hartzman said.
But cheap jokes can have surprising payoffs.
When a seller listed "Gross Dentures" for sale, he probably didn't expect the bidding to shoot from $9.96 to $38.99
"They are in gross condition," the seller announced in the product description box that accompanies every auction.
These particular chompers were obtained in an estate sale from a 94-year-old dentist, who apparently had to repossess them from a client who didn't pay his bill.
‘No More Corn on the Cob for Me’
One of the joys of eBay is the ability to contact the seller to talk about his products. In the book, Hartzman has a ball posing as an earnest customer of the bizarre.
Inquiring about the gross dentures, Hartzman tells the seller, "I recently lost a bunch of teeth … No more corn on the cob for me"
He asked if these used prosthetic teeth could be cleaned and used.
"You have to be crazy. I don't want to touch them much less clean them," the seller wrote back. "They still have some of the corn on the cob on them."
Still, the seller says, "If you think you want to use these, just jump on it."
A Human Head for Rent
EBay has rules. You can't auction off a human kidney or souvenir debris from the World Trade Center. They have restrictions on erotica.
But, for the most part, the world is your marketplace. You photograph an item, write a description, fill out a sales form, and you're in business.
"You will see people sell the fingernail clippings of serial killers," said Sydney Johnston, CEO of Auctionknowhow.com.
"There are so many listings that it's hard for eBay to police the site."
However, eBay is becoming more corporate, and the small sellers with bizarre joke items are getting harder to find, she says.
"It's getting stodgier and stuffier, much more corporate," she says. "It's not as fun for the small seller with quirky stuff, although you can still have a good time."
But you can still do some wild things. Several weeks ago, 39-year-old Jeff Swanson of Iowa tried to auction off ad space on his head for $100,000.
Swanson, a father of four boys, says he needs the money for his family, and wouldn't mind if a Nike "swoosh" was tattooed down his forehead. Anything, as long as it wasn't "vulgar or obscene."
Hartzman details 101 bizarre auctions in his well-illustrated book. Here are some of my favorites: Found on the Internet
Shark Fetus: You could have been the owner of "Jaws Jr." — a shark fetus. No animal was intentionally harmed, the seller claimed. Apparently, a pregnant shark washed up on shore and the seller just knew it was destined for eBay. (Starting bid: $19.95; selling price, $32.)
Stuffed Two-Headed Calf: According to the seller, the two-headed calf was born near the family's Duck, West Va., home in 1955 and given to the family to settle a debt. It's been preserved in a glass case and comes with a letter of authenticity. (Starting bid: $20,000; no buyer.)
Taxidermied Musical Bullfrog: Does PETA know about this? Once a living creature, this bullfrog has been stuffed and posed on a wood block, playing a tiny banjo. "They do not pop up every day," the seller promises. Indeed. (Starting bid: $4.99; selling price: $27.99.)
Absolutely Nothing: Here's a great present for an existentialist — nothing. An entrepreneur from Sedalia, Mo., advertised that he was selling "Nothing! Absolutely Nothing," and giving the proceeds to a local university.
After six bids, nothing sold for $1.03 — which might be pricey, but the shipping, naturally, was free.
Hornet's Nest: It's 22 inches high, 1 foot long and "would make a great piñata," the seller promised. Hornets not included. (Starting bid: $1; selling price: $2.25.)
The Soul of One Human Being: A Kentucky man offered for sale the soul of one of his friends, an atheist. "Wouldn't it be nice to have more than just one soul?" the seller asked. "Perhaps you have previously lost or sold your soul?" Bidding reached 71 cents before eBay closed the auction.
Goat Toenail Bracelet: This bizarre piece of jewelry from Guatemala makes "an eerie noise" when shaken. (Starting bid $9.99; no buyers.)
Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.