Sunday, March 19, 2006

The First Item Ever Sold On EBay

Legend has it that the first item ever sold on eBay was a PEZ candy dispenser. The story goes that eBay-founder Pierre Omidyar cobbled together the first version of his "AuctionWeb"-site (which was hosted on and later became eBay) in order to help his fiancee to trade the PEZ dispensers that she was collecting. This version has been told over and over again, and at the foyer of the german eBay subsidiary in Berlin there is a showcase full of PEZ dispensers seemingly supporting the tale. Another time, eBay CEO Meg Whitman even posed for a photo with lined-up PEZ dispensers.

Truth is that the PEZ story is an invention of eBay's first public relation manager, Mary Lou Song. Back in 1997, Song was facing some difficulties attracting media attention for eBay's online auction efforts. When she met Pam Wesley, Omidyar's fiancee, Wesley told her about her hobby of collecting PEZ dispensers. So Song literally made up eBay's founding story, and the journalists loved it.

Adam Cohen revealed what really happened in his book "The perfect store", and this has since been confirmed by eBay.

Actually the first item that Pierre Omidyar ever sold on eBay was his broken laser pointer. It went away for 14 dollars.

BTW, my latest eBay purchase just arrived yesterday: a Magnavox Odyssey 2 video game console (known in Europe as the Philips Videopac G7000).