Since it’s creation in 1995, eBay has taken the eCommerce world by storm. It’s responsible for the creation of hundreds, if not thousands of new businesses, all making their start because of eBay. We dug up some of the coolest facts about the platform, including the most expensive item ever sold and the quirkiest categories that are still around today.

10 facts about eBay:

  • The first item sold was a broken laser pointer
  • The UK loves eBay
  • The most expensive item sold? A yacht
  • Ebay helped discover new life
  • It’s original name was AuctionWeb
  • A California town was once auctioned on the site
  • Strange items sold include a grilled cheese and the meaning of life
  • NASA utilised eBay
  • A pretzel hat helped raise money for charity
  • There’s a whole section dedicated to strange stuff

Fact #1: The broken laser pointer

The first item ever sold on eBay was a $14.83 broken laser pointer. I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone want to buy that? And that’s exactly what the creator Pierre Omidyar thought. After emailing the buyer to inform him it was broken, he got a reply to say that the buyer was in fact a collector of broken laser pointers – who’d have thought it!

Fact #2: The UK loves eBay

According to the eBay UK Report for 2018, 24 million Brits visit the site every month. There are also more UK based eBay millionaires than ever before! This is UK businesses turning over in excess of £1 million a year on the site. Through and through, eBay is etched into the heart of the UK!

Fact #3: A yacht of money

The most expensive item ever sold on eBay remains to be a 405-foot yacht which was designed by Frank Mulder, complete with necessary amenities such as a movie theatre. The buyer sailed off into the sunset having parted with $168 million of spare change.
most expensive yacht sold facts about ebay

Fact #4: New life discovered

Believe it or not, new life was discovered on eBay in the form of a rare sea urchin. When someone posted this on eBay back in 2006, the Natural History Museum noticed it was an undiscovered species and eventually gave it the name Coelopleurus Exquisitus.

Fact #5: Name change

It’s strange to think that the brand we all know and love was not initially intended to be called eBay. In fact, it originally started off with the name AuctionWeb – and while that provided a ‘does what it says on the tin’ effect, it wasn’t quite what founder Pierre Omidyar wanted. In 1997, he attempted to change it to the name of his other business – EchoBay. As this was taken by a mining firm, he shortened it and thus eBay was born.

Fact #6: Bridgeville for sale

A Californian town named Bridgeville found itself to be the first of its kind to be auctioned on eBay not once, but twice. It was almost sold in 2002 for $1.77 million, but the buyer backed out last minute. It was then officially sold for $700,000 with the intention of turning it into a health resort, and finally sold again in 2006 for double. The lucky land owners gained three cows, eight houses and a post office!
ebay top facts bridgeville

Fact #7: Craziest items sold

One of the coolest facts about eBay is the list of outlandish items that people have sold and bought on the platform. These include a grilled cheese sandwich with what was believed to be a portrait of the Virgin Mary, Justin Bieber’s hair, William Shatner’s kidney stone, the Hollywood sign and the meaning of life – hard to think why anyone wouldn’t want those items.

Fact #8: NASA utilised eBay

One of the most surprising facts about eBay is that NASA, the world-renowned space organisation, turned to the site to acquire replacement parts. Thi included floppy disk drives and Intel chips that were so out of date they could no longer gain them through other means. Who would have thought putting an old floppy disk on eBay could contribute to space travel.

Fact #9: A very special hat

If you’re at all aware of the Royal Family, you’ll know about the “pretzel” shaped hat worn by Princess Beatrice to William and Kate’s royal wedding. The hat was auctioned on eBay to raise money for Unicef and Children in Crisis, and was sold for a whopping £80,000.
facts about ebay 2020 princess beatrice

Fact #10: Embracing the strange

Ebay have embraced the weird and wonderful goods sold on the platform by creating the category ‘rather strange collectibles for sale’. This is broken into subcategories like ‘not really that strange’ which contains whimsical items like a back scratcher shaped like a hand, and ‘unusual collectibles’ that feature replicas of ancient wall hangings and misprinted crisp packets.

Interested in finding out what businesses in 2020 can take away from eBay’s success? Read our blog on founder, Pierre Omiydar.