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Wolverine state sinks teeth into Net auctions

Michigan is jumping into the online auctions game, launching a site that features everything from Tiger Stadium road signs to tickets for a 1975 Elvis concert.

    The state of Michigan is jumping into the online auctions game, launching a site today that features everything from Tiger Stadium road signs to tickets for a 1975 Elvis concert.

    The site, dubbed "MiBid," features surplus state property, abandoned and unclaimed items, and property seized by the state. Run by San Diego-based Bidland Systems, the site will include items that previously would have sold in the state's offline auctions.

    Stephanie Comai, who works in the office of Michigan Gov. John Engler as the director of the e-Michigan program, said the offline auctions typically draw some 300 people.

    "This will expand the audience tremendously," she said.

    Michigan's entry into the online auction market comes as eBay has started to consolidate its lead in the space. Earlier this week, Auctions.com, backed by an array of media giants, announced that it would close its doors later this month.

    While many states and cities hold regular auctions of surplus and confiscated items, Michigan is among the first to auction such items online.

    Despite eBay's dominance, Comai said Michigan decided to launch its own online auction site so that it would have more control over the auctions and the featured items.

    "We felt we could brand this to the state of Michigan and could promote items that were of special interest to the public," Comai said.

    But the site has a long way to go before it challenges eBay. Unlike the San Jose, Calif., online auction giant, which lists millions of items each day, MiBid kicked off with only 17 items listed.

    Comai said the auction site is a six-month test. During the test, Michigan will gradually list more items and explore selling a different selection of items through MiBid.

    "We started out small," she said.

    While state employees will ship smaller items to customers such as the Elvis tickets, Michigan will not ship some of the larger items listed on the site. Instead, bidders who win road signs or police motorcycles will have to pick them up from the government warehouses where they are housed.

    After the scrap value of the road signs goes into the state's roads fund, the proceeds from the Tiger Stadium road sign auctions will go to charity. Money collected from the other auctions will go into Michigan's general coffers.

    Michigan will pay Bidland a 5 percent transaction fee for items sold through MiBid.