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PlayStation 2 draws high bids at auction

Sony's new game console may be sold out at your local retailer, but you can still find it online--for a price.

Sony's PlayStation 2 may be sold out at your local retailer, but you can still find it online--for a price.

On auctions at Amazon.com, eBay, Yahoo and Excite@Home, bids on the just-released video game console ranged from about less than $400 to more than $1,000. In one eBay auction, bidding reached $6,100, but it turned out to be a mistake. The 15-year-old bidder wanted to bid only $610, he said.

By contrast, retailers are selling the PlayStation 2 for $299 for the base unit and up to $499 for a bundle that includes the console, three games and an extra controller.

The sky-high bids, which have become a normal feature for many new high-tech products, have been exacerbated in this case by a shortage of consoles combined with pent-up anticipation for the game console.

Retail sales have been similarly brisk. Amazon's retail division sold all its available units within a minute of opening sales at noon PT Thursday, a company representative said. Buy.com also sold out of units soon after opening sales at 9:01 p.m. PT Wednesday.

Both companies said they would have more units available for the holiday shopping season.

At offline stores, some customers lined up days in advance to get a chance to purchase a unit. Because of component shortages, Sony cut initial shipments of the console from 1 million to 500,000 units.

Although the high bid prices could be due to the limited supply, they also could be the result of inexperienced bidders or pranks. Many of the bidders had little or no feedback, indicating they were either new to online auctions or had recently registered a new user ID.

One particular bidder placed the high bid on at least eight eBay auctions for the PlayStation 2, bidding everywhere from $610 to $2,705. The bidder's contact information, obtained by CNET News.com, listed a disconnected phone number and a non-working email address.

Prank bidding has been a recurring problem at online auctions. FuckedCompany.com owner Philip Kaplan offered his site for auction on eBay in September but canceled the auction after receiving numerous prank bids. In January, Tenagra attempted to sell "Year2000.com" on eBay, but most of the top bids turned out to be pranks, including one for $10 million.

Earlier this year, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay took steps to prevent prank bids on its site, requiring buyers who place bids of $15,000 or more to verify their identification by submitting a credit card or verifying information through credit service Equifax. Although eBay requires people to follow through on their bids, the only penalty for placing a prank bid is suspension from the service.