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Columbia collectibles soar on eBay

Within hours of the Columbia tragedy, hundreds of items featuring the space shuttle are listed for sale as prices climb.

Within hours of the Columbia tragedy on Saturday, hundreds of collectibles featuring the doomed space shuttle were placed for sale on eBay as prices soared.

Columbia ripped apart on re-entry to the earth?s atmosphere early Saturday, killing the seven crew members and scattering debris across a large swath of the southern United States. Almost immediately, the number and price of Columbia collectibles on the Web?s leading auction site began to surge.

A search for "Columbia shuttle" returned 1,011 items on eBay late Saturday, with more than 900 being listed after the disaster stunned the nation earlier in the day.

One item was described as "Columbia space shuttle debris" with a starting price of $10,000. However, clicking on the link returned a page with the message "invalid item," an indication it had been pulled by eBay or the seller.

Meanwhile, prices on items listed for sale prior to the crash were soaring.

A belt buckle described as "very decorative" had jumped from an opening price of $9.99 to $315 by late Saturday. Although the buckle was listed on Jan. 26, all 16 bids were made Saturday, with the first being placed at 7:08 a.m. PST, about an hour after NASA lost contact with Columbia.

By comparison, an auction for a similar buckle ended on Jan. 24 without drawing any bids.

Additionally, a one-ounce silver coin commemorating Columbia had been bid up to $202.50 on Saturday. An apparently , listed by the same seller, attracted no offers before its auction closed on Jan. 18. It had an opening price of $9.75.

Other Columbia-related items fetching high prices Saturday on eBay included a sheet of stickers, $168; a $5 commemorative coin, $1,951; a beer stein, $185; a Christmas tree ornament, $41; a t-shirt, $46.51; and a patch, $30.

With one exception, all bids on these items were made Saturday.

How long Columbia prices remain lofty is an open question, however. Several patches featuring the Challenger space shuttle that exploded on takeoff in 1986, were fetching less than $10 on Saturday.