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eBay's Sept. 11 auction winding down

Auction for America has stopped accepting new items, and the remaining auction items will close in 10 days. The grand total raised? eBay isn't saying.

eBay is bringing the gavel down on its Auction for America charity effort.

The San Jose, Calif.-based online auction house has stopped accepting new items for the charity auction, which was launched in September to raise money for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The charity effort will end within the next 10 days, when the final Auction for America items close.

eBay representatives declined to say how much the auction has raised.

The company initially set a lofty goal of raising $100 million in 100 days. However, 50 days into the auction, the charity effort had raised just $5.6 million, or less than 6 percent of its goal. Much of that was raised in the first several weeks of the auction and included a $1 million donation from eBay itself.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have prompted numerous charitable efforts, such as The American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Fund, which has received $667 million. The United Way's September 11th Fund has raised some $380 million. Even though the fund has ceased soliciting donations, it has raised $30 million in the past month.

A number of high-profile companies including Starbucks, Wells Fargo and Pepsico donated items to eBay's Auction for America. More recently, a collection of "Star Wars" props and models donated by creator George Lucas raised more than $120,000 for the auction.

Some eBay sellers have criticized the effort and refused to participate. They charged that eBay was taking credit for eBay users' sacrifices and was using the Auction for America to promote its Billpoint payment system. eBay has required buyers to use Billpoint to pay for all Auction for America items.

The shortfall does not come as a surprise to many, in part because of so-called donor fatigue. Charity specialists say donations to relief efforts tend to fall off as the disaster becomes more distant. And, in the case of the Sept. 11 charities, the cash donations made are often tax-deductible, which is not the case with items bought at auction.

Auction for America is one of several charity auctions on eBay. Talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell runs an ongoing auction on eBay that benefits the For All Kids Foundation. But the Auction for America was distinct from other charity efforts because of the effort eBay put into sponsoring it and because the company and its partners waived all their normal fees.