When James Rickard heard about Enron merchandise selling on eBay, he decided to take a look.
The college recruiter from Ottawa, Ohio, ended up purchasing a Christmas ornament shaped like a baseball that had been designed by ornament designer Christopher Radko for Enron Field in Houston. A person interested in the collapse of Enron, a baseball fan and a Radko collector to boot, Rickard got caught up in the bidding and ended up paying $81 for it.
"It could have some investment potential," Rickard said. "If not, it's still a neat keepsake."
Rickard is one of dozens of eBay bidders caught up in an Enron frenzy in recent days. Sellers are offering nearly 200 Enron-related items on the online auction site--and getting a premium for them. A ballpoint pen with an Enron logo, for example, sold on Wednesday for $42. Meanwhile, bidding has reached $300 on a commemorative stock certificate coupled with a company ethics manual.
Once the largest energy trading company in the nation, Enron has seen a rapid decline. The company filed for bankruptcy last fall after admitting it repeatedly misstated its earnings.
In recent days, the company's auditor, Arthur Anderson, has come under fire for destroying Enron documents, and several Bush administration officials said they had contact with Enron executives prior to the company's collapse. On Tuesday, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading in Enron stock and moved to delist it.
Enron is only the latest company to find a kind of afterlife on eBay. Last year, cancelled stock certificates for troubled dot-com companies such as Webvan and Drkoop.com sold for more than $100 each.
After noticing that people on eBay seemed to be interested in Enron items, Eric, a trader at the energy company who declined to give his last name, bought several items from Enron's gift shop and put them online. His sterling silver Enron key ring designed by Tiffany's is seeing bids over $85.
"It's nuts. Stuff that people had lying around their desks (is) going for 200 or 300 bucks," he said.
Price-guide analyst Rich Klein at Beckett.com calls the strong bidding on the Enron items the "train-wreck effect." Although some of the Enron memorabilia may actually be collectible, most of it probably won't be worth much after the hype dies down, he said.
"People spend more money than they should because it's very popular, it's very newsworthy," Klein said. "It doesn't make any logical sense, but anytime anyone's in (the) news, prices go up."
Not everyone is staying in the game, though.
Like Rickard, Shannon McNair bid on the Radko ornament because she's a baseball fan and a Radko collector. Unlike Rickard, McNair, a marketing manager for a mortgage company in Houston, bowed out of the bidding once the prices got too high.
"You've got to be realistic at some point," she said. "Everybody's jumping on the bandwagon, I think."