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Egghead's pieces up for auction

Months after the defunct company's fall, its landlords are auctioning up its business equipment and supplies, which range from the mundane to the bizarre.

Pieces of Egghead.com will be up for sale at a public auction on Thursday.

The defunct company's landlords are auctioning off some of Egghead's business equipment and supplies at its former headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Proceeds of the sale will go toward paying down the money the company owed on its lease.

The items for sale included the mundane--computers, monitors and cubicles--as well as the unusual. A Slam Man electronic punching bag, a Williams Pinball machine, and the sign out front of the company's headquarters are all up for sale.

"If someone wants to buy the Egghead tombstone sign, you can buy it," said Thomas Hayward, whose company is conducting the auction.

But potential bidders shouldn't expect anything too exciting, said Matt Davis, an assistant property manager for Legacy Partners Commercial, which manages the office complex where Egghead is headquartered.

"We're not expecting this to be a real blockbuster auction. There's nothing of real high value," Davis said. "The main thing is we're...trying to lessen the cost of cleaning the place out (and) get our money back."

Egghead's decision in 1998 to shut down its brick-and-mortar retail stores and become a pure online retail operation was seen as a big endorsement of the strategy at the time.

The company sold computers, computer products, software and high-tech electronics through the Web site until it shut it down in late 2001, after brick-and-mortar retailer Fry's Electronics canceled a proposed takeover bid.

The downturn in the economy and the stock market, which sent many dot-coms to an early death, has led to an upsurge in auctions of the former highfliers' assets. Last month, the last bits of Excite@Home were put up for auction. Last fall Webvan delivered what was billed as the "auction of the year" when its bankruptcy trustees sold off flashy cubicles, Herman Miller Aeron chairs and a pingpong table.

The Egghead auction follows the company's demise last year. The company filed for bankruptcy in August, with a plan to sell its assets to Fry's Electronics. But Fry's scuttled that deal after it agreed to buy Egghead rival Cyberian Outpost.

With no one interested in continuing Egghead as a going concern, the company shut down its Web site in October and sold its name, trademarks, URL and other intellectual property to Amazon.com in December. Later that month, Amazon re-launched Egghead.com as a part of its own site.

Since then, the bankruptcy court has been selling off the remaining pieces of the company. Earlier this year, the company sold off its Onsale.com domain name and trademarks to PC Mall and the business equipment from its Vancouver, Wash., offices, said Jeff Sheahan, the company's former chief executive officer.

Sheahan said it was sad that Egghead has been reduced to just a few bits and pieces. Yet he is "happy that Egghead lives on inside of Amazon. There's some small solace in that," he said.

Thursday's auction, which is open to the public, will start at 11 a.m. PDT. Potential bidders can preview the lots, which could number as many as 1,000, starting at 10 a.m., Hayward said.

Among the other items that will be auctioned are a 36-inch Sony Wega television, a leather love seat and couch, and a Meridian phone system.

Egghead was one of the earliest and boldest e-commerce providers. In 1998, the company shut down all of its retail locations to focus on e-commerce. Unfortunately for Egghead, the audacious move didn't prove to be a lifesaver. Instead, the company sold out in 1999 to rival Onsale, which subsequently adopted the Egghead moniker.

Despite being one of the earliest online auction sites and having a diverse inventory, Onsale eventually couldn't compete with eBay on the auction front, or with Amazon and other Web stores in online retail.