Punters play games at the dot.com box office

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The Independent US

All the world's a garage sale, or so it seems on eBay, the American online auction site. Like the internet's book retailing monolith, Amazon.com, eBay is one of the engines of the new American economy, an invisible crossroads where demand meets supply.

All the world's a garage sale, or so it seems on eBay, the American online auction site. Like the internet's book retailing monolith, Amazon.com, eBay is one of the engines of the new American economy, an invisible crossroads where demand meets supply.

The best estimate has it that the five-year-old website adds 450,000 items for sale each day. Last year its listings realised $2.8bn (£1.9bn), up from $745m in 1998.

You can buy almost anything, ranging from sports memorabilia, to antique furniture, to espresso machines to, most notoriously, a pair of unfertilised human eggs, said by their seller, a doctor in Boston, to have been extracted from a professional model.

Last month, a disgruntled voter in Maryland offered his vote for this year's presidential election for sale. Bidding started at $5 and went up to $10,000.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Olympic Games tickets and travel packages to Sydney, Australia, are being sold over eBay, too. Earlier this week, the reserve price on four tickets to the opening ceremony of the games were on offer for $US16,000. Those tickets have either been sold or withdrawn.

Tickets and travel deals for the games range from $A19,999 (£8,196) for four sets of four tickets to the track and field finals, to a pair of tickets to the women's archery preliminaries, offered by a seller in Hawaii.

Bidding for the latter began at $US1. Two bids later, the price had reached $US1.25. Most items are listed for seven days. With each one, a line provides a real-time countdown of the time left to bid. Hardened eBay shoppers will leave their bids until literally the last minute, which may explain why so many of the games tickets had attracted few or no takers.

Another explanation is a further lesson in supply and demand. The market is now awash with Olympic tickets.

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