Name Branding

Illustration: John Ueland

Last year, a pregnant woman in Connecticut auctioned the naming rights to her fetus on eBay. The winning bid, $15,100, came from Goldenpalace.com, a Canadian online gambling site-which promptly named the baby girl Goldenpalace.com Benedetto.

Advertising has obviously come a long way since Burma-Shave signs. “We have changed the face of marketing,” says Drew Black, a spokesman for Goldenpalace.com, a company whose marketing campaigns have put its name on the body of a Super Bowl streaker, cows, and the pages of Dave Eggers’s upcoming book. But the site’s most brilliant ploys involve buying offbeat pop culture artifacts, then watching the publicity roll in. “Part of our marketing strategy has always been to comb through eBay,” says Black. “But now I get over 100 e-mails a day over a used Kleenex or a cloud that looks like the pope.” Here, six recent purchases.

Object: 1999 Volkswagen Golf previously owned by Pope Benedict XVI
How Acquired: Benjamin Halbe, a 21-year-old resident of Olpe, Germany, bought the gray hatchback for $12,900 in January 2005, not realizing that it belonged to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In April, Halbe put it up for auction, where it shattered eBay viewership records before Goldenpalace.com bought it.
Price: $244,590.83
Worth It?: Goldenpalace.com’s CEO, Richard Rowe, sent it on a worldwide tour, “allowing people to enjoy the experience of sitting in the divine car.”

Object: Britney Spears’s positive pregnancy test
How Acquired: The urine-caked stick was found in a garbage can in a Los Angeles hotel room in 2005 and ended up in the hands of a radio station in Ottawa, Ontario, which then sold it to Goldenpalace.com.
Price: $5,001
Worth It?: “It’s hard to put a price on Britney Spears’s urine,” Black told an AP reporter. Now it’s part of Goldenpalace.com’s “traveling museum.”

Object: Breast implant of a former stripper who was acquitted of assaulting a customer in a Florida nightclub with her enormous chest
How Acquired: Tawny Peaks, a Playboy cover girl who boasted a 69-HH bra size before her implants were removed in 1999, put the offending silicone (from just one breast) on eBay in 2005. “It’s, like, the first boob to be sued over in a lawsuit,” Peaks told reporters.
Price: $16,766
Worth It?: It was certainly worth it to Peaks, now a homemaker and mother of three in the Detroit area. “Why not?” she asked. “I don’t need it anymore.” (She reportedly kept the other one.)

Object: Picket fence from the grassy knoll at JFK’s assassination site
How Acquired: From Lelands.com, an auction site that put the 23-foot fence section in Dallas up for bids. “The powers that be-still holding to the Warren Report’s sole gunman conclusion-chose to let the fence simply rot away,” Josh Evans, founder of Lelands.com, told PR Newswire.
Price: $32,664.47
Worth It?: Historians say the fence had been replaced many times since 1963, but Jeff Kay, a spokesman for Goldenpalace.com, remarked to the Dallas Morning News, “I guess the publicity takes the edge off really caring, right?”

Object: Bandage that was used to treat the head injury of Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in 1973 war with Egypt
How Acquired: The anonymous seller said he was the son of an army medic who changed Sharon’s bandage and kept it as a bloodstained souvenir. Goldenpalace.com saw the item on eBay-and had to have it.
Price: $10,000
Worth It?: A recent Google search of “Ariel Sharon Goldenpalace.com” drew 532 matches.

Object: Dinner plate from the Titanic
How Acquired: Jay Sherman, a homeless Dallas resident who claimed his great-aunt was a passenger on the doomed ocean liner, put the plate on eBay in 2004. “This plate truly is a piece of history. . .” said CEO Rowe in a press release after Goldenpalace.com bought it.
Price: $10,000
Worth It?: Numerous experts claimed the plate was a fake. “They’ve got to be out of their tiny little minds,” said Peter Boyd-Smith, an authority on Titanic memorabilia. Goldenpalace.com paid Sherman anyway, provided food for several days at his homeless shelter, and made headlines again.

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