Tragedy for sale on Internet

Saturday now holds its place in history; therefore there is no need to recap what will be inevitably rehashed for the next 12 months or so.

Sunday night, while continuing to ignore a paper due Monday morning, I browsed some of my favorite message boards instead. I came across a topic on a movie-related board that urged members located in the Texas-area not to touch possible shuttle pieces. It strongly advised against putting found items on eBay, the infamous internet auction site.

Curiously, I loaded eBay’s website and discovered that at10:04 p.m. there were approximately 2,720 “Columbia Space Shuttle” items listed. That amounts to 55 pages containing 50 auctions each.

After scrolling through many of the pages, I discovered that before 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, there were only 53 auctions Columbia-related available. The other 2,667 items had been listed within the 37 hours after the incident. There are some busy beavers out there.

My original thought was “How dare these people try to capitalize on this kind of public disaster?” Then I came across an auction that stated, “People who collect Titanic memorabilia always say ‘Dates are very important in history!'”

So clearly there is a market for things such as the Florida “special edition” newspaper ($10), the 1982 pewter Columbia belt buckle ($49.99), die cast Columbia pencil sharpeners ($4.99), Columbia launch programs from Jan.16 ($39.99) and the March 1981 issue of National Geographic introducing the Columbia to America ($19.95).

I did a separate search for just the STS-107 logo patch, which bears the last names of the crewmembers on shuttle-shaped fabric. I came up with 734 listings. These patches, which sold for $4.95 at Kennedy Space Center Gift Shop, are now going anywhere from $1.99 to yes, $95,300. I think the Kennedy Space Center got ripped off.

I can’t help but wonder who buys this stuff and what they do with it once their emotions die down. History buffs who save newspapers, myself included, keep them for nostalgia sake, in hopes that future children will be 1/3 as geeky as the parents are. But is the person who buys the $50 belt buckle actually going to wear it? And where do you store a six-foot-long 20-year-old Columbia tail piece/stabilizer? Do you drink out of the $1,000 Columbia beer stein? Do you hang a sixty-dollar 1996 Hallmark