Was the $10,000 iPhone Auction a Hoax?

By Diane Bullock,

Shutterstock photo

You probably saw the headlines from nearly every major news outlet about that absurdly high eBay ( EBAY ) auction in which an iPhone 5S allegedly sold for over 10 grand: "Gold Rush: iPhone 5S Sells for $10,000," said the LA Times . Cult of Mac called it "Gold Fever."

These sensational articles suggested that four days after the flagship smartphone went on sale and sold out of the initial stock of a record 9 million units, Apple ( AAPL ) fans at the back of the line who'd missed out were worked into such a frenzy that they started shelling out over 15 times the retail price.

Mind you, the $10,100 unlocked iPhone fetched in this particular auction wasn't the pricier 64GB or even the 32GB model; it was the default, low, 16GB version in the somewhat more popular champagne -- pardon me, "gold" -- color. You know, the same one that will be available again next month directly from Apple for $649 without a contract or just $199 with either an AT&T ( T ), Sprint ( S ), or Verizon ( VZ ) service plan. Of course, it's possible the phone can be had right now , according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said, "While we've sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5S, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly."

And, no, the $10K eBay iPhone isn't blinged out with diamonds or real gold either to help justify the preposterous price.

Nevertheless, this crazy auction sure drummed up a lot of media buzz about Apple and helped turn the iPhone 5S into a hot, must-have item after its new features didn't exactly tear up the blogosphere.

The whole thing seemed a little suspicious to me, and so I did a little digging. Once the bidding became obscene -- but a relative drop in the bucket -- at $1,000, the auction was suddenly usurped by a few, brand-new eBay members with no prior buying history. Bidders with the dubiously bookended usernames a***a and z***z duked it out until the $10,000 mark. Then member y***9 swooped in at the eleventh hour and topped the bidding with an extra Benjamin Franklin for the win.

So, you may ask, who is this uber Apple fan, y***9, with a hole burning in his or her PayPal account? According to the auction's seller, Papakar from Bridgeport, Connecticut, the mystery winner is someone who didn't actually intend to make the bid in the first place. "That transaction was cancelled as the buyer bid the item with wrong number of zeroes. It was a mistake," he told a Canadian tech blog .

Papakar then threw a second-chance offer back at eBay newbie z***z, who apparently declined, because that same unlocked, gold iPhone 5S that's "very hard to find," ultimately went for $970 in another auction.

Sure, a roughly $300 markup is decent enough. But it doesn't exactly make headlines, does it?

Also see:

Apple Inc. Whips iPhone Users With Their Own Third-Party Cables

Google to Tie YouTube Comments to Google Plus

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2: So Right, but So Wrong

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing Technology
Referenced Stocks: AAPL , EBAY , S , T , VZ

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