There’s a market for almost everything.
Some of us remember pet rocks, and Walmart now sells cactus fruit at many of their locations. Of course, pet rocks were just a fad novelty item, and “tunas,” as cactus fruit are sometimes called, aren’t so strange to those who commonly eat them.
So what are some of the weirdest things ever sold? Here are some serious contenders.
1. Human Kidneys
Almost 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States alone. Some believe that allowing people to sell their kidneys would save the lives of many who are on those waiting lists. Critics of the idea point out that, among other possible problems, the organs might be too expensive for anyone but the rich. But some economists suggest kidneys would sell for around $15,000 if there was an open market, putting them within reach of people with a middle class income or a few credit cards.
Is there any real-life example to show us what might happen if human organ sales were allowed? In fact, Iran legalized human kidney sales in 1988 and the practice has been common ever since. The government regulates the industry, using the independent Dialysis and Transplant Patients Association (DTPA) to connect donors and recipients. The number of kidney transplants almost doubled within a year of the law going into effect. Donors receive a payment from the government as well as free health insurance, and sometimes also a payment from either the recipient or a charity that sponsors the surgery.
As a result of this system, there is no waiting list for kidney transplants in Iran. This suggests that donors are satisfied with the price of $2,000 to $4,000 received for their kidneys. But with that price in mind, if the selling of human organs is ever legalized here in the states and you need some cash, you might want to first try having a rummage sale.
2. A Soul
Can you really sell your soul? We’ll let religious philosophers debate whether it’s possible in the strictest sense. But Hemant Mehta, who wrote the book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, did have an online auction that promised the right to send him to any church chosen by the highest bidder. Mehta, a teacher near Chicago who calls himself a “friendly atheist,” also agreed to remain open to whatever religious ideas the chosen church promoted.
The winning bidder was a former pastor from Seattle, Washington. Mehta was paid $504 to go to church for 50 weeks. That works out to just about $10 for each Sunday service. Hey, at least he did better than me. I tried to sell my soul to the devil but the appraisal came in too low.
3. Excrement as Art
The story is that Italian artist Piero Manzoni was told, “Your work is shit” by his father. That prompted him to create his 1961 work called “Merda d’artista,” which translates as “Artist’s shit.” Whatever the motivation for its creation is, the work consists of 90 cans of what Manzoni claimed was his own feces. He originally sold each 30-gram can for what an equal amount of gold would sell for, making his excrement exactly worth its weight in gold.
It was later revealed by an associate of Manzoni that the cans had only plaster in them. It isn’t clear how this affected their value, but the individual pieces of art still get sold for big bucks. In 2007, one can sold for £84,000 (about $140,000) at an auction in Milan, Italy. Apparently that plop of plaster, or poop, or whatever the cans contain is now worth much more than its weight in gold.
Buy your own town and you get to be mayor. But are towns sold very often? Buford, Wyoming, went for $900,000 in 2012. Included in the sale were a cellular tower (with a lease), five buildings, and some U.S. Post Office boxes. The town sits on about 10 acres of land at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Prior to the sale it had a population of one.
At least a dozen towns have gone up for sale around the United States in recent years. The list includes Henry River Mill Village in North Carolina. That town was the set of District 12 in the movie “The Hunger Games.” It has 22 buildings on 72 acres. Asking price: $1.4 million.
5. Human Corpses
It is said that anything and everything can be sold on Taobao.com, the Chinese online retail platform. In fact, for 126,500 Yuan each (around $20,800) one company sells human cadavers. The bodies are encased in a kind of plastic polymer, perfect for preserving and displaying them.
The company claims to sell them to medical schools and scientists, but doesn’t require documentation from buyers as long as the bodies are shipped to addresses in China. The corpses each come with a full medical history and a two-year warranty. The company offers no information on where the bodies come from, which you’d think makes their neighbors slightly uncomfortable, right?
6. Proximity to Dead Celebrities
You might recall that a few years back the crypt just above that of Marilyn Monroe was auctioned off on eBay for over $4.6 million. Elsie Poncher, the former wife of the man in the crypt, planned to move her late husband’s body after the sale. She wanted to pay off the mortgage on her home with the proceeds of the auction. Alas, the sale fell through, but trying to get top dollar for space near Marilyn’s dead body was not a one-time event.
Being close to Marilyn was cheaper back in 1992, when Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, paid $75,000 for the crypt next to hers. But more recently another crypt, this one a few spots over and above Marilyn’s, was offered for sale for $250,000. Some of us, though, would feel like a ghostly stalker if we paid so much just to have our corpse laid out a few feet from a famous dead celebrity.
7. Road Kill
We see their dead bodies along our roads and highways, and we feel bad for the animals that have been hit by cars and trucks. But have you ever thought about the value of the meat that could be salvaged from their carcasses? If so, you’re not the only one. In fact, Montana recently legalized the collection of road kill for personal consumption.
Some see it as the humane alternative for those who don’t want to have animals killed for food. Even the animal rights group PETA, which encourages people to become vegetarians, says it’s okay to eat road kill. But when a restaurant in Kentucky tried to serve road kill, they were shut down by local authorities. So can you legally sell dead animals collected on the side of road?
You can do it in Australia. The Road Kill Cafe in Darwin proudly says on their sign, “You Kill It, We Grill It,” and they offer their own roadside finds as well. Let’s hope cats and dogs are not included.
Not only can you sell maggots, but there are three distinct markets for them. The first two are those who use them as live fishing bait and agricultural pollinators. For the latter use, blue bottle fly maggots are the desired type. They’re put in mesh bags surrounding a plant’s flowering top, and as they develop into flies they then pollinate the flowers.
Some companies also sell maggots as a medical treatment. The maggots are placed in wounds and ulcers to eat away the dead flesh, preventing gangrene. They are sold as an FDA-regulated prescription medical device, typically in batches of 250 maggots or more. Buyers usually have to call for a price, but at least one medicinal maggot seller also sells leeches (for leech therapy) for $12 each, so perhaps there is some good money to be made from fly larva as well.
No, you can’t sell human brains. Well, at least you can’t sell them if you stole them. That’s what one young man discovered when he was recently arrested for selling brains on eBay. It isn’t clear who would be in the market for them anyhow (zombies?).
On the other hand, cow brains are regularly sold as food, even online. They fetch about $12.50 per pound. At one fancy restaurant in New York, diners wait for hours to get a table where they can serve themselves cow brains squeezed from a toothpaste tube. It is perhaps a risky dining habit given that the organism causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is found only in the brain and spinal cord of cows. BSE is otherwise known as mad cow disease!
10. The Moon
How do you sell land on the moon? Well, you could write a letter to the United Nations claiming the moon as yours and then start selling parcels. That’s what Dennis Hope did back in the early 1980s, and he has been selling lunar property ever since. Hope has sold more than 600 million acres on the moon so far, as well as land on Mercury, Mars, and Venus, which he has also claimed for himself.
Some experts say the deeds are meaningless, but buyers seem happy with their purchases. Hope even set up the Galactic Government, with himself as president, to protect lunar landowners’ rights. He threatened the Chinese government when they announced plans to build a moon base, because it might encroach on the lands owned by his customers.
One acre on the moon sells for $19.99 + $1.51 (Lunar Tax) + $10 shipping. (Click to tweet this!) Buyers get a deed, a site map, a lunar constitution, and a copy of the declaration of ownership that Hope filed with the United Nations. It all comes ready-to-frame on simulated parchment paper. Will your deed stand up to future legal challenges? Well, let’s just say that Dennis Hope has an appropriate last name.
Your Turn: What’s the weirdest thing you have sold or have seen sold?