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Ebay's Run on the Luxury Market


Despite a tough summer, the online auction house has become a marketplace for the rich.

Even eBay (EBAY) itself might admit that the summer of 2009 has been a difficult one. Its sale of 65% of Skype for $1.9 billion was a disappointing end to what was supposed to be a major, if puzzling, acquisition. And the company's stock immediately took a hit on the heels of WalMart (WMT) announcing a new third-party retail site that could cut into eBay's market share. It all brought an unceremonious end to what was supposed to be a historic anniversary for an industry trailblazer.

Since being founded in 1995, eBay has become an undisputed monster in an online marketplace that has seen plenty of high-profile web brands come and go. That's not bad considering founder Pierre Omidyar built the site to assist his wife with her growing collection of Pez dispensers. But the real beginning of eBay as we know it began exactly a decade ago with the first few steps in what would become a sprawling global expansion.

Ten years ago this summer, eBay launched its British and German sites, which have since gone on to become among the company's most-active national sites. It went on to launch in dozens more countries and, between 2003 and 2005, the company launched important sites in China and India, making it the world's largest online marketplace.

With billions of transactions over the years and new sales taking place every minute, eBay used to be known as an online garage sale for fringe and unwanted items. But with the recent downturn in the luxury market, eBay has increasingly become a go-to marketplace for those willing to make serious investments online, filling a niche that rivals like Amazon (AMZN), and especially WalMart, haven't.

With listings for high-end cars, airplanes, antiquities, and jewelry, eBay has unexpectedly become the online home to some of the world's richest price tags. One auction is currently accepting bids for a $4.8 million water park in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The Texas-based seller claims he is open to trades and requests "only interested buyers please."

Demonstrating eBay's evolution from collectibles to convertibles, here is a slideshow of some of the priciest items ever sold on the site.

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