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Holy Relics Under $30

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Remember the image of the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast that sold on eBay (EBAY) for $28,000? The resolution wasn’t great but according to it discoverer/seller, the bread never went moldy.

Yeah, well here’s something worse.

Apparently, an Israeli businessman has started selling pieces of the Wailing Wall on the auction site for just $24.99. Stones taken from the ground in front of the wall run for $4.99.

Actually, going back, briefly, to the Virgin Mary toast, when it sold to an online casino, the reasons given for the high price included the idea that it had special powers -- that is, special powers beyond the ability to turn something that cost less than $1 into $28,000 by burning it, basically. Among other things, its owner said the toast had helped her win a lot of money gambling.

This seems to be the strategy with the pieces of the Wailing Wall, much to the chagrin of those in charge. Worldcrunch quotes Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi in charge of the wall, saying that the auction implies “that they have some kind of merit or blessing, which isn’t the case.”

As if that weren’t clear enough, the rabbi goes on to tell a story about a man who put a piece of the Wall under his sick wife’s pillow hoping it would heal her. Then she died.

Beyond invoking a higher power, the rabbi also accused the seller of violating the Israeli Antiquities Act.

So far, these statements haven’t had much of an effect. Last week, nine pieces of the wall, each complete with its own decorative box, sold online.

Now, in a situation like this, it kind of feels like a good idea not to look too deep into the motivations of the buyers. However, it does seem like any positive effects the rocks have would be cancelled out by the religious establishment’s disapproval.

Also, they’re rocks bought over the Internet, they could be from anywhere.

Moving on to more traditional online fraud, last week, Visa (V) criticized Paypal’s new online payment system as potentially leaving customers vulnerable. Paypal, which is owned by Ebay, is testing an online pay system along the same lines as those in the works by Google (GOOG), Verizon Wireless (VZ) and Visa.   
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.