West Virginia for sale! (kinda)

An attempt to auction off the state of West Virginia drew 56 bids and nearly enough promised dollars to fill the state's projected budget hole before eBay learned of the joke.

By Tuesday evening, with five days to go in the sale of item number 2372779353, "Entire State of West Virginia," bidders had bumped the ante up to just $1 short of $100 million.

"As an eBay consumer myself ... that's a heck of a bargain!" joked Amy Shuler Goodwin, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Wise, who's projecting a $120 million deficit for fiscal 2005.

The seller, identified only as "fishstuffnthings," did not immediately respond to e-mails late Tuesday. Nor did "nosnam1488," who was the high bidder.

Within minutes, the auction was unplugged and the state was "no longer available."

"Obviously, this buyer doesn't have the goods to sell," said Chris Donlay, spokesman for the San Jose, California-based online auction company.

News source: CNN

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