Celebrity Sellout

Beginning Friday, you will be able to bid via the Internet on a humidor once owned by crooner Bing Crosby. But bring some serious cyberbucks to the table--this handmade wooden box has an estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000.

It's the latest in a series of auctions of high-value items--most of which belonged to now-dead celebrities--sponsored by cable television's History Channel, the bricks-and-mortar Butterfields auction house and EBay.

Here's how the "synergy," as media hype-meisters used to call it, works among the sponsors. During the last five minutes of the History Channel show "History's Lost and Found," which airs weeknights at 6:30 p.m., there is a description of the week's auction item supplied by Butterfields. The auction is conducted on EBay, which, incidentally, owns Butterfields.

The auctions in the series have been hit and miss. The highest price paid, by far, was for a pair of Levi's jeans--dated between 1880 and 1885 as authenticated by the Levi Strauss Museum--that went for $46,532, thus proving that the weathered look sells.

The second-highest price, $23,000, was paid for a barometer and compass set that once belonged to Teddy Roosevelt. Others included $17,100 for a document signed by Abraham Lincoln, $10,000 for a quill pen used by Charles Dickens, $7,400 for an EKG readout from Neil Armstrong while he was on the moon, $6,100 for a pair of funeral urns that stood at the head and foot of Abraham Lincoln's casket, $5,100 for a pair of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson tap shoes, $4,650 for locks owned by Harry Houdini and $1,425 for a pair of slippers owned by Frank Sinatra.

But many items didn't get bids as high as their reserves and thus didn't sell. Among them: hats worn by Bonnie and Clyde at the time they were shot, a reel-to-reel audio tape interview with Albert Einstein and a baseball glove signed by Babe Ruth.

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