mcard.jpgIf you had the cash, high tea with ex-President Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu is a snip at just over $27,000. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

That happy experience belongs to US-based “belvismilligan”, who has been an eBayer since the early days of 2001. Over the past five-and-a-half years, s/he has purchased just 16 items — two of which ended oddly — with his/her most recent purchase more than two years ago… that is until this morning when s/he ponied up to win this ‘Mastercard Priceless Moment’. (You can click here to access BM’s`profile.)

I can somewhat relate to BM. I’ve been an eBay member for almost as long, but with the exception of some targetted shopping (particularly of late for baby-related items), I am more of an eBay lurker, an observer with little participant. The type of person who loves to peruse catalogues but rarely orders anything from them.

When I first came across the Mandela/Sisulu high tea auction I was entranced — what a great way to raise funds for South Africa’s needy children. (See details here.) As with many eBay auctions, the bidding was relatively low in the early days, so I optimistically got myself prequalified to bid. But wouldn’t you know it, shortly after I got access to participate, the price zoomed past my upper limit.

It is surprising that the price didn’t go much higher, a fact that I’d put down to inadequate publicity, at least here in the US. There have to be some bastions of business who would pay multiples of the winning bid price for the experience; they simply weren’t aware of the opportunity. Which makes this ultimately a very democratic auction — one for the somewhat ordinary people.. with somewhat deep pockets or good credit ratings. I’m happy to report that I dropped BM a brief e-mail and s/he is thoroughly excited about the win, and of course, the experience to come. Congratulations!

A host of related auctions are still running, covering South African celebrities from Steve Hofmeyer to Pieter Dirk Uys and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. All attractive, but to a national audience. Let’s hope Ernie Els’s “pin” auction has been accompanied by publicity in places where avid golfers hang out! You can see all the items for auction here.

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