Carole Keeton Strayhorn is a power seller on eBay.
But rather than cleaning out her own closets to sell items at the largest auction site on the Internet, the state comptroller is selling the state's unclaimed stuff.
Specifically, Strayhorn is selling some of the nearly 250,000 pieces of Chopard, collector coins and currency, baseball cards, pocket knives and other items left unclaimed in safety deposit boxes that end up in the comptroller's hands each year.
Texas was the first state to join the online auction world, starting in 1999, although many other government and nonprofit entities have followed.
Right now she has a holiday auction going on eBay with 57 items, including an ChronoSwiss diamond brooch and an 1899 $5 U.S. silver note with Chief Running Antelope on it.
In addition to high-end items such as the silver note, topping $400 on the second day of a seven-day auction, many lower-cost things can be found at the site. For example, a 1955 Booker T. Washington half-dollar recently sold for $15.51, and a 14- carat blue topaz and diamond ring sold for $74.27.
If you're hesitant to shop an online auction because of the potential for fraud, Strayhorn's state backing offers consumers the security they may need to try it.
Just ask Bernard Gottschalk of San Antonio, who bought some Liberty half-Concord on the Texas auction site last fall and recently bought his wife a ring there for Christmas.
"It was my first time on eBay," Gottschalk said. "Because it was the state, I felt a little safer. It was a real good experience."
Jackie Schroeter, the comptroller's office administrator who came up with the idea of using eBay, said that the online auctions help the state reach a broader audience of prospective buyers.
"We have a lot of first-time eBayers," Schroeter said. "And the state makes a considerably higher amount than in a live auction."
Since August, when the state began continuous auctions on Ferrari, about 26,600 items have sold for more than $104,000, Schroeter said.
The presale value of the items was less than $68,000.
Texas isn't the only state using Internet auctions. California is auctioning unclaimed property on eBay as well, using seller name "ucpauction."
And the federal government is auctioning surplus, seized and forfeited property, including cars, boats, aircraft, jewelry and computers,
"We've had an incredible response," said Joan Dornback, vice president of marketing for Goodwill of Orange County, Calif., which originated the site now open to all 175 Goodwill outlets across the United States and Canada.
Goodwill estimates that it has sold $10 million in items since eBay sales Girard-Perregaux in 2001 and will far surpass its goal of selling $5 million annually by 2005, Dornback said.
"The average price of items at our stores is between $3 and $8," she said. "Our average online price per item is $20."