One Market Where Lehman's, Merrill's Value Is Up

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By Jordan Weissmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's fast becoming a Wall Street tradition: First comes the demise of a major financial institution, then comes eBay.

Hundreds of pieces of Lehman Brothers merchandise have gone up for auction since the 158-year-old investment bank filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. Disgruntled employees, as well as a few quick-thinking entrepreneurs, posted coffee mugs, T-shirts, duffel bags, pens, stuffed animals, along with other assorted memorabilia.

By late afternoon Tuesday, men's large T-shirts were selling for as much $73. Bids for a tie decorated in hundreds of tiny Lehman logos reached $102, more than doubling the initial asking price of $49.99. A plethora of Lehman-related domain names, including LehmanCasualty.com and LehmanPlunge.com, had gone without buyers.

Bids for a piece of toast with Lehman's and Bear Stearns's initials scratched onto either side climbed to $6.50.

And sales staff from CheapHumidors.com said that at about $66, bids for a humidor engraved with Lehman's name were $30 higher than the item's retail value.

A smaller, but still thriving, market for Merrill Lynch souvenirs has also sprung up. The brokerage agreed Monday to sell itself to Bank of America to avoid insolvency.

Overall, though, it appeared that Lehman gear was fetching a higher premium. By late afternoon yesterday, bids for some Lehman baseball caps surged past $65. Merrill caps topped out at $26.

A few Lehman employees used their ad space to vent their frustrations.

"I worked here for half of my career. Bought most of my stock at a weighted average price of $45," began one post, the text appearing in Lehman green and white, for a duffle bag. "I guess all you employed people could use this bag to carry important documents and do complex mortgage calculations on the notepad. The only important-ish docs I have now are my Lehman Stock Certificates which I plan on using to warm my apartment this winter when I can't afford the heating bill."

Others were more light-hearted, if still biting.

"Please bid to help me raise plan B financing for my rent check next month AND receive this lovely soon-to-be vintage tee," read one post for a white Fruit of the Loom T-shirt with a green Lehman logo.

The Lehman employees appeared to be taking their cues from their counterparts at Bear Stearns, who rushed onto eBay back in March after their firm was bought out by J.P. Morgan. Bear Stearns merchandise was enjoying a modest revival of interest, presumably because of this week's Wall Street turmoil. A men's large Bear Stearn's T-shirt was selling for $15.99.

Perhaps the single most successful item of the day was a stock certificate issued to Lehman for shares of White Star. After three hours and 28 bids it was commanding more than $300. White Star, of course, owned the Titanic.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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