The District of Columbia government, which long has struggled against an image of inefficiency, has begun cleaning out its closets with one of the most up-to-date instruments of modern electronic commerce.
Starting Tuesday, the city will for the second time auction off unclaimed properties on the eBay Web site. In so doing, the city is joining millions of computer-savvy people throughout the world who have streamed into cyberspace to buy and sell necessities and things they didn't even know they needed.
In its first sale, in late September, the city's office of finance and treasury sought bids on items accumulated from such places as bank safe deposit boxes for which no owner could be found. Among the goodies: a 1920s-era, 14-karat gold wristwatch, an 1876 silver dollar and a gold and silver brooch made in the early 1850s.
The watch fetched $185. The high bid on the dollar was $242.50. The brooch brought $300.
The next sale, which runs through Nov. 30, probably will include a similarly motley assortment.
"Basically jewelry," along with other collectibles, said Natalie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the city's office of the chief financial officer.
And what happens if an owner shows up too late to claim her treasured heirlooms? According to the finance office, owners of unclaimed property are entitled to the auction proceeds if they file a claim.
Anyone hesitant about doing business with the city, and in cyberspace no less, might be reassured by the reviews from purchasers at the earlier auction.
The comments they posted on eBay were the sort of thing that should cause skeptics about the city to hang their heads in shame.
"Great service, fast shipping," wrote one. "Ring better than promised. An excellent seller."
"Perfect in every way," said another, awarding the grade of "AAA+++++."
How often does any city get a grade of AAA+++++ in anything?
Another customer took this view of doing business with the District: "Quick, courteous e-mails. Speedy delivery. A pleasure!"