Note: I originally wrote this article for about.com, which has since ceased to exist. I recently came across it while going through my files. So I decided to repost it here.
In 2013, Maria Angeles Duran began selling plots of land on eBay. That, in itself, wasn't unusual. However, the land she was selling was located on the sun. She offered square-meter plots for the price of 1 euro each. By 2015, she had over 600 buyers, but then eBay pulled the plug on her, saying her auctions violated its "intangible goods" policy.
Further complicating Duran's business plan was the fact that she was in no way a pioneer of solar real estate sales. Long before she came along, numerous other people had already staked a claim to the sun. In fact, for over 75 years there's been a booming market in real estate located throughout the entire universe, with the result that by now every corner of the cosmos has been claimed by multiple would-be owners.
Hot Property: Maria Angeles Duran wants to sell you land on the sun
The First Owner
If priority in this matter means anything (and it probably doesn't) then the entire universe, except for the Earth, is owned by Arthur Dean Lindsay and his descendants, since Lindsay appears to be the first guy who had the idea of laying claim to outer space. In 1937, he filed a deed at the Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla, Georgia, declaring his ownership of "all of the property known as planets, islands-of-space or other matter." When he informed the press of this, he became widely known as the "man who owns the universe." However, these vast holdings didn't help his finances much. In 1937, it was reported that he was bankrupt.
Arthur Dean Lindsay — the man who owned the universe
Homesteading the Moon
In 1948, William Honhold and Robert Eaton of Sewickley, Pennsylvania got the idea of writing to the Bureau of Land Management to request "all rights and privileges to the moon" under the federal homestead act. Interior Secretary Krug actually took the time to respond, saying, "Sovereignty of the United States has never been established over the moon; consequently, land areas, if any, of that planet cannot at this time be regarded as subject to claims or applications under the federal public land laws." Honhold and Eaton planned an appeal to the United Nations.
Idaho Falls Post-Register - Apr 21, 1948
More in extended >>
Offered for sale at the height of the Farrah Fawcett mania in the late 1970s — an "authentic deed to a small piece of land that was Farrah Fawcett's early childhood home in Corpus Christi." Only $4.95 each!
The ad doesn't say, but the amount of land a purchaser received a deed to was exactly one square centimeter.
Texas Monthly - Jan 1978
The entrepreneur behind the scheme was Corpus Christi realtor Sam Allen who dreamed up the idea when he learned that a house Farrah had lived in as a child was up for sale.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Mar 5, 1978
So what was the address of the house? I'm not sure, because Farrah lived in four different houses in Corpus Christi, and Allen didn't reveal which house it was, saying that he didn't want treasure hunters damaging it. Two of those houses have sold in the past ten years.
I don't know enough about real estate law to know how, or if, his sale of all these micro-deeds would have affected if the house could ever be sold again. Could the house be sitting empty to this day because random people still own various square-centimeter pieces of it? I'm guessing not. Any claim to ownership must have lapsed if they didn't pay property taxes.
Farrah Fawcett in 8th grade
Other examples of Farrah-Mania we've posted about: Ferrous Faucets
and Farrah Fawcett Lookalike Contest Winners
Today, Chetlo Harbor
in Washington State looks pretty much like the picture below, taken from the site of the Chetlo Harbor Shellfish Company.
But in 1910, the location was going to be Napolean, the biggest port in the world!
Source for ad.
You can blow up the text to readable size there.
In July 2011, the Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld wrote a column in which he proposed that a mountain be built in the Netherlands. He meant the idea as a joke, but people liked it so much that a grassroots movement formed in support of the project.
Zonneveld's idea was for the mountain to be 1.2 miles high, and 3.1 miles wide. For which reason, it soon became apparent that a solid mountain wouldn't work. It would be massively expensive, and its weight might lead to earthquakes. But a hollow mountain, that was a definite maybe...
Unfortunately it seems like people have now lost interest in the mountain project. Its website has disappeared, but is still viewable via the Wayback Machine
More info: wikipedia
During a staff meeting, Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner offered a creative solution to the problem of homeowners bothered by airport noise. They should just sell their houses to deaf people. A few days later he offered a tearful apology, insisting that he had simply said it was "an interesting idea."
The reality, of course, is that they sell to people willing to live with noise in exchange for getting a cheap house. I know that 'cause it's the trade-off I accepted when I bought my house (road noise, not airport noise).
Detroit Free Press - Nov 5, 1994
Back in 1955, the marketing execs for Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat came up with an ingenious way to sell breakfast cereal. They bought 19.11 acres of land on the Yukon River in Canada. Then they divided up the land into 21 million square-inch plots and gave away deeds for these 1-inch plots inside the cereal boxes, which flew off the shelves.
Over at creators.com
, Malcolm Berko tells what happened next:
Nobody at Quaker Oats could have anticipated the mass idiocy of American consumers. One guy had over 10,000 deeds and wanted to convert them into one single piece of property that would be a little less than a quarter-acre. And Quaker received thousands of letters from consumers who wanted to mine their 1 square inch for gold. However, mineral rights were not included in the deeds, and if gold would have been discovered, it would not have accrued to the deed holders.
Quaker Oats never paid taxes on the Yukon land, so in 1965 the Canadian government reclaimed it. Which means that anyone who still has one of those land deeds no longer has any claim to the tiny plot of land. However, the deeds themselves have appreciated considerably in value as collector's items.
I've previously posted about a similar publicity stunt:
when MGM gave away, in 1947, 1-acre plots of New Mexico desert in order to promote the movie The Sea of Grass