The price of speculation
You know who I'm feeling sorry for now? The poor sap who spent hours, if not days, camping out in front of a consumer-electronics superstore to buy a Sony (NYSE:SNE) PS3 as a ticket to a better life. He rushed home, discovered that eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) was pretty restrictive on the first batch of PS3 sales it allowed on its site, and then found prices plummeting as the holidays approached.

I was searching through the completed auction listings of the larger 60-gig model of the PS3 on Friday morning. These retail for $600, and when you factor in sales tax, the masses wound up paying as much as $650 for the next-generation consoles. That's pretty much what they're going for on eBay now. Sellers who are bundling the system with extra controllers and games are often having to sell the systems for less than retail.

Some may get a kick out of watching these lottery tickets go at face value, or in a couple of cases for less. That's the price of speculation. Oddly enough, the Wii, which has been far more plentiful at the retailer level this holiday shopping season, has held up better, with completed listings selling at more than a 50% premium to the machine's $250 retail price.

Some will argue that the PS3 came priced too dearly, even though the sweet Blu-ray playback functionality actually makes it a bargain at $500 or $600, especially when stand-alone Blu-ray players are selling for more than that. Some will argue that Sony blew it by providing few "must have" titles at the launch that aren't readily available on other platforms. There's some truth to that.

But what if this is a bigger statement on the feasibility of eBay to move big-ticket items? I know, eBay is huge in the automotive category. However, when it comes to casual listings, maybe there is a limit to how much someone is willing to pay for something without fully trusting the person at the other end of the transaction?

In other news
Even though the market usually takes a long nap as we head into the holidays (I dare not use a bearish term like "hibernation"), there were plenty of companies heating up as the weather cooled:

  • Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced a partnership with NASA. Who are we kidding here? We all know that Google's only doing this so that it can sell virtual billboards on the moon. Look hard at the American flag planted there decades ago, and you'll see "Ads by Gooooogle" in the corner.
  • Muggles everywhere are rejoicing now that J.K. Rowling has named her new book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the title, but let's not read too much into Rowling's names. One of her characters, offed in the fifth book, was a chap by the name of Sirius Black. I don't know about you, but it will be years before Sirius Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) closes out a quarter in the black.
  • (NASDAQ:AMZN) is gearing up to open a digital music store, apparently. Even though the leading online retailer is diving into a crowded field, it will be bringing a few things to the table, like variable pricing for singles, unrestrictive MP3 files (compared to the DRM-cuffed media files sold by most of its rivals), and a new music category called Bezos Bop. OK, I'm kidding about the Bezos Bop, but you've got to admit -- it has a nice ring to it.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look back. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does now own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.