Prohibition comes to eBay

Online auction site to ban sales of wine, beer, hard liquor, cigars

Sept 15, 1999 - eBay, the Internet's biggest auction site with easily the largest variety of beer collectibles, has announced it will "disallow listings of certain alcohol and tobacco products on eBay, including wine, beer, hard liquor, cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products."


The ban goes into effect Oct. 13.

eBay said the various laws governing state-to-state selling of alcohol and tobacco are too complicated to ensure that people are buying and selling the items legally.

"It's the complexity of these laws, our inability to monitor these auctions, and the risks associated with permitting these types of sales that contribute to these conclusions," a posting on the eBay site said.

Several states have laws restricting or prohibiting online liquor sales.

Sales of collectibles associated with tobacco and alcohol, such as vintage packaging or decanters, will still be allowed provided that sellers follow several rules. These include that the packaging not be available at a retail outlet, that sellers ensure buyers are of legal age to purchase items, and that descriptions state that the contents (if there are any left) are not for consumption.

The action should not effect most items in auction in eBay's breweriana section, which often has more than 20,000 items listed at a time.

However, it will have a major impact on wine sellers and buyers. Bottles of wine are not permitted "because their value is based on the wine in the bottle, and not the bottle itself." Hundreds of bottles of wine are currently available at the site.

For instance, here's an auction that just closed on eBay:

"You are bidding on six bottles from venerable Dunn Vineyards -- all six from the outstanding 1995 vintage. Three bottles are the top flight 1995 Howell Mountain cabernet, rated 96 points by Parker. The other three bottles are Dunn's Napa Valley cab, with a Parker rating of 94 points. These are massive California cabs, with aging potential of 20-30 years or more. All bottles were purchased on release, direct from the vineyard, and stored in ideal conditions in my cellar. Bidders must be 21 years or older,." These six bottles sold for $405.

Just a few minutes later a single bottle of 1992 Colgin sold for $455 after attracting 18 bids.

Earlier this year, the company banned all sales of firearms.