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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sputnik Takes Off, Crashes in Online Auction

SAN FRANCISCO -- An online auction to sell a "genuine" model of the Sputnik satellite that launched the Space Age went sky-high before crashing when the bidding was determined to be a hoax, officials said late last week.

After trying unsuccessfully for months to sell what they said was an original backup of the Sputnik that blasted into orbit in 1957, retailer Sovietski Collection offered the shiny orb for sale on eBay Inc. Bidding started at $25,000 and soon resembled a shower of ever-bigger meteorites of money.

"When it went to $26,000, we were kind of excited, and then it shot up to $200,000 and we were really excited, and then it went up to $500,000 and we were kind of becoming a little more skeptical," said Rob Fess, an official at Sovietski Collection, a San Diego-based vendor of Soviet collectibles.

"Then it went to $2 million and then it went to $99 million, and we called eBay and asked them to remove it."

Space historians believe Moscow produced four backup Sputniks in 1957, although the number of museums and collectors believing they hold a true original Sputnik is far greater.

Prices have varied considerably.

A spokesman at eBay said the online auction house has experienced hoaxes for some well-publicized items before. Those making hoax bids will either be barred from the site or issued warnings, he said. Sovietski said it will continue to try to sell the Cold War souvenir.