Visitors chat next to the Ebay logo at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover in this March 2, 2011 file picture. Credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ | REUTERS

Twenty years ago, Pierre Omidyar created AuctionWeb and listed his first item for sale — a broken laser pointer valued at $1. Intended as a test item for the site, the laser pointer eventually sold for $14.83 even though the item was clearly listed as being broken. Thus was born eBay, AuctionWeb’s new name as of September 1997.

Within four years, eBay had become an established online retailer with a valuation greater than well-known brick and mortar retailers such as Sears and JC Penney. Today it is a giant of e-commerce, with 157 million active users, approximately 25 million sellers, and 800 million listings. Here are a few eBay facts and figures to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Name — Omidyar wanted to use the name Echo Bay, but the name was already taken. It was shortened to eBay as a result.

Growth of users — In the second quarter of 2010, eBay had 91.8 million active users. The 157 million users as of the second quarter of 2015 represent over 70 percent growth.

Revenue — According to Statista, eBay’s annual net revenue was $17.9 billion worldwide at the end of 2014, over 11 percent growth in revenue from 2013. Just under $8.5 billion of that revenue was within the US.

Profit margin — eBay’s quarterly profit margin since 2003 generally averages between 15 percent and 25 percent, with only one negative data point during that time (March 2014).

Visitors per month — From April 2011 to July of 2015, eBay averaged around 75 million unique US visitors per month with a peak of 89.02 million visitors (July 2013). For retail websites, as of March 2015, eBay ranked second worldwide among US retailers with 122 million total unique visitors per month, behind Amazon’s 175 million visitors. Wal-Mart is a distant third with 82 million visitors.

Transaction type — Although eBay is still known as an auction site, approximately 70 percent of purchases as of this writing are outside of auctions using “New/Buy It Now.” People seem to prefer convenience to the thrill of auctions.

Top sellers — According to, who is the world’s top eBay seller based on feedback volume? It’s the user name estocks, selling in the Music category. China and Hong Kong have 291 sellers in the top 1,000, with the US second at 180. See the full list here.

Most expensive item — It’s not even close. The most expensive item to be sold on eBay was a 405-foot yacht sold by 4Yacht, allegedly purchased by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2006. No ordinary yacht, this vessel reportedly includes a helicopter pad and a movie theater. The auction technically ended at $85 million, but the total price of the yacht was a reported $168 million with $85 million as the down payment.

Strange items — We could fill a hundred articles with strange eBay items, but here are a few. bought two of the strangest bids of all time: a Dorito shaped like the pope’s hat for $1,209 in 2005, and a grilled cheese sandwich with the alleged portrait of the Virgin Mary on the surface for $28,000 in 2004. Ad space on someone’s forehead (a temporary tattoo) went for $37,375 in 2005. In 2013, a hand-made suit of armor for a guinea pig sold for $1,150. Seen anything weirder for sale?

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of eBay by going online and making a purchase. Whether it is a yacht, a sacred grilled cheese sandwich, or something in-between, there is bound to be something online that you can use and afford — 157 million active users can’t be wrong.

Related stories: is a website that answers people’s money-related questions, publishes guides explaining products and services available in the marketplace, provides calculators to help people plan and budget, and produces related content.