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Casino owner plans to send stone from Sebring on a nationwide tour



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The rock will tour with a menagerie of oddities.

SEBRING -- The online casino that will pay $2,550 for a rock said to bear the image of Jesus hopes to send the palm-size stone on a nationwide tour.

The Sebring rock could share display space with a "haunted" walking cane and grilled cheese sandwich supposedly embedded with the image of Virgin Mary.

The stone is the latest oddity acquired by GoldenPalace.com, the Antigua, Canada-based outfit that won the rock in Thursday's eBay auction.

The company made headlines after paying a combined $93,000 for the grilled cheese last year and the walking cane this month. The cane, its seller said, embodies the spirit of a docile grandfather ghost.

Marketers from Cyber World Group, GoldenPalace's Canadian-based parent company, are studying the prospect of a traveling road show to exhibit the kooky oddities.

"Folks will have an opportunity to see the rock," said Jeff Brown, a marketing specialist for Cyber World Group. "It will be with other unique and diverse objects. It will be in good hands."

Steven Wolfe, of Sebring, found the rock more than two years ago in an 8-ton load of limestone in a neighbor's driveway. He believes the rock is an image of Jesus with a tear. The stone possesses supernatural powers, he says.

Deciding to sell the rock was not about money, he insisted, but instead a chance to pass on proof of a miracle.

Passing on proof

"When I looked at the rock the other night and looked into his eyes, he was looking at me like, 'What are you going to do with it? Are you out to make money?'" Wolfe said. "No. I thought this was a chance to get involved with spreading Jesus' name."

Wolfe was ecstatic when GoldenPalace began bidding with five minutes left, beating out the high bid of $365.

Noting the company's reputation for parading its oddities around the country, Wolfe and an auction agent urged GoldenPalace to bid.

Brown said he receives 50 to 100 e-mails a day from sellers, but the rock caught his eye.

"This was one item we looked at and said, 'That really looks interesting,'" Brown recalled. "We really like the rock and thought it went well with the other items we bought in the past. It's beautiful, and we appreciate it."

GoldenPalace's auction buys have made headlines, spreading the company's name at a time when online companies are scrambling for exposure in an increasingly competitive dot-com market.

"It's a new concept of marketing," Brown said.




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