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Current as of 19/09/14 07:40PM NZST

The $22,000 Umaga handbag farce

By David Fisher

The winning $22,750 bid for the country's most talked about handbag was placed by a Wanganui woman who bought it for a friend. Sue Langmaid says there is plenty of money to cover the bid. "It is legit. We're just waiting on a call from the owner of the handbag."

The auction turned into a bidding frenzy plagued by fakes, when the initial $22,800 winning bid turned out to be a bad joke from a Featherston teenager called Damien. "It was a mistake. Susie45 on Trade Me is buying the bag now," he texted the Herald on Sunday last night.

And when it came to Susie45 - or Ms Langmaid - there was only genuine intent. A statement from TradeMe last night said Susie45's bid of $22,750 had been confirmed as genuine.

Ms Langmaid said that was based on two conversations with the auction site last night when she assured them she was genuine. She confirmed she had only traded once on the website before - and that was to buy a DVD which claimed the Twin Towers were deliberately demolished and the September 11 attacks were a fraud.

The site was visited more than a million times in a hard-fought competition for the $30 Roxy bag.

It became New Zealand's most sought-after accessory after it was used in the Jolly Poacher bar in Christchurch by former All Black captain Tana Umaga to whack Hurricanes team mate Chris Masoe.

The seller of the handbag, Nicole Davies, who was heading out into the Christchurch night to celebrate her new found wealth, said she had no idea what to do with the money.

"At the moment I'm thinking it's pretty crazy. It's right up there. I thought I would get $600. I'm thinking it's an insane amount of money.

"I'll worry about it if it actually comes through. Right now I just want to relax. I've definitely been lucky and it's quite like winning Lotto."

It was a week ago that Ms Davies headed out for the evening - an evening which ended in the Jolly Poacher about 6am when Masoe was accidentally tripped up by one of her old school mates.

The openside flanker, whose team had just come off a loss to the Crusaders in the Super 14 final, responded by punching Ms Davies' friend.

Umaga then grabbed Masoe, dragged him to the bar and hit him around the head with the handbag, leaving Masoe in tears. Masoe was later fined $3000 for the incident.

The handbag with the cellphone inside - which broke in the incident - went up on TradeMe on Thursday and has since been the subject of a major bidding frenzy.

By the end of bidding yesterday more than one million people had logged on to check the progress of the auction. At one stage yesterday afternoon, almost 10,000 people were sitting in front of their computers, watching the screens and simply waiting for the next bid to come in.

Fake bids went out of control on Friday night, hitting the $100 million mark in what TradeMe founder Sam Morgan suggested to the Herald on Sunday was beer-inspired enthusiasm.

"We're moving progressively through the auction to find genuine bidders," said Mr Morgan. He classed it along with the sale of the lollipop sucked by Hollywood star Orlando Bloom and the last cigarette smoked in an New Zealand bar.

Mr Morgan was right - one of the rogue bidders, Meng Leong from Auckland, admitted his $1 million-plus bid was alcohol-inspired.

"We were all having a few drinks and thought it was funny."

The sale came after a fevered two-day auction, which saw the handbag and broken cellphone inside it spawn a mini-industry.

In one minute and 20 seconds, Akaroa artist and keen fisherman Ian Robertson knocked together an acrylic copy of the TradeMe handbag photograph. He sold it for $600. He had another acrylic impression of the actual handbagging for sale last night - it had reached $142 when the main auction closed. "I needed money for firewood," said the long-time New Zealand artist. He was hoping for enough to pay for a snapper-fishing trip in the Bay of Islands; Akaroa seas are too cold, he says.

Brent McCully, who owns the Jolly Poacher, is expecting a windfall of his own from media interest in his security camera footage of the incident, which shows Umaga at the bar whacking Masoe with the handbag.

Even Ira McCully, his wife, has included the words "Tana" and "handbag" with her art, which sells on TradeMe. "I also help my husband with our business, the Jolly Poacher yes, where Tana swung his handbag!" the auction teasers read. Lindsay Dixon, a self-employed man from Dunedin, bid $21,669 just after 5pm. "The handbag's not me - it's an investment."

Psychologist Sara Chatwin said the "weirdo factor", along with Tana Umaga's standing as national icon, were the driving factors behind people's desire to own the handbag. "Tana was, and still is, a national hero. He's an absolute gem, and all of a sudden he's gone from rugby captain to Dame Edna wannabe," Ms Chatwin said. "It's like the Hopoate thing, this will be a national joke for a long time."

Another bag you could buy for $22,000

When it comes to handbags, the sky is the limit.

The buyer of the Roxy handbag used by Tana Umaga to hit Chris Masoe over the head may have been better advised to have logged on to eBay, where they could have snapped up one of the most desirable bags in the world - the Hermes Birkin. For about NZ$22,000, eBay shoppers are being offered a never-been-used Chocolate Taurillon Clemence Birkin, a dream to hold with scratch-resistant, buttery-soft leather. Once so popular prospective buyers had to go on a waiting list for months before they could get their hands on one, the bag is named after Jane Birkin, the breathy-voiced tease who supplied the vocals to Serge Gainsbourg's 60s hit Je T'Aime ... Moi Non Plus. It even starred in an episode of Sex and the City when vixen Samantha tried to snag one.

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