A pebble bearing the apparent image of the Virgin Mary is back on the market after a $50,000 buy-now bid on TradeMe this morning was exposed as a fraud.
Blog: See the Madonna on a piece of toast
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Christchurch woman Lisa-Marie Corlet listed a 1cm-wide pebble with a picture resembling the Virgin Mary on it on Trade Me this week with a buy now price of $50,000.
This morning, after The Press ran a story about the pebble, someone with a New Zealand email address bought it.
The stone is now back on the market for $70,000 after the bid was exposed as a fraud.
A TradeMe spokesman said they had concerns about whether the bid was bona fide because the buyer had not traded on the internet auction site before.
There have already been five bids on the renewed auction with the top bid reaching $10,000.
Since running the story this morning Stuff put out a call for readers to contribute their own examples of religious iconography appearing in random objects, and to offer alternative interpretations of the image in the pebble.
Contributions include a stunning image of the Virgin Mary in a fence post and the face of Jesus in an apple core.
Alternative faces readers have seen in the stone include television journalist Mark Sainsbury, Paddington Bear and Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
Corlet found the pebble at Kaikoura's South Beach last year and decided to sell it after she ran out of money.
Several years ago an American woman paid $US28,000 for a 10-year- old cheese toasted sand wich with an image of Mary pressed into its crusty top.
Corlet hopes the 1cm-wide pebble found at Kaikoura's South Beach last year will be worth far more than its weight in gold.
She has advertised her beach find on auction website Trade Me for $50,000. By yesterday, there were no bids.
However, Corlet remained encouraged by previous sales of Virgin Mary images, such as the American woman who paid $US28,000 for a 10-year-old cheese toasted sandwich with an image of Mary pressed into its crusty top.
The United States has been the site of many recent "sightings" of the Holy Mother, with Americans claiming to have seen her image in places such as a garage door and a lemon slice in a bar.
The Catholic Church's New Zealand spokeswoman, Lindsay Freer, said the church was "cautious" about responding to claims of holy images of the Virgin Mary, as many turned out to be fakes.
Corlet said she found the pebble at South Beach last year on her first rock-foraging expedition.
On getting home and examining her finds, Corlet said she noticed one had a distinctive pattern on it.
Friends told her it could be worth a lot of money, but Corlet said she wanted to keep the pebble as her own good-luck charm.
"I got it and I started having an awesome run of luck," she said.
Unfortunately, Corlet's luck recently ran out and so she decided to list her treasure on Trade Me and see what it would fetch.
"I won't take less than $50,000 for it," she said.
"If someone is willing to pay $28,000 for a piece of toast, I'm sure someone out there would pay at least that for rock."
Corlet told The Press she had been asked to "authenticate" the stone by some interested parties.
"I'm not sure how I'd do that, but I guess a geologist could tell them I didn't put the picture on it."
Freer said the church would never declare something a religious image or icon without thorough investigation. "The church's approach (about purported images of the Holy Mother) is always very cautious because no-one has ever seen Mary, so how would they know what she looks like?" she said.
Freer said there had been a case a few years ago in Auckland where people claimed to have a picture of Jesus that bled for no apparent reason. The picture was tested scientifically and found to be a "fake" because it was man-made, Freer said.
The church's criterion for holy imagery was that it had no explainable natural cause, she said.
In the case of the pebble from Kaikoura, the church would be sceptical about any of Corlet's claims because she was trying to sell it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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