Theranos merchandise on eBay sparks bloodlust among Elizabeth Holmes fans

Demand for products emblazoned with ‘Theranos’ logo have soared with set of five pens selling for a eye-popping $150

Fans and followers of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes can now take home an expensive original piece of the company.

On eBay, more than a dozen allegedly authentic products from the now-defunct Silicon Valley firm are being sold – and much like the company itself, are listed at inflated prices.

A set of five Theranos branded pens recently sold for $150. A water bottle is currently listed for $1,500. For $11,000, you can purchase an “authentic” Theranos lab coat (notably “never worn”).

Many of these products are typical of Silicon Valley firms, which are known to hand out branded pens, shirts and water bottles at conferences. But the demand for those emblazoned with the “Theranos” logo have soared following the company’s spectacular downfall.

Holmes was convicted in January on four of 11 charges of fraud following a weeks-long trial chronicling her role in the blood testing firm.

The trial attracted massive attention, but months after the verdict was read, the hype has not waned. A Hulu television series has drawn major viewership, a movie is in the works, and the trial of Holmes co-conspirator Sunny Balwani is currently underway.

An ‘authentic’ Theranos lab coat for sale on eBay.
An ‘authentic’ Theranos lab coat for sale on eBay. Photograph: eBay

“We are seeing a ton of interest following the Holmes trial, and I don’t think it’s going to go away,” said Aron Solomon, a chief legal analyst for legal marketing firm Esquire Digital who has followed Theranos extensively.

The fascination with Holmes has created a micro-industry for new and vintage Theranos merch. And former employees are cashing in.

John, a seller behind one account listing Theranos products, worked at the company from 2012 to 2018 and was left with a handful of merchandise.

“I heard people were buying stuff online, so I listed some old clothes I had, kind of as a joke,” said John, who asked to be quoted by pseudonym due to privacy concerns. “But they sold for outrageous amounts of money.”

A Theranos emblazoned water bottle for $300 on eBay.
A Theranos emblazoned water bottle for $300 on eBay. Photograph: eBay

John worked in manufacturing and – like many at Theranos – was largely unaware of the issues being experienced with lab testing until it was too late. “We were pretty oblivious to what was going on,” he said.

He said he lost his job when the company collapsed. After months of trying to find new employment, he gave up and retired early. He has made more than $1,200 reselling his old Theranos gear, but said it is little consolation.

“I had stock options, so it would have been much better for me if the company had not been a lie and had actually produced something,” he said.

Solomon, the analyst, said the prices for Theranos gear is owed more to the enduring fascination with Holmes herself than with the former company .

An ‘unworn’ authentic Theranos jacket for sale.
An ‘unworn’ authentic Theranos jacket for sale. Photograph: eBay

“People were infinitely fascinated by her as a character,” he said. “It has become a cultural phenomenon, and that’s never going to change.”

Indeed, Holmes’s co-conspirator and former romantic partner Balwani is currently facing a jury in the same courtroom where Holmes stood trial. But the proceedings have garnered a substantially smaller following.

“This college dropout wearing a black turtleneck who managed to rip off Henry Kissinger – it’s become a cultural obsession,” Solomon said. “Nobody would ever collect Sunny Balwani merchandise.”

Contributor

Kari Paul

The GuardianTramp

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