IOWA CITY, Iowa — Move over, Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese. Step aside, Fish Stick Jesus.
Online bidders, meet the Holy Cross Potato. Both of them.
Yes, the 2009 holiday season bestowed (at least) two miraculous spuds with crosses at their centers. Aside from the sizes of the spuds, the main difference is price.
The potato discovered first, by Dennis Bort of Brunswick, Ohio, on Christmas Day, was listed Tuesday on eBay with an asking bid of $1,000. The second, found by a couple in Marion, Iowa, on New Year's Eve, was on sale with bids starting at $2.
The listings don't say much about the conditions of the potatoes, though both definitely have been halved.
Bort said he and his wife had just returned from vacation and were "trying to scrounge together a Christmas dinner with what wasn't spoiled in our fridge."
He settled on, among other things, mashed potatoes.
"So I peel the potatoes and I'm getting ready to do it," Bort said, "and I see what you saw in the picture" — that is, two skinned potato halves with what appear to be crosses at their centers.
"I said, aw, holy crap, it's a cross," said Bort, a police detective.
Six days later and 500 miles to the west, Connie Gross of Marion, Iowa, skinned a potato with a similar image inside. She and her husband, Jim, covered it in foil and stuffed it in the fridge.
"Our first reaction was, we don't want to eat it," Jim Gross said.
Jim Gross, who works as a banker, brought it to his band meeting on Sunday. The Jimmy Buffett-style band hopes to play a show in Key West, Fla., in the fall and needs an equipment trailer.
His band mates were quick to suggest eBay. Maybe, they said, a collector would want it. It wouldn't be the first time.
In 2004, online casino Goldenpalace.com spent $28,000 for a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich with the likeness of the Virgin Mary. The next year, it shelled out $10,600 for a honey-mustard pretzel that some believe is shaped like the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.
A Canadian man contended in 2004 that he saw the face of Jesus on a burned fish stick, drawing "son of Cod" lines from cheeky British newspaper writers, though it was unclear if Fish Stick Jesus ever sold on eBay.
"Are you kidding me?" Gross said when told what some sellers made from their discoveries. "Well geez, that'd put some money down for a tour bus."
Bort said he picked his sale price randomly.
"I'm not a religious person at all, I'm not taking it as a sign of the apocalypse or anything like that," he said.
The two potatoes also were competing for bidders on eBay for the "Potato Chip with Holy Cross or 4 Leaf Clover," a chip with a hole in the center that appears to have four points, which had a listing price of $13.99.
"I've seen stories of Jesus in the cheese sandwich and all the other crap, but I don't really know numbers per se," Bort said. "I just slapped (the price) out there.
"There's always a Christmas credit card bill to pay with the holidays, so why not?"