Thinking of going to Sen. Barack Obama's inauguration at the country's 44th President? Be prepared to pay a king's ransom.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a pair of seats at Obama's upcoming presidential inauguration ceremony has already sold for $10,858 apiece, said one ticket broker Monday. It was the highest amount known to have been paid so far for a chance to witness the swearing-in ceremony, which will take place on Jan. 20, 2009. Even a view of the inaugural parade is selling for at least $495, according to broker Web sites.
The chance to witness the inauguration of the United States' first African-American president has made the technically-free-of-charge inauguration tickets one of the most hotly sought items of the season, according to the Tribune. The tickets are provided by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to incoming congressmen, who then dole them out to constituents who ask for them.
However, the crush of requests for tickets has already overwhelmed official channels, according to the paper, and people are starting to clamor for seats from ticket brokers, StubHub spokeswoman Vanessa Daniele told the paper.
"It was pretty incredible," Daniele said of the pace of requests - and sales - already. "We've had a decent amount of sales. Usually we have inventory all the time on our site, but the demand for this event is so high, we don't always have inventory -- we're being much more selective. We don't let just anybody throw up their tickets."
However, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, tickets to the 56th inaugural ceremonies will be distributed by Congress, and that no Web site or ticket outlet has any inaugural swearing-in tickets to sell, "regardless of what they may claim."
"Any website or ticket broker claiming that they have inaugural tickets is simply not telling the truth," Howard Gantman, staff director for the JCCIC, said in an online statement. "We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism."
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Tickets will be distributed to members of Congress the week before the inauguration and will require in-person pickup, according to the JCCIC.
Dozens of people stopped by the office of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), hoping to get a ticket to the inauguration.
"Even the non-supporters of Barack Obama will be present to celebrate this very special American moment," he said. "So, tickets are limited -- but no tickets should be for sale."
"It's not a black thing -- it's a historical thing, it's a people thing," said Linda Gaddis, who was one of those seeking a ticket. "We believe the change he talks about, we feel it."
While some Web sites are reportedly selling two tickets for the big day for nearly $20,000, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th), said those who wanted tickets shouldn't be fooled.
"There are 240,000 tickets, and they are in a secure location, and they will not be distributed until after January," she said. "Anyone who sees a Web site where they're saying they have tickets, it is not true."
Jackson said those who wanted to attend the inauguration should contact Republican congressmen as well as Democrats.
"There's a tendency for Republican members of Congress to not use all of their tickets, because their candidate didn’t win," Jackson said. "Please, call Republicans also and ask them for their tickets, because some of them end up with lots of tickets."
Schakowsky reported that though the tickets to the inaugural are free, there is no law against selling them. However, she added, it is not encouraged.