[UPDATE April 19, 6:10 p.m.] A celebrity auction dedicated to Japan earthquake and tsunami relief had to be shut down after runaway bidding for a crystal piano drove the price to $20 million, an auction official said Tuesday.
"Before it went down, the highest bidder price was $20 million. Before this guy (bid), the price was around $1.2 million," wrote the auction website's spokesman, Atsu Wada, in an e-mail to NBC LA.
Wada said people to whom he has talked in Japan have questioned the authenticity of the $20 million bid.
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The crystal Kawai CR-40 piano belongs to Yoshiki, one of Japan's biggest heavy metal rock stars.The musician, who lives in Los Angeles, is auctioning his customized piano to help raise funds for Japan's earthquake and tsunami victims.
"His DNA is on it," said Chase Wang at BAM Marketing. "Basically it's a personal item of his that people would probably want to collect. There's no other piano out there that has the Yoshiki name on it."
Yahoo! Auctions, who is co-sponsoring the project, posted online Tuesday morning that "due to system overload, bidder confirmation procedure and other factors resulting from unexpected high traffic, 'Crystal Piano' charity auction currently underway has been temporarily put on hold."
"Organizers are being over cautious, as well they should be," said Yoshiki's publicist, Vivan Mayer.
The bidding was schedule to close April 24, at 6:02 a.m. Pacific time. Now, the end date will be pushed back.
"The auction will resume at a date to be announced," wrote Yahoo! Auctions. "The time remaining for this auction will carry over to the date the auction resumes."
Yoshiki, who is spearheading the Japan Relief Fundraising Auction with help from Yahoo Japan, is the first of many celebs donating items to the project.
The second parcel up for auction includes pants and a top worn by Britney Spears for a TV commercial when she first came to Japan in 1999.
By Tuesday, it had reached $4,875.68.
Online bidding for the piano opened Saturday. By mid-afternoon Monday, 634 bids have pushed the price to $1,209,701.22. Each bid is verified and bidders are kept anonymous, Wang said. The project is a part of Yoshiki's relief efforts through Yoshiki Foundation America, a California non-profit, public benefit corporation.
Most auction efforts for Japan relief have been "more grassroots," said Donna Callejon, chief business officer of GlobalGiving, a group that connects donors with worthy causes.
"We haven't seen a tremendous amount of what you might call 'celebrity auctioning.' This is probably the largest we've seen for the Japan relief," Callejon said. "It's up there with some of the most lucrative auctions that have taken place … It's amazing."
The robust bidding has been quite a surprise for Yoshiki's camp, and this is just the beginning, said Wang.
"As a charity event, this is the biggest amount that I know of," Wang said.
Other big names include Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Cher, Marilyn Manson, Anthony Kiedis and Stan Lee. A new item will be up for auction each week, according to Yahoo.
"This is going to be more of a long-term situation," Wang said. "We're going to continue doing other auction items."
[ORIGINAL STORY, Posted April 18, 3:17 p.m.]