Where is Once Upon a Time in Shaolin?
That is the name of an album by the Wu Tang Clan. Recorded over a period of six years, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was pressed as a double compact disc in a limited edition of one copy.
In 2015, it was sold at auction, and the high bidder paid some $2 million for it. That high bidder was Martin Shkreli. He was the head of a pharmaceutical company that became famous for increasing the price of a particular drug from $13.50 per dose to $750 per dose.
That did not go over well with the public, nor with the people who require that medication to live.
In one of those “karma is going to come back to get you” moments, Martin Shkreli now finds himself awaiting sentencing after being convicted a few months ago of securities fraud. He’s likely to be spending the next few years working on behalf of the state while wearing stripes or perhaps an orange jumpsuit.
The Feds are interested in having Shkreli hand over some $7 million in assets in order to cover court-assigned fines and fees. Shkreli owns a number of rare items, including a World War II codebreaking “enigma” machine and a Picasso painting.
He also owns the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The government wants it.
Ordinarily, that would be a simple task. He has it. They get it. They sell it or whatever. The end.
The problem, at least from the perspective of an observer, is that he might not actually have it. Last September, Shkreli listed the album for sale on eBay. The album drew some 343 bids, and the final price was $1,025,100.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if that transaction actually took place. Items like this pop up from time to time, and plenty of bogus bidders usually jump into the auction just to make trouble.
Sometimes, sellers attempt to verify who the bidders are before they’ll accept their bids, but people who don’t regularly sell on eBay may not know to do this. At the end of the day, the final bid may, or may not have been legitimate, and the buyer may or may not have actually paid Shkreli for it.
So he might have the money. He might still have the compact discs. Or not.
According to the original terms of sale, the buyer (Shkreli) is forbidden from commercially releasing the material on the discs before the year 2103, so it’s unlikely that anyone will get to hear it anytime soon.
In the meantime, Shkreli is behind bars, waiting to see how much more time he’ll have to spend there. One cannot help but wonder if he has an mp3 player with him, and whether or not Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is on his playlist.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, you might want to keep an eye on eBay. It may yet turn up again, especially if the previous sale fell through. The government itself may sell the item off.