Now that Burning Man has sold out of tickets for the first time in 25 years, devotees of the week-long cultural happening in the Nevada desert are having to contend with a new concept: scalpers.
"It's disgusting," Scott McKeown of Sebastopol said of tickets being sold in some cases for several hundred dollars above face-value.
Many people from the North Bay flock to the Black Rock Desert just north of Reno every year to participate in the event built around creative expression and self-reliance. This year's event is Aug. 29 through Sept. 5.
But organizers capped ticket sales this week at 50,000, which is the limit set by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under the festival's use permit.
The action has sparked impassioned debate on on-line sites devoted to Burning Man, with the most intense criticism aimed at people who are attempting to sell tickets for more than what they are worth.
Zack Darling of Santa Rosa, who until this year was Burning Man's North Bay coordinator, witnessed the price of two tickets being sold on eBay rise to $12,000 before finally going for $1,200.
He surmised that the bidders who dropped out of the bidding at the last minute were just trying to create buzz for the event. Still, at $600 each, the tickets sold for roughly twice face-value.
Darling said it was "inevitable" that scalping would one day become an issue for Burning Man given its popularity and the government-imposed limits on how many people can attend the event.
McKeown, the former executive director of the Harmony Festival, has attended Burning Man for 14 consecutive years. He said he's confident he can attend this year even though he doesn't have a ticket yet.
"I could probably get one from a friend," he said.
He said ticket-holders who can't go this year should sell them at face-value or give them away to people who've never been to the event. That would be the appropriate thing to do given Burning Man's communal ethos, he said.
Organizers are warning people not to head into the desert without a ticket because none will be available at the gate.