ATLANTIC CITY — Two men who tried to sell on eBay a set of "T-R-U-M-P" letters removed from the defunct Trump Taj Mahal Casino are now taking a page from the ex-casino owner turned president of the United States. They're suing.
The men say they purchased the letters from the sign-removal company but were later accused of stealing them, leading eBay to cancel an auction that garnered a high bid of $7,500, the lawsuit says.
The men acted under a partnership they call "Recycling of Urban Materials for Profit" — or RUMP, a less-than-subtle nod to the less-than-ideal order of the letter-by-letter removal of the Trump brand from the shuttered Boardwalk casino last month.
RUMP says it arranged to purchase two sets of TRUMP letters for $250 from Eastern Sign Tech LLC. One set was listed on eBay with a $5,000 minimum bid and had reached $7,500 within days before being removed.
In a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the Recycling partnership says eBay removed the listing after Eastern Sign sought to buy back the letters and Taj Mahal security then claimed the letters were stolen.
"As a direct result of these new claims, eBay unilaterally canceled the auction, depriving plaintiff of what may have been in excess of $100,000 for a single set of letters," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit names Eastern Sign of Atlantic City and Trump Taj Mahal Associates as defendants and asks a judge to decide "who is the lawful owner of the iconic TRUMP signs currently located in Philadelphia which once graced the failed Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City."
The lawsuit says the two men, one a West Philadelphia resident, the other a former casino reporter with the Atlantic City Press, were driving by the Taj Mahal when they saw the letters lying on the ground.
"Recognizing the potential value," they approached the foreman and asked if they could purchase the letters. The Eastern Sign employee told them the letters were going to be disposed of.
Further, the employee told of "how the day before he was transporting a large 'TRUMP' sign on truck for disposal, which was greeted throughout his travels in the Atlantic City area by rude gestures and insults."
The worker then called his supervisor and said the letters could be sold for $250. The plaintiffs paid for the letters and began loading them into a truck. At that point, they were approached by a Taj Mahal security guard, the lawsuit states.
"The guard wished them well, expressing his personal opinion that they had gotten a bargain as the letters would be valuable some day, and sent the plaintiff partners on their way," the lawsuit states.
That security guard later contended that the letters were stolen and that he "sought to involve the local police."
Atlantic City police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Fair confirmed that police were investigating.
"Everything is under investigation right now," Fair said. "I'm not sure what the outcome of it's going to be. There's some layers to the investigation that we're working on."
The lawsuit lays out how Trump "jealously guarded his brand and successfully created a situation where his name alone or association with his name lends value to what might otherwise be an ordinary product."
"Because of how closely guarded the Trump brand is, it is unusual for an item such as this signage to come on the market," the lawsuit states. "The value is further increased by virtue of its association with one of Trump's more notorious business values."
The value of the sign is to both casino collectors as well as "the additional value lent to the item due to Trump having been elected president of the United States of America," making it valuable as presidential memorabilia.
The lawsuit puts the potential value of each set of signs at at least $100,000 at auction.
The lawsuit states that the Taj Mahal relinquished any interest in the signs by contracting for their disposal.
A person who answered the phone at Eastern Sign said "no comment" and hung up. Trump Taj Mahal Associates was not available for comment.
Reuben Kramer, the former reporter who said he and a friend purchased the signs, declined any public comment on the lawsuit.