05/20/2004 11:00PM

Attention, Smarty shoppers

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NEW YORK - Surf on over to www.ebay.com, and you will quickly come to two conclusions: It's a Smarty Jones world, and we have become a nation of trash-picking scavengers.

With 15 days until post time for the Belmont Stakes (top bid - $4,050 for two "preferred" grandstand seats,) eBay was listing 1,278 individual auctions of Smarty Jones memorabilia and assorted detritus. Who buys this kind of junk? Guilty, your honor. If you have ever wondered what sort of an idiot would pay, for example, $12 for a 1956 ceramic ashtray cast from Nashua's left front foot, look no further.

But $12 won't get you much in the Smarty Jones market. Topping the list of auctions as of Friday afternoon was a $5 future-book ticket on Smarty Jones from back when you could get 75-1 on him at the Paris Hotel and Casino. The ticket is worth $375 if you take it to Las Vegas and cash it, but eight bids have already driven up the price to $500. The seller points out that, unlike tickets sold at Churchill Downs, this one has Smarty's name on it, as well as the odds.

"The chances of you seeing an item like this again on eBay are the same as you seeing Smarty Jones at 75-1 again," notes the entrepreneurial seller. The leading bidder, incidentally, goes by the screen name "holy bull!!".

Next on the list of high prices was an original oil painting of Smarty Jones by a Georgia artist with the minimalist name "dan," but don't think that the current $355 high bid will put this five-foot wonder over your sofa. There's a reserve that hasn't been met yet, but if you simply have to own it today, there's a "Buy it Now" price of $2,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, a "bottom-opened" and presumably empty can of Coors Light, lacking Smarty's name but containing the words "2004 Kentucky Derby" was going for a mere 99 cents.

The majority of the 1,278 offerings include uncashed tote tickets from Churchill Downs and Pimlico, at anywhere from 150 percent to 10,000 percent of face value, depending on condition, framing, and extras, such as a mint-condition program or a julep glass thrown in. Such keepsakes used to be a lot more attractive, as illustrated by a poignant listing for an auction headlined "The Original Smarty Jones": It's a framed trio of uncashed 1977 tote tickets on Seattle Slew from the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont.

Unlike the ugly, smudgy white strips of chemicals that pass for tote tickets today, these are the lovely, pastel-hued cardboard ducats of a bygone racetrack era, with the full name of the race and the exotic five-hieroglyphic code of authenticity designed to thwart enterprising parking-lot counterfeiters. At least the money the tote companies used to spend on festive tickets has been well diverted to the airtight security systems we know and trust today.

How do Smarty's 1,278 listings compare with the Triple Crown aspirants of recent years? There are 90 Funny Cide auctions, topped by a $287.82 bid for The Palms Casino's special $200 Funny Cide casino chip. There are 22 War Emblem auctions, but most are for items such as "Civil War Indian scout emblem" rather than the 2002 Derby-Preakness winner. Only 11 of the 35 auctions yielded by a search for Charismatic pertain to the horse; the others are for must-have items, such as a $21 "Charismatic portrait of Ronald Reagan." A $102.50 Real Quiet stallion halter (proceeds going to a horse-rescue charity) is the hottest among 12 Real Quiet auctions.

Too many people wear dangly bracelets to parse out Silver Charm from the silver charms, and the list dwindles to eight items, none for more than $9.99, when we go back to Sunday Silence. There are 15 Alyshebas and just three items, all Derby programs, for Pleasant Colony. It's somehow reassuring that there are 10 times as many Spectacular Bid auctions, a $500 print signed by Bill Shoemaker leading the pack of 30.

It keeps getting better with age. For the old-school horses from back in the day, when Triple Crowns were actually won, there are 109 Affirmed auctions, 129 Seattle Slew auctions, and 271 Secretariat auctions. There's a little something for each of the eight previous winners, including a bargain $31 for an original 1920 "Official Saratoga programme" with the result of the Sir Barton's showdown with Exterminator.

That's 75 cents less than the top bid for a Count Fleet item, which isn't even an antique: For just $31.75, you can own a $1.50 Aqueduct program from Jan. 3, 2004, the day that the featured Count Fleet Stakes on the inner track was won by - who else? - Smarty Jones.