Burning Man tickets sell out for the first time

These have suddenly become a hot commodity.

For the first time in the event's 25-year history, tickets to Burning Man have sold out. With more than a month left to go before the gates to Black Rock City open at midnight on Aug. 28, burners have already started a mad scramble for spare tickets through various message boards and online networks.

Shortly after tickets started selling at the fastest pace ever on Jan. 20, officials with Black Rock City LLC, the SF-based company that staged Burning Man in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, privately warned that they may sell out this year. The event, which last year peaked at almost 52,000 attendees, is limited by its permits with the US Bureau of Land Management and BRC's own desire to control its ever-growing size.

A couple months ago, the company announced that tickets would not be available at the gate (which had happened only once before, in 2008) and urged burners to get their tickets because it could sell out. Then, over the weekend, that's what happened. "This is new territory," BRC board member Marian Goodell told the Guardian, noting that its BLM permit (which is up for renegotiation after this year's event) calls for capping the population at last year's level. "If we didn't have the BLM permit restrictions, we could manage an increased population."

BRC, nicknamed the Borg, had privately been trying to dampen public speculation that the event would sell out, worried that scalpers would make a run on tickets. It's illegal in California to sell tickets for more than their face value, and it has traditionally been a strong part of the burner ethos not to profit off reselling of the tiered-pricing tickets (which ranged from $210-360 this year). But that will be tested this year by the laws of supply and demand. There have also been counterfeit ticket scams exposed recently, and that will be an even greater concern now that legitimate ticket outlets are no longer an option, although the Burning Man website lists ways to check whether a ticket is legitimate.

Meanwhile, BRC has been settling into its new headquarters in Mid-Market Street area, and it has recently announced an Aug. 5 launch date for The Burning Man Project, the new nonprofit organization that will slowly began taking over control of the event over the next several years, with a kickoff party in United Nations Plaza starting at 5 pm.

For more on Burning Man during this important transitional year, look for the Guardian's special Playa Prep issue hitting the streets on Aug. 3; grab a copy of my new book, The Tribes of Burning Man; or attend one of my upcoming book-related events. And, if you can manage to get a ticket, I'll see you on the playa.