An early engineering sample of Intel's upcoming Core i9 chip has been spotted on eBay, way ahead of the processors' scheduled 2010 release date.

The Gulftown chip, which recently impressed in early benchmark tests by PC World magazine is expected to launch in the first quarter of next year, so it came as a surprise when one recently showed up on auction site eBay. The auction listing (since removed) detailed the processor as the '"Intel 6-Core Xeon Westmere Gulftown 2.4GHz LGA1366 ES', and promised that the chip was tested and in working order.

Intel Core i9

The auction drew to a close with the Taiwanese seller making an impressive $1,200 profit. However, the seller foolishly failed to hide the identification marks upon the chip, making it easier for Intel to identify the source.

Tom's Hardware speculates further on the origin of the chip, theorising that the engineering sample could of leaked from one of Intel's various chipset partners.