President Barack Obama holding the stock certificate presented to him by the Packers in August.

The only publicly-owned franchise in North American professional sports is offering stock for the first time this century.

Earlier today, the Green Bay Packers launched the sixth stock offering in franchise history. Just go here, and you’ll be a few mouse clicks and some credit card information away from owning a pro sports team.

Each share is worth $250 plus a $25 handling fee, and that’s money down the drain because the Packers have made no secret about the fact that shareholders won’t ever see profits or receive “any other economic benefits” from buying in.

That said, it’d make a great Christmas gift for a Packers fan. And considering that the team is 17-0 with a Super Bowl victory and another on the horizon in the calendar year 2011, this might be the perfect time to maximize sales in an attempt to finance planned renovations at Lambeau Field.

I briefly thought about buying a share, but then realized that I could spend the $275 on more reasonable purchases — like, for example, this antique elephant lamp or these ox-bone carved duck figures. You’d think that, with the economy down, fellow football fans would also be erring on the side of caution and avoiding temptation. But no, the team received 1,600 online orders in the first 11 minutes of the sale.

UPDATE: Our pals at Total Packers have successfully purchased a share, while another friend from the Toronto area says that you can only buy the stock with an American address. Too bad.