Simpson items should hold value — for life

The eBay item is listed as 87871, not to be confused with a different collection of numbers that identified O.J. Simpson’s latest police mug shot.

You can purchase the autographed 8×10 photograph for $75 if you Buy It Now!, because the price is likely to escalate once Simpson Hits the Hole!, possibly for life.

There is also the added incentive of the photo being certified by PSA/DNA, which I am told means a forensics test has guaranteed its signature, probably at a rate of around 170 million to one.

Or about the same odds someone whose blood being found at a murder scene and on items such as his getaway car and glove and socks and driveway is not the killer. You know, those kind of odds.

Simpson and logic go together like UNLV football and Heisman Trophies, so it shouldn’t surprise us the value of his memorabilia hasn’t diminished much over time and will increase if his sentence from the Las Vegas robbery and kidnapping conviction make his chain ride to a permanent cell final.

That will be decided Dec. 5, when Simpson is scheduled to learn his fate for being found guilty on all counts in connection with the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers at Palace Station last year.

Think of a life sentence in the sports memorabilia business as you might that Post-Impressionist painter, only without a corpse and not as many zeroes. Van Gogh sold just one painting while alive, and it went for $351 back in the late 1800s. Today, you can pick up his "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" for a cool $137 million.

I wouldn’t waste my worst enemy’s paycheck on anything Simpson-related, mostly for the belief trophy cases are like scooters and Little Caesars pizza, reserved only for those 12-and-under. I have never understood the fascination with buying and displaying items for the simple reason they are connected to someone famous. Spend your money on something far more profitable, like betting the over on any game featuring the Rebels’ defense this season.

But the exercise of collecting cards and jerseys and mini helmets and the like signed by famous athletes has matured into a prosperous industry the last several decades. People either want to parade their pricey acquisitions at parties, genuinely have a level of adoration for the sporting figure or view the purchase as a long-term investment.

In the case of Simpson and a Hall of Fame career mixed with an infamous murder trial 13 years ago and now this conviction, time doesn’t appear to have soiled his worth to the level it has his image.

There are still those who will hand over $100 for his signed jersey, amazing when you consider the guy has written his name on everything but Pete Carroll’s forehead since being acquitted in 1995.

"For us, his stuff has pretty much retained its value," said Phil Sims of Play Ball, a local memorabilia shop. "We haven’t had to give it away when we’ve had some of it. If he gets a (life sentence), I would think his stuff would go up in price, because it’s not like he would be having any more (signing) shows.

"Back during his murder trial, some of his stuff was going for big money and sold like crazy, but that’s because a lot of people probably thought he was never getting out of jail.

"I still think most guys who buy it do so off his football career and for the level of player he was. They buy because he was so good on the field. Too bad he wasn’t better at life. Most of the time after they make the purchase, they say, ‘Just don’t tell my wife.’ "

Meaning, the memorabilia market is like anything. A negative perception of the athlete can influence the bottom line much like recalls can the sale of certain automobiles.

Other local shop owners Tuesday said their sense is that items carrying Simpson’s likeness and autograph have decreased in price, but that his appeal might never plummet like other jailed athletes.

Did you know some Michael Vick autographed cards once went for $1,200? Did you know you could get one today for $6.99?

The reason: People might grow disillusioned with purchasing an athlete’s items once a felony conviction becomes part of the deal, but such cynicism doesn’t run as deep for those who were great players over a long period of time.

So while those who think Simpson and Vick are just as despicable as the other, such judgment changes when memorabilia is involved. The guy with the better career will always hold up better in that world.

Maybe that will give Simpson some comfort when he can no longer stand outside and breathe fresh air and see a Starry Night for himself. Maybe all he’ll have is a print of one hanging on his cell wall.

He sure couldn’t afford the original.

Ed Graney can be reached at 702-383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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