Fans Won't Kill for O.J. Memorabilia

O.J. Simpson might have wanted his sports memorabilia back from where it sat in a Las Vegas hotel room, but few others are vying to scoop up goods associated with the NFL former running back.

Sports memorabilia is a multimillion-dollar business, but the demand for Simpson's items remains relatively small.

"I think the group is so tiny and small for him," said Jeffrey R. Rosenberg, president and CEO of Tristar Productions, who has been in the sports collectibles business since 1987. However, Rosenberg notes, "there is a niche for everything."

Sports goods sales generate big dollars. Over the weekend, Barry Bonds home run balls that tied and broke Hank Aaron's record 755 home runs sold at auction, fetching $186,750 and $752,467, respectively.

But that's modest compared to a Honus Wagner baseball card that sold for $2.8 million earlier this month or the $3 million paid in 1998 for the ball hit by Mark McGwire that broke the home run record for a single season. (McGwire has since come under suspicion of steroid abuse, and the ball's value is believed to have slipped to well below $1 million.)


So what about Simpson?

Rosenberg said Simpson never really did the memorabilia show circuit, which made his items rare, popular and worth some money. But after his murder trial, interest in his goods waned. Simpson then made a few efforts to sign items at shows. Rosenberg said he and others turned him down.

While Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in the 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, a civil jury in 1997 found him liable for the deaths and ordered the former football star to pay their families $33.5 million.

The few rare times that Simpson has tried to do signings, Goldman's family got court orders securing any money from the events. One such event was canceled. Another time Simpson said no money exchanged hands because the signing was handled through an out-of-state promoter.

A February 1999 court-ordered auction of Simpson memorabilia did bring in about $430,000 for the civil judgment. The biggest price tag was for Simpson's 1968 Heisman Trophy: $255,000. A pair of football jerseys, one with Simpson's autograph, only fetched $4,750. Most other items sold for just a few thousand dollars.

Rosenberg said those looking for Simpson memorabilia are in two groups. The first are trying to get every Heisman winner to sign a mini-trophy and need Simpson to complete that goal. Others are fascinated by the killings and his celebrity and want his items to be part of that, not because of any of his athletic achievements.

The Million-Dollar Baseball Card

Probably the most famous and one of the most valuable sports collectible items of all time is a rare mint-condition Honus Wagner baseball card.

Earlier this month, the card was sold again for $2.8 million -- a new record for a baseball card.

Wagner's card was among the first of hundreds of cards of Major League players produced by the American Tobacco Co. and included in packages of cigarettes. But quickly after its 1909 release, Wagner protested the card and it was pulled. Some attribute this to Wagner's opposition to cigarettes and others say it is because he wasn't paid enough for his likeness.

Roughly 50 to 60 Wagner cards are believed to exist today, but only one of the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop is in such good condition.

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