O.J. Simpson’s arrest for confronting a group of men who were in possession of sports memorabilia items allegedly stolen from his collection brought new attention to the level of interest in his autograph and other collectibles. While there are collectors who still covet items related to Simpson, the majority of dealers, retailers and show promoters don’t want to put up with the static they get from carrying his collectibles.
“I won’t stock his stuff myself. It’s just a personal thing, from his murder trial,” said Gil Lyne, owner of Kryptonite Kollectibles in Janesville, Wis. “People want to distance themselves from him … People would always be coming in the store and joke about his stuff and make comments about it, and I got tired of talking about the O.J. trial.
“I see his rookies (cards) now and then, but that’s about it. I think a lot of guys are like me and just made his stuff disappear.”
Memorabilia dealer Alan Rosen says dealing in O.J. material these days is simply not good business, and most hobby professionals know it. “His cards and memorabilia have virtually stopped selling completely,” Rosen said. “When you hear ‘O.J. Simpson,’ you think criminal, not football player. I haven’t sold one piece of O.J. material since (1994). People offer me autographed 8-by-10s, but I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do, to sell an autograph like that. The money you make is because they are notorious. I think it’s wrong to make money off that.”
The fact so few dealers carry his material might explain why some Simpson items have maintained some level of value. His 1970 Topps rookie books at about $80 in top condition. His game-used Bills jerseys have fetched between $1,500 and $3,300 in recent years, and signed off-the-rack jerseys go for $100 to $125. But Simpson’s public signings are rare, and show organizers won’t touch him.
T.J. Schwartz, owner of Porky’s Baseball Cards in Woodland Hills, Calif., said few people in his store ask for Simpson items. Because of Simpson’s storied football career, however, there will always be some demand regardless of how he’s viewed by society in general. “He was one of the best running backs ever and a Heisman Trophy winner. You can’t ever take that away from him,” Schwartz said. “Anybody putting together a USC collection, a Heisman piece or something on the best running backs of all-time has to include O.J.”