Immediately following the announcement of Michael Jackson's sudden death, enterprising individuals began selling memorabilia online to take advantage of the increased demand. Better Business Bureau warns that the value of most memorabilia and commemorative items being sold is sentimental and the currently inflated prices for many items will drop over time.
According to Smartmoney, before Jackson's death, sellers listed an average 200 to 400 memorabilia items daily on eBay, but by the morning following his death almost 20,000 Michael Jackson-related items and memorabilia were for sale on the auction Web site. Items included autographs, gloves, posters, newspapers and even a Cheeto which supposedly predicted the death of the pop star.
In addition to memorabilia, commemorative items are already being mass produced and sold to fans—including t-shirts and special edition newspapers and magazines. Because the value of collectibles is largely dependent on how rare an item is, mass-produced commemorative items are not likely to appreciate in value.
"Collectibles associated with Michael Jackson are selling at a premium right now and most of these items will not increase in value in the future," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "Following the death of Princess Diana, the market was flooded with mass-produced items commemorating her death including special edition Beanie Babies that at one time sold for more than $100 but are now on garage sale tables for a buck."
For fans looking to purchase items to help them remember the King of Pop, BBB offers the following advice:
Collectors should research the value of Michael Jackson-related items before they begin purchasing memorabilia, especially if they are interested in purchasing pieces that have the potential for substantial appreciation in value.
Confirming the authenticity of memorabilia is rarely easy. Autographs can be verified by a third party, but for other items, the collector should feel free to ask the seller questions about the item, including how the seller came to own it. If the seller can't answer simple questions, then the collector should walk away.
Make purchases with a credit card.
Consumers should always purchase items with a credit card if they are shopping online. If the seller turns out to be fraudulent, then the consumer can dispute the charge with the credit card company and may be eligible for reimbursement.
Purchase items from a reputable seller.
When shopping online stores, collectors should look for the BBB seal on Web sites and click on the seal to confirm its legitimacy. If there isn't a BBB seal on the site, shoppers should always check a company out with their BBB before they buy at www.bbb.org.
When purchasing items from an individual on eBay, research the seller's track record by reading buyer reviews. When shopping on Craigslist, go local and never wire money as payment.
Don't be fooled by empty advertising claims.
Just because the seller claims that the item is of limited edition, it doesn't mean that there weren't millions made. If the item is being widely advertised, chances are, it's too common to actually gain much value over the years.
The Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by Better Business Bureau Accredited Businesses. For more information about the services and products provided by your local BBB, call 907-562-0704 in Alaska, or visit www.bbb.org.