Use Caution When Buying Michael Jackson Memorabilia; Value of Items Could Only Be Sentimental

July 05, 2009

BBB Warns of Profiteers Selling Celebrity Memorabilia
Most Celebrity-Related Items Have Sentimental Value Only

RALEIGH, N.C. (July 1, 2009)—Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina ( warns consumers across the state of enterprising individuals seeking to capitalize on recent celebrity deaths by selling memorabilia at premium prices. These individuals seek to take advantage of the increasing demand by mass-producing commemorative items to sell to fans, such as t-shirts and special edition magazines.

In addition, the number of memorabilia items sold online through auction Web sites has increased drastically. Prior to the death of Michael Jackson, Smartmoney notes that an average of 200 to 400 memorabilia items were listed daily on eBay, but the following morning after his death, nearly 20,000 Michael Jackson-related items were posted for sale. Such items and memorabilia include autographs, gloves, posters and newspapers.

"These sellers are exploiting the consumers' emotions and the celebrities' recent deaths in order to make a profit," says Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina. "The price of memorabilia is inflated due to the recent events and is selling at a premium value, but over time the prices will likely drop and the value is not likely to increase.


BBB warns that most memorabilia and commemorative items being sold are only sentimental. The true value of collectibles is dependent on the rarity of the item, and mass-produced commemorative items are not likely to appreciate in value.

A similar case occurred following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. 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 have since lost their value and now can be found at garage sales for a dollar.

For fans seeking to purchase memorabilia or items to commemorate their favorite celebrities, BBB offers the following advice:

    • Get educated—collectors should research the value of celebrity-related items before they begin purchasing memorabilia, especially if they are interested in purchasing pieces that have the potential for substantial appreciation in value. 

    • Confirm authenticity—confirmation of memorabilia authenticity is rarely easy. Autographs can be verified by a third party. 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 cannot 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 at online stores, collectors should look for the BBB seal on Web sites and click on the seal to confirm its legitimacy. If there is not a BBB seal on the site, shoppers should always seek a review of the company through their BBB before making a purchase by visiting When purchasing items from an individual on eBay, shoppers should research the seller's track record by reading buyer reviews. When shopping on Craigslist, seek local sellers and items, and never wire money as payment.

    • Do not be fooled by empty advertising claims—just because the seller claims that the item is of limited edition, it does not mean that there are not millions of mass-produced copies made. If the item is being widely advertised, it is most likely too common to actually gain much value over the years.

For more BBB advice on safe shopping and BBB-approved businesses, visit