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The Ugly Aspect of Death & Collectibles

May 22, 2011

Back in early 2010, following the unexpected death of Gaines Adams of the Chicago Bears, I began writing an article that I had intended to post at an online trading card forum that I have previously submitted articles to, however I did not get around to doing so during the hectic time that was almost all of 2010 for me.

With last week’s sad news of the passing of Derek Boogaard at just 28 years of age, I immediately thought back to that article and decided that this blog was as good a place as any to revisit the topic I had planned to cover.

As any regular reader of this blog would know, part of what I write about here is dedicated to chronicling my journey towards making this hobby entirely self-sufficient from a financial perspective.  I work hard to generate enough sales of the cards I no longer want or need through my eBay store to try to fully fund a select group of projects that I focus my collecting attention on.

Some of that hard work involves taking advantage of situations that I come across.  They may include things such as horrifically inaccurate or poorly identified listings on eBay, clear situations of a seller/dealer not realizing what he/she has in hand at a bargain basement price, or coming across someone who is simply unloading their stuff for whatever they can get.

I make no apologies for taking full advantage of those types of situations.  I work very hard to give myself a chance to achieve my goals and part of that hard work involves tracking down and finding situations that can be of benefit to me.

One situation that I will never take advantage of, however, is to intentionally attempt to benefit financially from the death of an athlete in the time immediately following their passing, particularly with those who pass on at a young age.

Without fail, almost every time I hear of an athlete passing away I notice a spike in the number of items of that (now former) player that are available on eBay, along with a shortly lived spike in sales for items of that player.

This is particularly true of autographed items which are often made available at suddenly marked up prices, sometimes massively so.  Cards or memorabilia that a seller could not hope to give away just hours before are suddenly a hot commodity, at least their eyes.

With all due respect to Derek Boogaard as a person and as an athlete, there is nothing that he did in his playing career to justify this sort of price tag suddenly being applied to one of his cards.  I am guessing that past sales data (or lack thereof) for this card would only serve to support my point of view.

If the answer to why an item is priced the way it is solely boils down to the fact that the player has passed away, then to me there is a seriously wrong.  The seller is simply being greedy, using the athlete’s death as a means to make him/herself some money.

Some eBay sellers even go so far as to add “RIP” or “In Memory Of” to their listings’ titles, which I find exceptionally ludicrous.  There is no way you can convince me that an item of a (very) recently deceased person is being sold in their memory or to honour their life.  It is being sold to make a buck, so there really is no need to pretend otherwise.

Looking at it solely from a business perspective I can certainly understand the sellers’ rationale.  The supply of items has now (obviously) become limited to what already exists in the marketplace with no (or exceptionally few) new items making it into products.  It would stand to reason then, that with the supply of an item suddenly having become stagnant that the expected sale price could increase in turn.

From a humanitarian perspective, however, the application of the above noted rationale is always disheartening for me to see, especially given the speed with which some sellers look to capitalize on that new reality.

I have this mental image of an eBay seller seeing the news of an athlete’s passing on the latest sportscast or update and hurriedly rummaging through his boxes of cards to dig out an item and get it listed online as quickly as he possibly can.

What is most disappointing for me is coming to the realization that such attempted profiteering is often done in the name of just a few extra dollars, if any at all.

To me, the buyers of these items are equally as culpable in exhibiting the disappointing behavior that I speak of.  Items featuring players that they may have never intended to collect in the past now seem to become must-haves in their collection for no other reason than the fact that the player has died.  By purchasing these newly listed and marked up items they are only encouraging sellers to continue doing the same thing the next time an athlete’s life comes to an end.

Derek Boogaard is just the most recent example of this from the NHL.  I noticed the same thing happen when news of the passing of players such as Dan Snyder, Alexei Cherapanov, Tom Cavanagh, and Sergei Zholtok (to name but a few) became public.

By no means am I saying that you should never buy or sell items of deceased athletes.  For many collectors it is all but unavoidable at some point or another.

All I am saying is that I wish a greater level of respect would be shown for a life that has been lost than what I so often see taking place in this hobby.

I am striving for a financially self-sufficient hobby and in order to achieve that goal I need to make money off of my cards, but this is one way to make money that I will never resort to.

Until Wednesday, all the best in your collecting pursuits.


One Comment leave one →
  1. May 25, 2011 8:52 AM

    Your site has now been added to the Sports Card Blogroll.


    JayBee Anama

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