Iconic items soar in value after death

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BOSTON --- Deb Elliott is saddened by Michael Jackson's sudden death, but she's also a little wealthier.

The response was underwhelming earlier this month when the Volant, Pa., resident tried to auction a pair of 1980s Jackson dolls for a starting price of $9.95 apiece on eBay Inc.

"I would have been happy if they sold for $20," said Ms. Elliott, a 55-year-old homemaker.

But within minutes of Mr. Jackson's death Thursday, eBay bids started coming in. A doll depicting Mr. Jackson at the American Music Awards fetched $265. A Grammy Awards Mr. Jackson doll got 36 bids and sold for $227.50 on Friday.

"This was definitely a cause for mixed emotions," Ms. Elliott said. "I finally got rid of the dolls, but now Michael is gone, too."

The singer's death triggered a surge in Mr. Jackson collectibles market Friday, including newly minted items such as T-shirts hawked online with "R.I.P." and "June 25, 2009" alongside his image.

In addition to surging volume, eBay reported the average selling price for Mr. Jackson items jumped 31 percent Thursday from daily averages last week. Among the items up for sale were a signed fedora hat, offered at $9,795.

Mr. Jackson's problems and death might help the marketing of some, but not all of his memorabilia.

"Notoriety might be great for say, the autograph market," said Martin Brochstein, senior vice president at the New York-based Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association. "He's not signing any more, to put it bluntly.

"But in terms of licensed merchandise bearing his likeness, the notoriety is not necessarily such a good thing."

There's also a market for Mr. Jackson's personal belongings. Arlan Ettinger, the president of Guernsey's, a New York-based auction house, helped conduct a Las Vegas auction where more than 1,200 Jackson items were sold in 2007, grossing about $1 million. On Friday, he spoke a bit wistfully about that event's timing.

"Things would have been different had they come to auction now," Mr. Ettinger said. The items "got infinitely more valuable just a short while ago."

"The world," Mr. Ettinger said, "clearly is sort of willing to forget all of what has happened before of a less-than-thrilling nature, and really honored the memory of Michael Jackson, which is as it should be."

LAURA RAUCH/ASSOCIATED PRESS


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