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SPORTS COLLECTIBLES: Interest in Hernandez's gear could go up

by BABE WAXPAK Scripps Howard News Service on July 14, 2013 2:50 AM

The justice system says everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

The court of public opinion is another matter.

Aaron Hernandez has brought that dichotomy front and center.

Hernandez is charged with murder in the shooting death of a friend. While his case has just started its long and winding journey through the legal system, most aren’t waiting for that process to play out.

The New England Patriots dropped him like a hot potato. Then they allowed fans with Hernandez jerseys to trade them in for jerseys promoting any other Patriots player.

For collectors the question is what will happen to Aaron Hernandez autographs and memorabilia? While the tight end was far from an NFL star, being a Patriot did put him in the spotlight.

In theory, no matter what happens in court, Hernandez jerseys and possibly cards could still be produced. However, if convicted and imprisoned, he probably won’t be signing many autographs.

Does any of that matter? In today’s hobby world, there is usually no shortage of autographs.

Rookies sign cards for manufacturers by the hundreds, if not thousands.

For most skill-position players, such as Hernandez, the beat goes on with signed cards and autographed cards with snips of jerseys produced with each passing year.

“It does appear there is some added interest in his signed cards, but my guess is that it will be short-lived. He does have tons of signed stuff available,” said Dan Hitt, senior market analyst for www.beckett.com.

“I don’t think there was much of a market for Hernandez cards and memorabilia even before he was in the public eye for his latest trouble, so interestingly, I think initially his signatures would go up in value,” said Chris Nerat, cataloguer/consignment director for Heritage Auctions (www.ha.com).

“If there is some long, drawn-out trial, his items will most likely go up in value, mainly because everyone in America will know who he is — even if they aren’t football fans. Once the trial dies down and Hernandez either is or is not in jail, his stuff will go back down to what a minor star tight end’s items would typically sell for.”

Mike Heffner, president of www.Lelands.com auction house, didn’t mince words: “Just look at what happened to O.J. Simpson’s stuff. There was a huge spike in the market, and then a year later, it went flat and then plummeted. I hope that people have learned their lessons. O.J. is a Hall of Famer, and his stuff is next to impossible to sell. This guy is not even a Hall of Famer.”

As for cards, Hernandez “will not be in any new football trading card sets,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s sports marketing manager.

“He is currently not under contact with UD, and we are not looking to do a new deal with him, for obvious reasons.”

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