O.J. Simpson could be granted parole today Thursday 7/20/17 after serving nine years at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada for armed robbery and kidnapping. O.J. was charged following an incident on Sept. 13, 2007 in which he stormed into a Las Vegas hotel room with a group of men and made off with a hoard of sports memorabilia.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer said his goal was to retrieve his own personal items, which he believed to be stolen, from collectable dealers at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino. O.J. was the precursor to modern-day stardom, capturing the Heisman Trophy at USC before emerging as the best running back of the 1970s, earning five consecutive All-Pro selections (1972-76) and winning NFL MVP in 1973. Simpson also seamlessly transitioned into the film industry as a part-time actor, appearing in multiple instalments of "The Naked Gun" franchise. At the peak of his popularity, Simpson memorabilia fetched exorbitant fees.
Prior to his 1995 double murder case, where he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, Simpson's game-worn jerseys could reportedly be sold for five figures. But like his damaged image, Simpson-related sports collectibles have depreciated significantly over the years.
However, there remains at least a small market for signatures and souvenirs of "The Juice," whose NFL career ended in 1979. "It's slightly been up a little, just because he's not out there signing stuff," said Mark Hansen, internet retail manager at Legacy Sports Cards in Las Vegas. "When you look at signed photos of him, most of the time, you're looking at $75 to $80." Hansen said most collectors are interested in signed helmets and photos stemming from Simpson's tenure with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. "We've had a couple signed pieces over the last four, five years and they sold," Hansen noted. A prolific running back may not be the first thing that comes to mind when Simpson's name is mentioned today, but some collectors value his items on par with fellow Hall of Fame talents such as Jim Kelly and Jerry Rice, Hansen said. Although others aren't finding the Simpson market as robust.
In many ways, according to Jeremy Brown of Ultimate Sports Cards and Memorabilia in Las Vegas, Simpson is not unlike some other exiled stars of yesteryear - a popular talking point, but not someone whose autograph people are willing to pony up for. "It's kind of like smoke and mirrors. There's a lot of people talking about it, but there's not a lot of people buying it," Brown said. "You know, it's much like with Pete Rose, people come in and (say) like, 'Oh, Pete, you should be in the Hall of Fame, this and that,' and everybody's got a story, but not a lot of people these days are spending money on him. "Same thing with O.J., they all come in and it's like, 'Hey, hey, you got an O.J. rookie card?' And they're not really serious about buying. There's a buzz out there but it doesn't necessarily translate into sales for us." Due to his complicated profile, there will always be interest in Simpson and, by extension, his playing career, Brown believes. Determining the real value of Simpson's collectibles market remains confounding for trade experts, however.
"He'll always have a market, he'll always have value but it's not necessarily in line with status, based on what he did on the field," Brown said. "Even early in his acting career, he had a great reputation, a great market, a lot of fans. But obviously, his off-field antics has kind of diminished that image. He'll always have somewhat of a market, but not where his days of being on the field do it justice, you know?" Simpson may be granted parole Thursday, but his legal history looms large like an ominous cloud. "The only thing O.J. we would have would be cards, rookie cards, things such as that. I try to make it a point not to carry items from convicted felons," Brown said.