Collectors go long on ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez

While the New England Patriots will give exchanges to fans who bought some jerseys of the murder suspect, other goods are fetching a premium online.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 1, 2013 12:36PM
File photo of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (© Rich Schultz /Getty Images)In a smart public relations move, the New England Patriots are allowing fans to trade in some of the Aaron Hernandez jerseys they bought before the former pro football player was charged with first-degree murder. Sports collectors, though, are another story.

The Boston Globe reported that the tight end's jerseys are hot sellers on eBay (EBAY). Interest in Hernandez from collectors' vantage point is bound to increase as more details of the lurid crime he's charged with emerge. The Sports Memorabilia website is advertising a jersey autographed by the former Patriot for $332, along with autographed mini-helmets for as much as $180 and signed footballs priced at more than $400.

Supplies of Hernandez merchandise aren't going to be replenished for a while.

According to TMZ, staffers of the Bristol County House of Corrections, where Hernandez is being held, have been warned that they face possible termination if they treat him like a celebrity. In other words, no pictures or autographs. Hernandez, however, probably isn't in the autograph-giving mood.

The most infamous NFL player before Hernandez was O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted in 1995 of charges of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. He was convicted in 2007 of armed robbery at a Nevada casino and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Nonetheless, demand for Simpson merchandise seems to be strong. Sports Memorabilia is advertising a full-size autographed helmet for more than $1,300, signed footballs for more than $500 and inscribed pictures for over $460.

Some pro athletes are able to cash in on their notoriety. Ex-Major League Baseball player Pete Rose, who has done time for tax evasion and was banned from baseball for betting on the sport, has earned millions from selling his autographs, according to The Wall Street Journal. NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who served time for weapons offenses and now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has launched a luxury hosiery line.

Fans who want to trade in their Hernandez jerseys need to act soon. The exchange has to be done in person on July 6-7 at the Patriots Pro Shop in Foxborough, Mass. Moreover, the offer applies only to Hernandez jerseys with the number 81. He wore 85 in his rookie season because 81 was already taken by veteran wide receiver Randy Moss.

People who are outraged at the prices of memorabilia associated with notorious athletes should remember that there wouldn't be a supply if there weren't a demand.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jul 1, 2013 1:30PM
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