Charlie Hebdo Tragedy Generates Market for Collectibles

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Collectors hoping to cash in on historic copies of the "Je Suis Charlie" issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine may be disappointed. After the dust settles and a reported 5 million copies are eventually published, the greatest value of each may be as a reminder of the high price of free speech.

Collectibles experts say the mass production of tragedy memorabilia -– magazines, T-shirts, mugs and key chains –- makes the likelihood that each piece will grow in value remote.

"The things that are most valuable are what people once perceived to have no value," said Joe Mannarino, director of comics and comic arts at Heritage Auctions, a worldwide auction house. "Who would have thought to keep a TV Guide that came out every week? But TV Guides are worth money. Wouldn't it be cool to have the TV Guide that had Elvis Presley on it?"

Charlie Hebdo's core staff was murdered on Jan. 7 during an attack by Muslim extremists on the satire magazine's Paris office. An Al Qaida branch has claimed responsibility for the rampage that killed 12, saying it was revenge for Charlie Hebdo's depictions of Mohammed.

'Je Suis Charlie'

Within hours of the attack, supporters of the magazine and free speech scooped up T-shirts and other memorabilia emblazoned with the phrase of solidarity, "Je Suis Charlie" ("I Am Charlie").

The first post-attack issue hit stands Wednesday. The cover shows a weeping Mohammed saying, "Tout Est Pardonné" ("All Is Forgiven") and holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign. Hours after Paris newsstands opened, copies sold out at about $3.50 each and soon after showed up on auction sites, with buyers reportedly paying up to $1,150 for a copy of the magazine, whose normal press run is 60,000. Some sellers were asking as high as $118,000 for a copy in mint condition.

However, collectibles experts doubt whether magazine copies will appreciate in value. "There is some collectibility, but it doesn't have a huge staying power," said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien Auctions, a Beverly Hills, California, company that specializes in celebrity memorabilia. "What you're buying is memories. The bigger market of collectibles is in areas where people have happy memories."

Crossover Appeal

Plus, the more mint copies available, the less each will appreciate in time. In the world of collectibles, "less is more," Nolan said.

Collectors would be better off buying any one-of-a-kind object connected to Charlie Hebdo. Mannarino said the original art for the Jan. 14 issue could "bring a great deal of money -- five figures, if not six."
"For every cartoon, there's an artist that created the original drawing, and that's one of a kind," he said.

Also, collectibles that combine popular icons with Charlie Hebdo, say Mickey Mouse wearing a "Je Suis Charlie" shirt, could be a good investment. "Look at how unusual that would be and the crossover appeal," Mannarino said.
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