Planning to Buy Elizabeth Taylor Memorabilia? Don't Do It for Investment

Elizabeth TaylorJust after Elizabeth Taylor's death, would-be entrepreneurs started looking for ways to profit from the iconic entertainment legend's passing, as they did following the deaths of Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Princess Diana, John Lennon and Michael Jackson.

But the Better Business Bureau warns that most memorabilia and commemorative items produced and sold following Ms. Taylor's passing will decrease in value over the years, and therefore, best bought out of sentiment, not for investment.

"The death of a famous sports or entertainment figure often creates an immediate demand for items associated with that person," Dale Mingilton, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Denver/Boulder, said in a statement."And while some artifacts may, indeed, see an increase in value over the years, most will not. Items like commemorative plates, coins and figurines manufactured to mark Ms. Taylor's death likely will sell years from now for pennies on the dollar. If you want it for yourself or a family member, go ahead and buy it, but unless you are a very sophisticated buyer, don't expect to sell it later for a profit."

eBay listed almost 10,000 Elizabeth Taylor-related items shortly after her recent death, including the domain name for $15,000; a 1955 handwritten letter signed by Ms. Taylor, $7,500; and a one-sheet movie poster from "Butterfield 8," $1,295.

The BBB offers tips for consumers buying collectibles or memorabilia following the death of a celebrity:

  • Get educated. Research the value of items before buying, especially if you're looking for a substantial appreciation.
  • Confirm authenticity. A third party can verify autographs. For other items, the collector should ask questions, including how the seller came to own it. If the seller can't answer simple questions, the collector should walk away.
  • Make purchases with a credit card. Consumers should always purchase items with a credit card if they're shopping online. If the seller is fraudulent, consumers can dispute the charge with the credit card company and may be reimbursed.
  • Be careful online. When buying items from an individual on eBay, research the seller's track record by reading buyer reviews. When shopping on Craigslist, buy locally. Never wire money as payment.
  • Purchase items from a reliable seller. When shopping online, check out the company with the BBB before you buy.
  • Don't be fooled by advertising claims. The seller may claim the item is a limited edition, but millions may have been made. If the item is widely advertised, it's probably too common to gain much value over the years.
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