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Should you invest in Mandela memorabilia?

By Staff Writer

Last month the producer of a Mandela, Long Walk to Freedon, Anant Singh, bought a collection of Nelson Mandela memorabilia for R950,000. The collection consisted of 79 signed mementos including the iconic speech the former president made during his Rivonia Trial after which he was sent to prison, a 1988 concert pass for Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute in London’s Wembley Stadium, a bottle of wine and a picture of his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.


There's no telling what will whet the appetite of buyers. At the time of writing a R10 Randela note was being bid for on e-commerce website Ebay for 27 pounds (R458.40).


But should you invest in Mandela memorabilia or turn the house upside down to find something signed by the great man to sell on at an auction site in the hopes that you could pay off your car? “The problem is that there are a lot of things around that were signed by Mandela,” points out Anton Welz, director of auctioneers Stephan Welz & Co. “And because there is a lot of it, they may not have much value.”


Essentially, the rarer the item the more likely you are to get more for it if you sell it on. “Generally things will increase in value once people die. The more rare or unusual the item the more valuable it will be. I know, for example, that there aren’t many signed copies of the Long Walk to Freedom around,” added Welz.


Welz expects another rare piece, a famous photo signed by Jurgen Schadeburg and Mandela, to do well in an auction allocated for Feburary 2014. The photo is famous and has Mandela looking through the bars of his Robben Island Cell in 1994. It was voted as one of the 50 most memorable images of the 20th century by The Photographers Gallery in London. “It would be nice if this photo fetched between R80,000 – R90,000. I know of less than 10 signed photos by Shadeburg and Mandela in existence,” says Welz.


However, not all memorabilia by South African celebrities will sell well. You are more likely to make more money if you have memorabilia associated to or signed by a well known celebrity in America or who is recognised internationally. A hand written, working lyric sheet of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 hit Born to Run sold at Sotheby’s for $197,000 (over R2 million) just recently. Not many South African pieces would fetch as much on the International stage.


Buyer beware:
Welz offers the following advice for those looking at investing or selling memorabilia associated with the late former president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela or any other celebrity that passes on:


1.    Check to see if it’s a fake. “We use a specialist in Johannesburg to authenticate autographs. It would be worth it to find out if something is a fake.”


2.    If the item is rare you are more likely to make money off it.


3.    Don’t think that you will always make a quick buck. “I suppose you can make some money if you are canny and you know what you are doing,” adds Welz.


4.    Look to see if there is an international appetite for the item as well as local appetite. Sometimes celebrity memorabilia can sell a lot better on the international stage than in South Africa.


5.    If you want to invest in memorabilia and make money off it in the future rather consider buying something signed or associated with a celebrity that is internationally recognised. “We have very few local celebrities that are well known internationally,” points out Welz.


6.    When in doubt seek out an expert. “Ask someone who knows the subject matter. You may even get their expert opinion for free. Do your homework before you buy,” advises Welz.

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