Prices for Jackson memorabilia have gone through the roof: an autographed black-and-white picture of the Jackson 5 from 1979 sold this week at Christie's in London for more than £1,600 ($2,600), about 60 percent higher than presale estimates. But experts are urging neophyte buyers to be cautious. As unscrupulous hucksters look to cash in on the nostalgia and affection following the entertainer's death, the Michael market has become crammed with forgeries.
"It is too early to ascertain the effect of last week's news on the value of Michael Jackson memorabilia; this will be felt over time, and dictated by supply of items to the market," Neil Robert, head of the Popular Culture Department at Christie's in London, tells DailyFinance. "The current market for Michael Jackson memorabilia is volatile, and it will take time for prices to stabilize and establish comparable prices to other figures in the popular-culture market."
Until recently, allegations of child molestation had dragged down prices for Jackson collectibles. The huge spike in prices may burn anyone who tries to sell recently acquired memorabilia, according to Rudy Franchi, an appraiser on PBS's "Antiques Roadshow."
"It's kind of like trying to time the [stock] market," says Franchi, who runs posterappraisal.com. "Fifteen years ago, Bette Davis stuff was going crazy, and now you can't sell it."
Collectors also snapped up memorabillia associated with Elvis Presley and John Lennon, driving up prices, says Franci, who has been in the business 45 years.
Margaret Barrett, director of fine-art auctioneer Bonham's in Los Angeles, says her firm is getting bombarded with calls from eager Jackson sellers -- but not by buyers. "People want to make a buck," she said.
Indeed, a recent auction of 21 Jackson items was brought in at Julien's Auctions. Jackson sued Julien in April to stop an earlier sale of items from his Neverland estate. Darren Julien, the company's president, says the cash-strapped entertainer has "had a change of heart."
Jackson was also a major pop-culture collector -- acquiring, among other things, an Acadamy Award from Gone with the Wind.
"He was a very, very kind gentleman," says Julien, who counted Jackson as a client and knew him personally. "He was mostly concerned about his fans."
The auctioneer says it's "too early" to discuss whether the Neverland sale will be revived. That won't happen until after the estate is settled.