Why People are Paying So Much for Celebrity Items

Michael Jordan’s shoes during his 1985 season with the Chicago Bulls sold for more than $500,000 at a Sotheby’s auction. A pair of sneakers — specifically the red Air Jordan XIIs size 13 — that he wore during the infamous Flu Game (Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz) sold for more than $100,000 last year. If you think that is crazy, the dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang Happy Birthday to former President John F. Kennedy was sold for $4.81 million in 2016. And if that isn’t enough, people bought Britney Spears’ used (yes, used) chewing gum for around $130 each.

Do you want to know what’s even crazier than that? A bracelet by Charles Manson — yes, the murderous cult leader of the Manson Family — sold for $4,500. Don’t forget that famous homes such as The Amityville Horror house and the Versace mansion, where crimes have happened, are still getting sold quite easily despite their histories.

While the bit about Monroe’s dress is acceptable because it represents and symbolizes a moment in history, some others are not. One can be a huge basketball fan, but why would you pay more than $500,000 for a pair of worn sneakers. Yes, even the sneakers worn by the famous Michael Jordan. Interestingly, people are doing the same thing with movie memorabilia. They’re buying signed movie memorabilia for tens of thousands of dollars. Movie props can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

Yes, There Is an Explanation for It

If you’re wondering why people are spending money on these things, there are two reasons: one is the idea that they could re-sell it in the future, and two is because of sentimentality. While reselling celebrity items is only practical for really valuable ones such as Babe Ruth’s jersey ($5.64 million), people know they cannot resell Spears’ chewed gum or movie memorabilia that has thousands of replicas in the market.

The phenomenon is called magical contagion. The idea of magical contagion is that when two people or objects came into contact with each other, a “magical” link appears between them. It is only through cleansing, exorcism, and consecration that this bond can disappear. This is the same belief that many people hold when they buy celebrity items. They believe that owning celebrity items will form a bond with those personalities.

A study found that people don’t mind buying celebrity items as long as their favorite celebrities used the said items. Their perception of the value of these items will change the moment they learned that the celebrities did not use them nor even touch them. For example, would you pay a thousand bucks for a sweater given as a gift to a celebrity even though that person never tried it on? A survey showed that people will lose interest in bidding for that sweater after finding out their favorite celebrities didn’t even so much as touch it.

These biases are cultivated early. A separate study found that children as young as four years old already have an idea about magical contagion although they don’t understand it yet. When asked about the value of an object that once belonged to a famous person, the children said that it has a higher value compared to a similar object that did not previously belong to someone famous.

Would You Pay for a Celebrity Item?

People tend to question the decision of others when it comes to how they spend their money. If you found out that a friend spent a thousand dollars on movie memorabilia, you might even look at him like crazy. People’s perception of the value of an item depends on their experiences, beliefs, and attitudes. Of course, it also depends if they can afford it without getting into debt.

Think about your favorite celebrity or athlete. If an item previously belonging to that celebrity found its way on the auction block, what will you do? Think about two scenarios. The first one is you only have around $10,000 in your savings account and the second scenario is that you have $10 million. The item costs around $5,000.

Remember that this celebrity/athlete is your ultimate favorite. Would you bid for it? You probably won’t with the $10,000 scenario seeing as your savings will get slashed in half. But if you have $10 million in your account, it’s pretty obvious you might get your hands on that $5,000 item.

The reasons why people put a value on certain items vary. May it be finances or otherwise, you hurt nothing and no one by buying celebrity items and movie props. For particular items, your affinity for certain celebrities may even earn you a profit.

About the Author

Share this post

Scroll to Top