Over the last few months, cyclist Lance Armstrong’s star has fallen completely out of the sky. The allegations of his longtime performance-enhancing drug use have more or less been accepted by the sports community at large. He’s been dropped by his sponsors, and his titles have been stripped. Now there’s news that he may have to repay money he’d earned or been awarded on the strength of his former wins. In short, Armstrong’s facing quite the uphill financial battle, and this is one incline that can’t be solved through doping.
So where does that leave collectors? I already wondered about the fate of Chad Johnson/Chad Ochocinco branded collectibles following the NFLer’s arrest and loss of a job in August. But while Johnson may not have many new collectibles appearing, the value of items bearing his name, likeness, or signature will probably stay more or less as valuable as they were while he was an active, albeit controversial, player.
But an article in Time speculates that Armstrong’s memorabilia may take a huge hit in the value department. The article quotes SportsCollectorsDaily’s Tim Miller, who explains the situation that collectible-owners face now:
“I wouldn’t want to be holding a lot of Lance Armstrong memorabilia with the intent to sell it. I think it would be a pretty difficult sell. He’s not a Derke Jeter, but before all this hit, you would compare him almost to a really successful Olylmpic athlete. […] I would guess that higher end items could lose as much as 50% [in value].”
Remember, the real key to understanding an item’s value is figuring out how much someone is willing to pay for it. While the items themselves haven’t changed at all, the story attached to them has. The accomplishments they once signified are irreparably diminished, and unless there’s a buyer out there who’s only interested in collecting memorabilia of cheaters (Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Marion Jones come to mind), there isn’t going to be much of a market for any of it.
A quick browse of online auctions reveals that there are a dearth of bids and offers on many autographed Armstrong items. That’s not a big surprise—and it’s also not too surprising that there seem to be plenty of auctions right now. I’m sure the owners of his collectibles are looking to unload as much of their items as possible now, before value drops even further.
So that begs the question: would it make more sense to sell now, while the scandal is still unfolding and some people may hold onto their positive feelings of Armstrong? Or would it be wiser to wait until the public awareness of the scandal fades into the background, as so many other stories do?
It’s an interesting idea to puzzle out. While there seems to be a new story about athletes engaging in shady dealings to win every few weeks, the fact is that there are still more sports stars out there that aren’t cheating (or at least haven’t been caught yet). So what are the right moves for collectibles dealers and fans in times like this?