Paying for a piece of Nelson Mandela
Some buy to invest, others are sentimental
SALES of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography have surged following his death, together with memorabilia such as R5 coins commemorating his 90th birthday, stamps and signed election posters.
Managing director of Wordsworth Books, Andrew Marjoribanks, said copies of Long Walk to Freedom were in great demand, particularly the newly- published hardback commemorative edition.
Mandela’s autobiography, ghost written by Time magazine editor Richard Stengel, was published in 1995.
Marjoribanks said other top sellers were Mandela’s 2010 memoir Conversations with Myself and the Long Walk to Freedom film tie-in paperback.
The film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has also done well at the South African boxoffice, despite some middling reviews. Starring British actor Idris Elba as Mandela, the film was the second highest earner at the South African box-office over the weekend of December 13 to 15 (behind The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).
Marjoribanks said bookshops had prepared for more sales of Mandela books following his death.
“They knew there would be a great interest in him… “
However, he said little could compare to the “phenomenal” interest surrounding Long Walk to Freedom when it was first published in 1995.
“It was an avalanche,” said Marjoribanks. “It absolutely took the book world by storm.”
Jethro Vlag, of Protea Bookstore, agreed there had been a “marked increase” in sales of Mandela-related books since his death.
“Bearing in mind that we do not work in large quantities of non-academic books, we have nonetheless seen an almost 600 percent increase in sales this month compared to last month,” he said.
In addition to Mandela’s autobiography, Viva, Mr. Mandela by Jomarie Dick and Nelson Mandela: An Inspirational Leader by Gareth Thomas, had also sold well.
Sales of many other Mandela-related items have soared in the past two weeks.
Hawkers, such as those outside Mandela’s former Vilakazi Street home in Soweto, have done a roaring trade in Madiba merchandise including T- shirts, caps and bags, as mourners congregated there to pay their respects to and celebrate his life.
In online marketplaces, the number of trades in Mandela memorabilia has rocketed.
Cuan Akal, operations manager at local online marketplace bidorbuy. co. za, said search terms like “Mandela coins” and “Mandela” started to gain traction on December 6, the day after the former president’s death.
While Mandela- related items had always been popular on the site, more than 1 000 additional items had been put up for sale following his death.
There were now more than 2 600 items for sale.
Mandela- related memorabilia has in fact become so popular that the site now has a special section devoted to buying and selling it.
Akal said that coins, such as the Mandela 90th birthday edition R5, released in 2008, made up 70 percent to 80 percent of their Mandela memorabilia sales.
Authentic copies of his signature, photographs, art prints and old election posters were also popular
The online marketplace has already sold more than 25 Mandela- related items for more than R10 000.
Fifty more items have a price- tag of more than R100 000.
Akal said that while some people were buying coins as a reminder of Mandela, others viewed them as investments that would increase in value.
In addition to coins there were “unique” items that hadn’t yet found buyers.
“There is a bead and wire statue of Mandela three metres tall, and that is on offer for R500 000,” he said.
“Then there is a domain name going for R200 000. I also saw a part of the Robben Island fence going for R3 500. People are listing all types of things to sell.”
On international online marketplace eBay, almost 10 000 Mandela-related items are on sale.
In addition to coins, which feature prominently, Mandela stamps are popular. The world statesman has figured on stamps from Belgium to Egypt to Madagascar.
The most expensive item on eBay is a “bundle” of three Nelson Mandela internet domain names which is selling for $100 000 (R1 033 750). For this, a buyer will get the domain names inlovingmemoryofnelsonmandela. com, inmemoryofnelsonmandela. com and inmemoryofmadiba.com.
The seller, who says “only serious offers will be considered”, also notes that “all domains expire in 2014”.