Pay­ing for a piece of Nel­son Man­dela

Some buy to in­vest, oth­ers are sen­ti­men­tal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

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”.

jan.cronje@inl.co.za

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