ANAHEIM — Right there next to the rare Ty Cobb felt baseball card, and the Babe Ruth photograph, lay the latest O.J. Simpson trading card.
Though the display was at a sports memorabilia show, this card did not show Simpson in his Buffalo Bills uniform--it was the mug shot that police took when they arrested him last month in connection with the slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman.
Next to that lay cards showing a dejected Simpson in court, of him and Nicole in happier times, of her drivers' license and of Goldman's modeling shots. All with a logo reading "In Pursuit of Justice."
The set of 10 cards was unveiled Sunday at displays throughout the Anaheim Convention Center show that drew hundreds of collectors. The price varied from $8 to $10.
"I think it's really sleazy, but if I don't sell it someone else will," said Lowell Katz, a Long Beach sports card dealer. "I might as well make money while I can."
David Guisande of D & K Distributors, a Lomis firm, ordered 8,000 packs of the cards from a Phoenix, Ariz., company producing the set, identified on the cards as Interlink News Services. They arrived at 10 p.m. Saturday. By 2 p.m. Sunday, he had sold 3,000 packs, most to other distributors, who expect to sell them as far away as Minnesota.
"That's all people want, O.J. cards," said Rick Hamilton, a Minneapolis-based dealer at the show. "I've only got 200 sets, so I imagine they'll go pretty quickly."
Since Simpson's arrest in the Brentwood double slayings, dealers have reported receiving top-dollar prices for his old cards, signed footballs and other collectibles. In addition, a Fleetville, Pa., trading card company said it is moving ahead with a plan to have Simpson sign 1,000 cards--under a contract signed June 3--that will be sold later this summer.
But the cards featuring players in the Simpson legal case are new. And the 10-pack is only the beginning--Guisande said Interlink News Service is planning to produce a 50-card set, complete with portraits of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, defense lawyer Robert Shapiro and the bloodstained sidewalk outside Nicole Simpson's townhouse.
But some customers Sunday were not impressed with the Simpson displays.
"It's just exploiting a tragedy," said a show attendee who described himself as one of Simpson's neighbors. "Who knows if he's guilty or innocent."
For the entrepreneurs in the speculative world of sports cards, however, the importance of his guilt or innocence rested on its market impact.
"If someone is found guilty, the price goes up," one noted.