unfortunate because he could have been a hell of player for the Patriots,"
Riccio once operated a store that sold sports memorabilia and organized signings with some of the biggest names in sports.
The best comparison to Hernandez that he can conjure is O.J. Simpson, who was charged with two murders in 1994.
"At one time O.J. Simpson was a sought-after autograph," Riccio said. "Now, no one cares. You can't even give O.J. Simpson stuff away these days. This is going to be like O.J. Simpson."
The other comparison that Riccio makes is to baseball stars tied in any way to performance-enhancing drugs. The autographs prices of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are limited because of their alleged use of PEDs.
"The McGwires and the Sosas ... compare them to the other 500 home run hitters and there's a significant difference in [memorabilia] value," Riccio said. "Any of those ballplayers who are questionable ... Barry Bonds' autograph went from several hundred dollars to you can't give it away."
In the case of Simpson, demand for autographs and memorabilia might be weak among sports collectors, but there is a niche world of collectors who seek items tied to notorious figures. The term "murderabilia" was coined by Andy Kahan, director of the Houston mayor's Office of Crime Victims Assistance.
Riccio, for one, doesn't think that's driving the price of the Hernandez jerseys.
"People think they can make money off it," Riccio said. "But at this point, it's a real long shot."
Rich Mueller, editor of Sports Collector Daily, doesn't believe that the buyers are seasoned collectors. Mueller's website specializes in trading cards, but he sees the price of memorabilia driven by inexperienced buyers.
"I think a lot of what you're seeing is probably fans who mistakenly believe it's going to be worth money someday rather than collectors buying it," Mueller said.
Meanwhile, the Patriots await whatever the weekend will bring. Undoubtedly, some people will try to bring back non-NFL licensed jerseys, but they will not be accepted. The jerseys in question cost either $249 (Nike Elite, Reebok Authentic) or $99 (Nike game, Reebok replica).
"We know that children love wearing their Patriot jerseys but may not understand why parents don't want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore," James said in a statement last week announcing the buyback program.
And that's how the idea of the jersey swap was born.
"This is not a clever way to eliminate the 81 jersey from the marketplace," James said Tuesday. "That was not our goal or intention."
And come fall, if a fan happens to be wearing a Hernandez jersey to a Patriots game, they won't be barred from Gillette Stadium. James said No. 81 shirts will be allowed in the stadium.
(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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