Don't Buy the 'Charlie Hebdo' Survivor Issue on eBay

People are paying hundreds or even thousands for one of the most ghoulish "collector's items" of all time.

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Jan 14 2015, 9:10pm

A screenshot taken from eBay this morning. Background image by Chris Bethell

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

In the wake of last week's shootings at the office ofCharlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine announced they would be upping their usual print run from 60,000 to 3 million copies for the "survivor issue."

That issue, which sold out within minutes in France this morning, features an image of Muhammad on its cover. It's an act and item of defiance in the face of an attack that sought to silence the magazine and its staff, and has instantly—it would seem—become a collector's item.

This morning, a bunch of eBay sellers picked up copies to sell online, keen to cash in on any supporters of both free speech and print media who don't happen to live in France. And strangely, as more and more copies fly from newsstands—and as the publishers announced they would print a further 2 million copies—the price for the magazine online continues to climb.

So far, the highest bid for a Charlie Hebo survivor issue was over $152,000. Yes, that is probably a fake bid, but dozens of other offers are topping $3,000. The sellers are, quite simply, cashing in on a tragedy. Most of the people buying Charlie Hebdo today, or bidding insane sums on eBay for a "piece of history" (as one seller I contacted described it), have probably never bought—or even thought about buying—the magazine before.

It took the deaths of 17 innocent men and women for a few people to be able to sell a €3 magazine on eBay for three grand. This inflation is the direct result of murders driven by hatred and intolerance. To cash in on this, to buy a copy to sell on eBay at an inflated price, is to piss all over the determination of the cartoonists who continue to create Charlie Hebdo in the face of genuine danger.

Has it gone over the heads of some of those buyers that, for $3,000, they could probably hop on a plane or train, pop over to France, pick up a copy and flick through it over a bière?

Perhaps they see it as an investment. Sellers are describing the item as "very rare" (though, at 5 million copies, it's hardly the Gutenberg Bible) and no doubt many of the buyers hope the item will increase in value. In fact, one buyer with a high bid of $150 told me, when I asked, that the item is "highly collectible."

The reality, though, is that, unlike prize-winning oil paintings or sneakers designed by Kanye West, "collectable items" like the issue of Hebdo end up worth almost nothing. Pieces of the Berlin Wall, as literally every tourist who's ever been to Berlin will know, cost about a fiver—and only a little more if you get a bit with a metal girder in it, or an especially colorful bit of graffiti.

eBay was flooded with items after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a depressingly grisly grab for cash. Slightly-singed documents discovered at ground zero sold for as much as $385. A quick (and uncomfortable) search for 9/11 under "Historical Memorabilia" on eBay now brings up almost nothing of financial value. There's a listing for a key card to the building at a starting price of $899, with no bids.

The people with enough cash to blindly throw it at a "piece of history" in the hope it'll be worth something one day are being short-sighted and have clearly learned nothing from the past. It's understandable that you might want to buy an issue in financial support of Hebdo as a publication that's lost its most talented writers and cartoonists. Or in solidarity with the notion of free speech.

But handing over thousands of pounds to someone who's capitalizing on a massacre is in bad taste. Those doing the selling are making a quick buck on blind hysteria, the real price of which was the 17 lives lost.

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