There’s no doubt that even after years out of the spotlight that O.J. Simpson remains one of the more-controversial and polarizing people on the planet, and we’ll get a new wave of discussion about the retired and incarcerated football star with the premiere of O.J.: Made in America, which is a five-part ESPN Films documentary, tonight on ABC.
Simpson, of course, is behind bars for armed robbery and kidnapping after an altercation with a memorabilia dealer back in 2007. His acquittal in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman — and the 1997 civil suit found Simpson liable for their deaths — will be one of the main focuses of the nearly eight-hour series.
Will the new story spark any added interest in his key cards? It’s very possible and people are seemingly already interested to some degree. His 1970 Topps Rookie Card (above) actually surged in value back during the first trial and there were non-NFL-licensed card companies that actually had him sign autographs while in jail. According to one advance account of the new documentary, those autographs signed in jail are discussed in the series.
“O.J. had only been in jail for two or three days when, per his agent Mike Gilbert, he gave instructions to start ‘marketing and merchandising and generating a lot of money,'” reads one advance review. “Gilbert and memorabilia dealer Bruce Fromong brought in fabric numbers for O.J. to sign, which would later be sewn into jerseys, and leather panels that would eventually become footballs. Demand, says Fromong, was through the roof, and as photographs reveal, an O.J. autograph signed from behind bars could go for hundreds of dollars.
“‘He sat in jail,’ says Fromong, ‘and we did $3-million dollars in autographs.’ One photograph of O.J. and Johnnie Cochran got both their signatures. ‘I look back,’ says Gilbert, ‘and think, this sucked. I can’t believe we did this.’”