British prosecutors trying to hit tough new government targets for seizing criminal assets face an unexpected conundrum: how do you raise the maximum amount of money from selling off Elvis Presley memorabilia?
The Crown Prosecution Service, which has confiscated an estimated £500,000 worth of Elvis paraphernalia from a convicted thief, is puzzling over whether to offload it now – or whether to wait for next year’s 30th anniversary of the King’s death.
The case, with its complex mix of sentiment, economics and the law, is seen as an unusual example of the challenges around converting confiscated assets into what one prosecutor describes as “cash in the tin” for victims and the authorities.
Gary Balch, head of the CPS’ confiscation unit, said in an interview that the authorities were juggling the prospect of profiting from Elvis fever next year against the costs of delay, such as interest.
“It’s not straightforward,” Mr Balch said. “We want to get the maximum back.”
The collection of thousands of records and other items were seized from Julie Wall, a council worker who was jailed last year for stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds of car parking fees to fund her obsession.
Chris Giles, owner of The Elvis Shop in east London, said the sale would probably be Britain’s biggest-ever Elvis bonanza, featuring valuable items such as a 10-inch Japanese version of the album Love Me Tender worth several thousand pounds.
“She’s got to have one of the biggest collections in this country,” Mr Giles said. “Probably, next to me, it’s the best.”
Bamfords Auctioneers and Valuers of Derbyshire, central England, which is conducting the sale, said it had been working with elvis.co.uk, a fan website, to tie the auction in with a big party two months before the death anniversary in August.
Annabel Brammer, an auctioneer and valuer at Bamfords, said she thought it better to avoid the anniversary itself, as the publicity around it would be outweighed by the likelihood that the most devoted Elvis fans would be marking it elsewhere.
“Everybody will be on the trip to Graceland,” she predicted.
Richard Long, the receiver responsible for selling the assets, said he was still in talks as to whether to separate Ms Wall’s collection into two auctions, so as not to flood the market and depress prices.
“She was such an avid collector, it’s believed that she created her own micro-economy for Elvis Presley paraphernalia,” he said. “Because whatever came out and was on the market, she wanted to buy.”
Then there is perhaps the greatest potential hitch of all: if the King delights conspiracy theorists by using the anniversary of his “death” to reappear alive, the bottom may yet fall out of the entire memorabilia market.