Souvenirs have been much in the news this week. O. J. Simpson's estate was just auctioned off, and there's a woman trying to sell a blood-stained dress she claims to have worn to the Tyson-Holyfield ear-biting bout. Strangely enough both O. J. and this woman have a market.

It's a bizarre world in which a blood-stained dress is worth thousands of dollars. Well, it's worth thousands if the DNA tests show it's stained with Holyfield's blood; anonymously blood-stained dresses bear witness to hidden tragedies, and therefore worthless. Such are our society's priorities.

Mankind's predilection for collectibles has existed for thousands of years. People have meticulously preserved body parts of Saints for ages. The Shroud of Turin continues to attract attention. If one were to weigh all the purported pieces of the True Cross, one could show that it was battleship-sized. I wonder if Satanists have parallel collections.

The desire to own bits of history stays strong today. Whether it's a bit of the Berlin Wall, or a baseball that met Mark McGwire's bat for an instant, or a dress that an intern didn't wash promptly, people seem to want it. I can understand trophies; if I helped tear down the Berlin Wall, I would have probably grabbed a piece, but most collectibles are trophies of other people's battles.

Presumably possessing one of these items connects the owner to the great events. They may be inspiring to others who want to perform similar deeds. That doesn't explain the allure of souvenirs of the grisly or tragic. People seem to have a desire to attach themselves to unforgettable events of all natures.

Feeding that desire by means fair and foul is a lucrative business. Many of those buying at Simpson's auction and others like it intend to turn a quick profit by getting their stained dresses to collectors of them. I imagine some thick-glassed, leering fellow with a hermetically sealed case somewhere in his basement containing the dresses of Jean d'Arc, Marie Antoinette, and Monica Lewinski. I try not to imagine it too often. It's troubling that feeding such fetishes can be so enriching.

A friend suggested buying as much of Simpson's estate as possible and burning it, not as a protest of the verdict, but to prevent others from profiting from later resale of the items. It would never work. If nothing else, people would sell keepsake videotapes of the pyre of collectibles being burned. Hide the articles, and fakes proliferate.

Collections are here to stay. I kinda wish people would stick to butterflies, though.

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