Businesses Cash In on Pope Memorabilia

Interest in Pope Benedict XVI's last days as leader of the Catholic Church has heightened before his departure, offering a business opportunity in papal-related memorabilia.

But Daniel Wade, editor of Paul Fraser Collectibles in Bristol in the United Kingdom, said only the rarest items will have investment-grade lasting value, despite the fact that Benedict, 85, is the first pope to leave his post in 600 years.

"The most personal items are going to have a decent chance of appreciation in the future," Wade said.

In Photos: Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation

One such item may be Pope Benedict XVI's former 1999 Volkswagen Golf, which is presently being auctioned on eBay for charity. The seller is online casino GoldenPalace.com, which is donating 100 percent of the final sale price to Habitat for Humanity Great Britain. The minimum bid is £3,900 GBP, or about $5,913.

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Wade, who is not Catholic, said Paul Fraser Collectibles has had a number of inquiries about one item it is selling related to Pope Benedict -- small pieces of red carpet he walked on when he visited Westminster Cathedral in September 2010, the first official state visit to Britain by a pontiff since the 16th century, when King Henry VIII broke from Rome. The carpet is listed for £49.95 GBP, or about $76.

"If you're Catholic you can enjoy having a piece of carpet that's been walked on by the pope," Wade said.

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That Pope Benedict has chosen to resign from his post hasn't cost him any fans, at least according to Ingrid Ardales, who runs Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Bookstore, which sells mostly devotional prayer books in New York's Bronx.

"There's still a lot of support for the pope," Ardales said. "If he made this decision, it may seem like his decision, but it really is guided by God. The church is in God's hands. Even though it may seem like a big disaster, we know God is in control."

The same will be true for the next elected pope, Ardales said.

"There is a ton of support and prayers. We know whoever is elected was chosen to lead the church. This is obviously history in the making," she said.

Still, Ardales said one of her most popular items is the newest edition of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," an instructional book that was published in 2003 under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict's predecessor.

"I have to replenish the 'Catechism,'" she said. "It is a hot item."

Also, she said John Paul's autobiography "flew off the shelf."

Wade wonders if sales in general aren't as brisk for Pope Benedict because he may not be as popular as John Paul.

"John Paul was such a popular pope. He was so charismatic. People are still mourning his loss," Wade said.

Billy McMillan in Scotland has seen a slight uptick in interest in mugs he sells on eBay that feature Benedict, related to the papal visit in 2010.

He said he sold close to 50 Benedict mugs at £5.49 or about $8.32 in the past two weeks, most of which were shipped to Canada, the U.S., Australia and Central Europe.

"Unfortunately, eBay is our only outlet for these, as we can't sell them in our shop due the fact that we are in central Scotland where religious divides run deep, and it would damage business if we were seen to be on any particular side of that divide," McMillan said.

He plans to post new items that bid farewell to Pope Benedict and welcome the new pope this week, including new T-shirts and mugs.

"We will have new merchandise for the new pope as soon as he is announced. I pretty much expect we'll do that as soon as photographs are available," McMillan said.

If other famous events are references, such as Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding and the queen's golden jubilee, McMillan expects "rapid sales quite quickly."

"There might be a small rise in Benedict memorabilia for a short period, and then I expect interest to recede quickly," McMillan said. "Major world events like this are always good for business."

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