With true crime series on Netflix continuing to boom and the podcast genre more popular than ever, it's clear that there is a very strong appetite for finding out about real-life crimes and the people that commit them.
While most people are perfectly happy with their podcasts and docuseries, there is a small niche of hardcore fans who go one step further and collect murderabilia items. Murderabilia is the term that describes items that belong to or were created by serial killers and notorious criminals. These items can range from anything such as a signed letter to a gangster's gun.
The most expensive piece of murderabilia ever sold was Jack Ruby's Colt Cobra revolver which sold for over $2 million, whereas some of the more bizarre items include locks of Charles Manson's hair shaped into a pentagram.
Robert H. Jackson / Public domain
The 10 most valuable murderabilia items:
Jack Ruby's Colt Cobra revolver - $2 millionThe pistol that Jack Ruby used to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald was originally bought for $62.50. Yet in March 2008, it was sold at an auction in Las Vegas for an unknown amount in excess of $2 million.
Clyde Barrow's Colt 45 gun - $240,000Bonnie and Clyde kidnapped, murdered and robbed their way across America in the 1930s until they were famously gunned down during an ambush in Louisiana. In 2012, a 1911 Army Colt 45 pistol that was removed from Barrow's body was auctioned for $240,000.
Lee Harvey Oswald's gold wedding band - $118,000Oswald left his wedding band at home on the 22nd November 1963, the day that he would later be arrested for the assassination of JFK. In 2013, this ring was sold for $118,000 at an auction in Texas.
John Dillinger's pistol - $95,000John Dillinger was declared the USA's first "Public Enemy Number One" during the Great Depression and was eventually shot and killed by the FBI in Chicago in 1934. A pistol which once belonged to him was sold at auction for $95,600.
Al Capone's diamond pocket watch - $84,000Arguably the most famous gangster in America, Al Capone was known worldwide as a crime boss in the prohibition era. At an auction in 2017, a diamond pocket watch belonging to Capone was sold for $84,000.
A signed letter from John Wilkes Booth - $65,000In 1865, shortly after the Confederate army surrendered, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth. A letter signed by Booth was sold for $65,000 at auction in 2004.
Albert Fish's Autograph - $30,000Known by names such as the Boogey Man and the Brooklyn Vampire, Fish was convicted for the murder of three children in the early 20th century, yet was suspected to have many more victims. In 2010, Fish's autograph was bought online for $30,000.
The Unabomber's hoodie and sunglasses - $20,000Ted Kaczynski is a domestic terrorist in the US, convicted for killing three people and injuring many more with letter bombs in the late 20th century. In an online auction, a collection of Kaczynski's personal items were sold including a typewriter which went for $11,100, his handwritten manifesto which went for $17,500 and his hoodie and sunglasses which sold for over $20,000.
Artwork by John Wayne Gacy - $20,000Otherwise known as the Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer active in the 1970s and responsible for the death of at least 33 people. Gacy spent 14 years in prison on death row before his execution in 1994, and during this time he was allowed to paint. Many of his paintings have now been destroyed however the limited number that remain can fetch up to $20,000.
Jeffrey Dahmer's signed paycheck - $15,000Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for the murder and dismemberment of 17 boys until his arrest on the 22nd July 1991. A paycheck dated 26th April 1991 from Ambrosia Chocolate Factory and signed by Dahmer is currently listed at $15,000 on a murderabilia site.
State of California, San Quentin Prison / Public domain
The 10 most bizarre murderabilia items:
A lock of Charles Manson's hair - $800The leader of the Manson family is one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th century and was imprisoned in the 1970s for multiple murders. Locks of his hair have been sold for as much as $800 on the internet and snacks half eaten during prison visits have been sold for similar amounts. One murderabilia collector also owns a pair of Manson's used dentures.
Angel Resendiz's fingernails - $300Angel Resendiz was better known as the Railroad Killer and before he was apprehended in 1999, he was responsible for the murder of 15 people in the USA. An auction site once sold a set of Resendiz's fingernails for $300.
A Christmas card from Ted Bundy - $3-5,000Ted Bundy was convicted for the murder of 30 women in the 1970s and was sentenced to death by electric chair. Before his execution, Bundy spent 12 years in prison where he wrote a number of Christmas cards. These cards are available for between $3,000 - $5,000. The most expensive card was postmarked just over one month before his execution.
Dirt from Ed Gein's gravesite - $50For $25 it is possible to buy a bag of dirt allegedly taken from the gravesite of Ed Gein, or $50 for a framed collectors card with the dirt. Gein was a serial killer and body snatcher in the 1950s. Gein was found guilty but legally insane and remanded to a psychiatric institution. After his death he was buried in the same cemetery that he used to exhume corpses from.
Fred West's shovelA macabre 'Crime Through Time' museum in Gloucestershire is home to thousands of items, many of which once belonged to criminals. The collection includes a tracksuit that once belonged to Jimmy Saville and a shovel used by Fred West, a serial killer.
Envelopes licked by the BTK killer - $3,000After murdering 10 people between 1974 and 1991, Dennis Rader (or the BTK Killer) was eventually arrested in 2005. An envelope that was licked by Rader where he also drew a picture of "Factor X" - the creature that Rader said made him kill - sold for $3,000.
Hadden Clark's earwaxArrested for two murders and confessing to many more, Hadden Clark is currently serving two 30-year sentences. While it isn't available to the public, Clark sent one murderabilia collector a Q-tip with his earwax on.
John Robinson's Santa Claus suit - $1,200Robinson is a convicted serial killer, who used online chat rooms in the 90s to lure his victims and went by the name of the Slavemaster. A Santa suit once worn by Robinson at children's parties sold for $1,200 on a murderabilia website.
Aileen Wuornos' robe worn on death row - $8,250Wuornos killed seven men while working as a prostitute between 1989 and 1990. A robe that Wuornos wore on death row is currently for sale for $8,250 on a murderabilia site.
Issei Sagawa's chopsticks - $1,500Sagawa killed and cannibalised a woman while living in Paris in 1981. He was found legally insane and unfit to stand trial, so he only served two years in pre-trial detention. A pair of his used chopsticks are now available to buy for $1,500.
We also surveyed 2,100 members of the public to discover what their favourite true crime shows on Netflix are. Making a Murderer received the highest percentage of votes (81%), followed by Don't F**k with Cats (73%) and The Keepers (72%).
The 10 most popular true crime docuseries to watch on Netflix:
- Making a Murderer
- Don't F**k with Cats
- The Keepers
- Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
- The Staircase
- The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
- The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
- Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
- Wild, Wild Country
- The Confession Killer
There is no denying that people are obsessed with true crime, whether it's watching docuseries on Netflix, listening to a nail-bitingly tense podcast or in extreme cases, paying vast sums of money for some of the bizarre items mentioned above.
Psychologists believe that these tales are so alluring because murder, rape and theft have played a part in human society for thousands of years and it is in our nature to discover the truth behind these crimes and learn how to better protect ourselves*. Apparently women are more drawn to true crime stories than men, especially when they can gain an insight into the killer's motives or there are female victims**.
Cas Paton, founder and CEO of OnBuy, said,
"While we don't have a category for murderabilia on OnBuy, it's really interesting and slightly terrifying to see that there is such an appetite online for items associated with serial killers and criminals. We might not understand the appeal of owning a serial killer's fingernails, but there's no denying the addictive feeling of watching a good true crime series on Netflix!"