You Know It's Bad When: Saddam Hussein Memorabilia Isn't Selling

A bizarre cottage industry born out of the war in Iraq carries a few lessons about humans and the economy. One, Saddam Hussein was one of the most iconic tyrants of the 20th century. Two, even the niche dictator memorabilia market is not immune from the recession.


The fascination with all things Saddam began immediately after the Iraqi dictator was deposed in 2003. In the days following his brutal regime, a number of items made the rounds online including dinar notes bearing Saddam’s likeness and a fork from one of his palaces, both of which sold for over $100 on eBay. Chunks allegedly from Saddam's statue in Baghdad’s Fardus Square appeared soon after shoe-slapping Iraqis and US soldiers yanked his likeness down. The statue bits were later revealed to be fake.

George W. Bush got in on the fun snapping up the pistol brandished by Hussein when he was captured by U.S. forces. After this, Saddamerobilia soon began to fetch obscene prices. Saddam's diamond-encrusted Rolex was sold for $150,000; his favorite Dior sunglasses garnered $12,000; and a Cartier pen used for execution orders saw a $5,000 price tag. There was no word on how these items made it from Iraq to the collectibles market, but the mini-industry stalled when the motherload went up for sale last year.

The Iraqi government hoped to get $30 million for a 270-foot luxury yacht, the Ocean Breeze, once belonging to Saddam but rarely used. In a recession-pinched auction market, the ship didn’t see any bids and eventually sailed back to Basra. It looked like buyers had realized the tackiness of Saddamerobilia and demand for the items would abate. But in retrospect, it was most likely the global economic downturn that kept Hussein’s pleasure vessel without an owner.

The dinars with Saddam's portrait are still up for auction but only sell for a few dollars now, as is a random document signed by Saddam, which hasn't received any bids yet but is looking for a winning offer of $510. As with overall the decline in the art market, Saddam-themed collectibles--we can't really call them art--have taken a hit. Will an upswing in Sadaamerobila mean the economy is back on track or will the recession quench the taste for all things dictatorial?

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less