As Berlin Wall Comes Down, Sales of Wall Pieces Go Up With AM-Czechoslovakia Bjt
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (AP) _ The Berlin Wall that for years was a symbol of communism is rapidly entering the capitalist marketplace as entrepeneurs hawk chunks of it as the perfect Christmas gift.
Impromptu businesses around the country are shipping the rubble of demolished sections of the wall to the United States and selling pieces in stores, by telephone, by mail order and on the street.
″One of our retailers says the two hottest items this Christmas will be pieces of the Berlin Wall and the dancing flowers,″ said Richard A. Dale, vice president of sales and marketing for Hyman Creative Products in this Detroit suburb.
″The dancing flower is just a joke, but this is not to be taken as a joke. We offer this because it has commemorative value for all time,″ Dale said.
″There are some very real feelings associated with it. It stands for oppression and hardship and we try to respect that,″ said Bob Schnur, Hyman vice president of finance.
Hyman will package two-ounce pieces of concrete from the 22 sections of the Berlin Wall that have been knocked down since East Germany opened the barrier between East Berlin and West Berlin. The chunks, for sale through department store chains, come in boxes with certificates of authenticity.
Service Merchandise stores and the St. Louis-based May Department Store Co. have commitments to sell wall chunks, Dale said. Hyman also is talking to K mart Corp. Bloomingdales’ main New York City store has taken 200 rocks to test demand, buyer Jack Gandolfo said.
The chunks are expected to sell for $10.
Schnur said his company has the most abundant supply of wall rubble - 35 tons - and plans on shipping in up to an additional 15 tons.
Other wall-dealing ventures include B&P Imports, a company formed by a house painter and a car salesman in Munster, Ind.
B&P has been taking about 300 requests a day by phone and by mail. Co-owner Paul Wells said his company has sold about 500 pounds of concrete already.
Authenticating the chunks is costly, and B&P partner William Bell acknowledged that someone could fraudulently sell ordinary concrete chunks as pieces of the wall.
″Actually if somebody wanted to do it, they probably could. It’s just a matter of morals,″ Bell said. ″We have three pieces of paper with ours - a U.S. Customs declaration, an affidavit of authenticity and the shipping papers. People are real willing to believe us, they just want some measure of proof.″
Jameson Broadcast Inc., which produces and sells radio programming, sent 5,000 nugget-size pieces to nearly 100 stations in all 50 states as well as stations in Dublin, Ireland and New Zealand.
WLLZ-FM, a Jameson client in the Detroit area, gave 25 chunks to listeners who sent requests by facsimile machine saying why they wanted the pieces, and 25 to callers.
One listener, a former U.S. soldier who served at the wall, wanted ″a piece of the miracle - something he thought he’d never see.″
The distributors say most people want a piece of the wall for the historic value.
″I’m 36 and anyone who spent part of their childhood in the early ’60s will be able to relate to the idea of the Berlin wall and what it stood for,″ Schnur said. ″Khrushchev said he would bury the U.S., Kennedy made his speech in Berlin, there were air-raid drills, bomb shelters... the wall coming down signals an end to that era.″
Dale appeared on a radio show recently and said one listener called the station and asked how to get a chunk of the wall. ″The person said one of their relatives died trying to get across the wall,″ he said.
The companies wouldn’t disclose their costs; some haven’t seen the bills yet for shipping the rubble from Berlin. Wells said shipping runs about $4 a pound.
And they won’t reveal the contacts that enabled them to acquire parts of the wall.
″My partner had to have a lot of contacts for this to happen,″ Dale said. ″But it’s still going on right now and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize our returns.″
B&P admitted: ″We get it from a friend there. Actually, it’s vandalism.″