published Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Presidential collectibles range from weird to chic

by Adam Crisp

Collect whatever you like from this presidential election and inaugural season, but if you are looking to make an investment that will pay off financially, there are a few items to look out for, a memorabilia dealer said.

“First, if it says it’s a collectible on the box, its value is probably about half what you paid for it, and it likely won’t go up from there,” said Tom Carrier, a Chicago presidential memorabilia dealer. “The key to collecting presidential items is rarity and specificity.”

That means items that are produced in low quantities and items that commemorate a specific event, such as a button from the Iowa caucus at which Mr. Obama’s campaign had an early win, may have more value than just a generic Obama button. Anything signed while Mr. Obama was a senator, before his election victory, also would be very valuable.


To read more about presidential memorabilia, visit the site

Mr. Carrier said the jury is out on the truly odd Obama collectibles such as election-button earrings or a $39.99 carved rhea (a flightless bird) egg portrait of the president available on the Internet.

The official Presidential Inauguration Committee offers dinnerware, posters, clothing and more. Political accessories include trendy totes by designers Tory Burch for $70, and Diane Von Furstenberg and tees by fashion stars Narciso Rodriguez and Derek Lam, among others.

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On the list of items not worth collecting for monetary value are presidential plates, coins or other framings, Mr. Carrier said.

“The problem there is that they make so many of them that they aren’t rare at all,” he said.

Mass-produced campaign buttons also are of negligible value. A John F. Kennedy button was selling at a local antique mall for just $10 this week.

The same could be said for newspapers, said Bob Pickrell, owner of East Town Antique Mall in East Ridge. One of the 75 vendors at his mall sells political memorabilia.

“Everyone saved their newspaper the day John F. Kennedy was shot, and people come in thinking it will be really valuable, but it really isn’t worth a ton of money,” Mr. Pickrell said.

On Ebay, inaugural and campaign items from previous administrations sell for varying amounts. A New York Times front page from Nov. 7, 1984, when Ronald Reagan won the presidency, was selling for $48 on Monday. But a Jan. 20, 1977, front page from the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard when Jimmy Carter was sworn in was selling for just 99 cents.

If collectors could get their hands on an official inauguration program, that could have real monetary value, Mr. Carrier said.

Though Mr. Carrier said there is a lot of emphasis on whether a collectible will be valuable one day, he said collectors shouldn’t view their items that way.

“Don’t collect things just because it will be worth a lot of money,” Mr. Carrier said. “If you like the item, buy it. There is a ton of nostalgia and sentimentality with these collectibles. I say frame it, display it and enjoy it. If one day it’s worth a lot of money, that’s an added benefit.”

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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