Updated: Mar 27, 2020
This coming election season is just heating up and has me thinking. No, not about moving to Sweden, but about Political Memorabilia. It’s such an ‘easy’ collectible and has always been big with collectors. I say easy as it’s generally free. Or at least started that way. The politicians, for the most part, were happy to give it to you. Political signs, pinbacks and other ephemera have been around since George Washington, and collectors have been scooping them up and collecting ever since.
JFK, Lincoln, Reagan and the Roosevelt's have been popular for years. Some of the most desirable pieces are from the modern era. And remember, it does not have to be old to be collectible. Nixon collectors are really coming out of the woodwork recently. Prices have been on the rise. And just as with other collections, the desirability or demand is moving the needle.
Some of the earliest political figures, even though much older and more rare, are not worth the value of more, in demand offerings. It’s a common trend nowadays in collectibles. Demand is out-powering supply. The Millennial has heard of Lincoln, but not Buchanan, Kennedy, and not Harding.
So what do you collect now? You collect ‘what you know’ and not what you don’t, or because it’s rare. It’s just a trend right now, I believe, but it’s the current truth.
I remember just years back, watching an original, full size 1980 "America, Reagan Country" presidential campaign poster sell at auction for more than $3,000. And not too long ago, in Scottsdale, a few Richard Nixon letters for $16,000 and a Karsh photographic portrait of John. F. Kennedy realized $550. There was also a White house photograph with seven presidential prints and seven presidential signatures including Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, and George W. Bush that brought in $3,750 at the same auction.
Then there was the time an excellent FDR ‘Row of Democrats’ pinback realized $1,600 at auction. This rare Arizona pin depicted FDR, his vice presidential candidate Henry Wallace and four-time Arizona governor Sidney P. Osborn, who died in office in 1948 of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Often, these are things we throw away when tasked with cleaning out the estate of a loved one. Thank you letters for political donations can be worth hundreds if not thousands, when signed by the right politician, of course. Did your parents donate money to the Eisenhower campaign? He may have sent a signed thank you note! Never overlook those papers your parents kept, unless they are publisher’s clearing house notices.
So, what are you going to collect this election cycle? Other than broken TV remotes…I am going to hedge my bets and get the Candidates Chia Pets. And yes, that was really a commercial during the debates -- you were not watching SNL.