American Presidential Memorabilia

American Presidential Memorabilia

Interested in a long-term investment ? Look no further than history — collecting political memorabilia is a profitable pastime for many. As with most collections — prices can range from just a few dollars for paper items such as postcards to thousands of dollars for antique presidential objects. "With the instability of the stock market people want to put money in value, something that will appreciate in value," says Megan Miller of Juliens Auctions in Beverly Hills. Political memorabilia , espe

Interested in a long-term investment? Look no further than history — collecting political memorabilia is a profitable pastime for many. As with most collections, prices can range from just a few dollars for paper items, such as postcards, to thousands of dollars for antique presidential objects.

"With the instability of the stock market, people want to put money in value, something that will appreciate in value," says Megan Miller of Juliens Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Political memorabilia, especially presidential material, has been collected since the days of George Washington when buttons — clothing buttons of engraved metal, not the souvenir pins of today — were issued for his inauguration. It wasn't until the 1830s, however, that political collecting took off. Andrew Jackson's 1824 presidential campaign employed advertising items — snuff boxes, campaign posters, buttons, etc. — in his unsuccessful battle against John Quincy Adams.

Experts say the popularity of a president, as well as the rarity of an item, is an important factor in establishing allure and value. Today, collectors gather everything — bumper stickers, posters, newspapers, postcards, glassware, ballots and leaflets. While it's too soon to say what President Barack Obama's memorabilia will fetch, it's bound to have unusual value because he was the first African-American president.

Click ahead to see what items are in the political and presidential memorabilia market, with price tags ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to, well, priceless.

*Pre-auction price is the estimated valued price of the item before the auction. Auction price is the acual price of the item sold during the time of auction. 

By Jessica Naziri
Posted 1 November 2011

Richard Nixon's Eyeglasses

This pair of Bausch & Lomb eyeglasses were worn by President Richard Nixon around the time of his Aug. 9, 1974 resignation and departure from the White House. The glasses were given to Clara Richardson, a maid at the White House from 1959 until 1979, by Nixon's valet at the time. Photographs in various books depict the outgoing president putting on a pair of eyeglasses when he signed his resignation letter. In an engraved White House card signed by Richardson, she indicates that she does not kno
Source: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

This pair of Bausch & Lomb eyeglasses were worn by President Richard Nixon around the time of his Aug. 9, 1974 resignation and departure from the White House. The glasses were given to Clara Richardson, a maid at the White House from 1959 until 1979, by Nixon's valet at the time. Photographs in various books depict the outgoing president putting on a pair of eyeglasses when he signed his resignation letter. In an engraved White House card signed by Richardson, she indicates that she does not know if this pair is the same one.

Pre-Auction Price: $2,000

Auction Sale Price: $1,955 Heritage Auctions. Sold June 2005.

Ronald Reagan and George Bush: 1980 Campaign Button

The campaign button's "novel design" and limited distribution make it valuable , according to Tom Slater, the director of American Auctions. The buttons were made for a political dinner in Brown County, Ind., and each attendee received one of them as a souvenir. "Prized by collectors ... it is one of the most valuable Ronald Reagan pinback buttons," says Slater. Projected Sale Price : Not available at this time Actual Sale Price : $548, Slater’s Provenance Auction
Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

The campaign button's novel design and limited distribution make it valuable, according to Tom Slater, the director of American Auctions. The buttons were made for a political dinner in Brown County, Ind., and each attendee received one of them as a souvenir. "Prized by collectors...it is one of the most valuable Ronald Reagan pinback buttons," says Slater.

Pre-Auction Price: Not available

Auction Sale Price: $548, Slater’s Provenance Auction. Sold Dec. 9, 2003.

Tilden & Hendricks Wrapper

Even candy wrappers can be expensive political memorabilia. The Samuel Tilden - Thomas Hendricks wrapper is from the 1876 presidential campaign. The election featured the first Democratic or Republican national convention west of the Mississippi River — St. Louis. Projected Sale Price: Not available at this time Actual Sale Price: $448, Heritage Galleries
Photo: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Even candy wrappers can be valuable political memorabilia. The Samuel Tilden-Thomas Hendricks wrapper is from the 1876 presidential campaign. The Democratic ticket of Tilden-Thomas was decided at the first national political convention held west of the Mississippi River, in St. Louis in June 1876. Tilden eventually lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes.

Pre-Auction Price: $450

Auction Sale Price: $448, Heritage Galleries. Sold Nov. 13, 2007.

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Relics

Comprised of strands of Lincoln's hair and a swatch of black fabric from his catafalque, the structure built in 1865 to support his casket while his body lay in state, the relics are affixed to a sheet of paper entitled "Original Relics of Abraham Lincoln." Pre-Auction Price: $1,000 to $1,500 Auction Date: Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Dec. 1 to 4, 2011.
Source: Julien's Auctions

Comprised of strands of Lincoln's hair and a swatch of black fabric from his catafalque, the structure built in 1865 to support his casket while his body lay in state, the relics are affixed to a sheet of paper entitled "Original Relics of Abraham Lincoln."

Pre-Auction Price: $1,000 to $1,500

Auction Date: Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Dec. 1 to 4, 2011.

John F. Kennedy Lap Blanket

The wool blue lap blanket was in the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. The blanket has a presidential seal embroidered on front with snaps used to secure the blanket to the car panels. Estimated Auction Price: $6,000-8,000 Sale Price: Auction is at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Dec. 2-4 2011.
Photo: Julien's Auctions

The wool blue lap blanket was in the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. The blanket has a presidential seal embroidered on front with snaps used to secure the blanket to the car panels.

Pre Auction Price: $6,000 to $8,000

Auction Date: Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Dec. 1 to 4, 2011.

Lincoln and Johnson Banner, 1864

Along with an 1844 Henry Clay banner, this banner hung for generations in a barn owned by an old Erie, Pennsylvania family. "Large display banners like this are rare and much sought-after by collectors, especially when they picture the candidates," says Tom Slater, director of American Auctions. Projected Sale Price : $45,000 - 65,000 Actual Sale Price: $51,750, Heritage Americana Auction
Photo: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Along with an 1844 Henry Clay banner, this banner hung for generations in a barn owned by an Erie, Penn., family. "Large display banners like this are rare and much sought-after by collectors, especially when they picture the candidates," says Slater, director of American Auctions.

Pre-Auction Sale Price: $45,000 to $65,000

Actual Sale Price: $51,750, Heritage Americana Auction. Sold June 23, 2005.

Cox-Roosevelt Jugate Button

Wealthy Ohio Governor James Cox and former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt (pre-polio) lost to the Warren Harding - Calvin Coolidge juggernaut .This is one of six different designs and only 50 buttons, also known as jugates, are known to exist, according to American Auction. Jugates from different campaign s of this era are a "basic building block of a top collection," says Slater. Projected Sale Price : $20,000 - 25,000 Actual Sale Price: $23,900, Heritage Americana Auction
Photo: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Wealthy Ohio Gov. James Cox and former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt lost to the Warren Harding-Calvin Coolidge juggernaut in the 1920 election. This is one of six different designs and only 50 buttons, also known as jugates, are known to exist, according to American Auction. Jugates from different campaigns of this era are a "basic building block of a top collection," says Slater of American Auctions.

Pre-Auction Sale Price: $20,000 to $25,000

Auction Sale Price: $23,900, Heritage Americana Auction. Sold May 13, 2009.

William Jennings Bryan Campaign Poster, 1900

This poster is from the second of William Bryan’s three unsuccessful bids for the presidency. In this case, he was buried by William McKinley and his vice presidential running mate, a youthful Spanish American War hero named Theodore Roosevelt. This brightly colored, complex design is considered by many hobbyists as the "absolute pinnacle of American political poster graphics," says Slater. Projected Sale Price : $4,500 - 6,500 Actual Sale Price: $8,365, Heritage Americana Auction
Photo: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions 

This poster is from the second of William Jennings Bryan’s three unsuccessful bids for the presidency. In this case, he was buried by William McKinley and his vice presidential running mate, a youthful Spanish-American War hero named Theodore Roosevelt. This brightly colored, complex design is considered by many hobbyists as the "absolute pinnacle of American political poster graphics," says Slater.

Pre-Auction Sale Price: $4,500 to $6,500

Auction Sale Price: $8,365, Heritage Americana Auction. Sold March 1, 2008.

James Madison Canary Cup

This small, canary-yellow ceramic cup is 2.25" tall, with a picture on the side of an eagle and "MADISON" in large block letters. "[It's] one of the very few items honoring our fourth president and actually dating from the time of his presidency, and as such, is highly coveted by collectors," says Slater. Projected Sale Price : $6,000 - $8,000 Actual Sale Price: $11,950, Heritage Americana Auction
Photo: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

This small canary-yellow ceramic cup is 2.25" tall, with a picture on the side of an eagle, and the name "MADISON" in large block letters.

"[It's] one of the very few items honoring our fourth president [that dates] from the time of his presidency, and as such, is highly coveted by collectors," says Slater of American Auctions.

Pre-Auction Sale Price: $6,000 to $8,000

Auction Sale Price: $11,950, Heritage Americana Auction. Sold Aug. 5, 2008.