Demand for election memorabilia high
History now, hard cash later

By LaReeca Rucker

She wanted a copy of the newspaper that recorded Barack Obama's historic win, but Shonya Edwards, 20, wasn't quick enough. The paper was gone Wednesday afternoon when she came to The Clarion-Ledger's Congress Street office to pick up the edition.

"We've been to five stores looking for a newspaper," Edwards said, "and they were sold out. I just wanted something that I could put in a scrapbook. I am pregnant now, and I wanted something I could keep so that my baby could read about the election. After so much has happened, history was made, and we have a black president."

Because of popular demand, The Clarion-Ledger printed 4,000 extra copies on Wednesday, then printed another 10,000 on Thursday morning that were available in the front lobby and select metro-area locations. When those sold out, the newspaper printed 25,000 more. Some said they'll frame them, while others will put them in scrapbooks.

Either way, they'll become historic mementos that help tell America's story, and experts say it's a good idea to hang onto campaign signs, pins and other political memorabilia from the 2008 election because they may be valuable some day.

Kentucky native Daryle S. Lambert, 67, has been buying and selling fine antiques and artwork for more than 35 years, and over the last few months, he's been blogging about political memorabilia on his site

"I think this will be, perhaps, the best year to collect political memorabilia that we've had since our founding fathers," said Lambert, author of 31 Steps To Your Millions in Antiques and Collectibles. "The memorabilia from this election can be on the same par with Washington and Lincoln's.

"I told my readers to go to the conventions and pick up pins and every piece of paper because one day they can put their kids through college with it. I recommend that everyone go to the campaign headquarters and get whatever you can - posters, yard signs.

"I think anything pertaining to this election will have value because you will have gone, in a little over 200 years, from slavery until a black man is actually the leader of the country. That is, historically, a very short period of time."

Lambert said some of Obama's original campaign posters printed by the Chicago Art Institute are already selling as a high as $1,500 to $2,500. Signed copies of his autobiography are bringing big money," he said. "Signed yearbooks will be collectible. Any automobile he's ever owned will immediately have significant value. Signed letters by Obama about his different political views will be very valuable. A letter by Obama on civil rights could be worth a quarter of a million in a matter of years.

She's going to be hundreds of thousands of items that will have significant value that come out of this election. This is a one of a kind. There are no other black presidents in the past. The role reversal of how our country perceived the black population to how one can become a leader is more significant than most people at this time even think."

Lambert said a quick look at eBay will give you an idea of what political items are most valuable.

Cory T. Wilson, the Mississippi secretary of state's chief of staff, always has been interested in politics. He has around 100 political buttons dating back to the 1884 Grover Cleveland/ James G. Blaine presidential race in which Cleveland prevailed.

"I've got some Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson buttons that are pretty old," he said. "I think some of the things I own will probably be worth more over time."

Wilson also has items from later campaigns, like a framed 1984 Reagan/Bush campaign poster, and in 2000, he picked up several items from the Bush/Cheney campaign that are displayed in a shadow box.

This year, he collected buttons from both the Obama and McCain campaigns, and Wilson suspects that, like 1984 Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro campaign merchandise, items featuring Sarah Palin's picture will be in demand one day.

"We've been in some really historic times even in our lifetime," he said, "and to me, they're a reminder of our civic history and the democratic process."

In 1976, Clinton resident Claire Barlow rose early and rushed to the Jackson airport to meet a man who was campaigning for the presidency.

Carrying a handmade political sign with an eye-catching elephant and the words "Run With Ron" written on it, Barlow strategically positioned herself among his admirers, and when Ronald Reagan came through, he shook her hand and signed her poster.

"It was really exciting," she said. "I've still got my sign in the closet. I don't know if it's worth anything, but I kept it."

B.P. Williams, who once taught history classes at Jackson's Murrah High School, also has a political keepsake. During a 1992 trip to Washington, D.C., her students presented her with a life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton, the candidate Williams initially hoped would become president.

She kept Clinton in her classroom until her retirement, then moved her to the attic.

"My husband thought I should get her out (Tuesday)," she said. "She has a lot of sentimental value."

Williams, who once owned a collection of historic campaign buttons, fondly recalls discussing politics with students, who often brought political memorabilia to class, including one with a walking stick that once belonged to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"It was amazing how much they learned when they talked to their elderly family members about history," she said, "and how much stuff those people had that they wanted to share with their grandchildren.

"There were also interesting buttons. I remember one that said, 'We don't want Eleanor either,' but I think my favorite was 'Jane Wyman was right.' "

Political memorabilia is also selling well online. New York City artist Hally McGehean, who sells merchandise under the name belleslettres on, created a handbag featuring duplicate photos of Obama's face.

"Rather than waning after an election, I predict that sales of Obama art and Obama merchandise will increase in months to come," she said. "Whereas buttons and placards were once relegated to the attic or garbage can after an election, we are sure to see jewelry, T-shirts and accessories with the likeness of the Illinois senator sported proudly throughout his presidency. He is an icon."

McGehean said the ubiquity of Obama merchandise may make some of it less valuable, but real art with quality ideas and craftsmanship will financially accrue.

"I am thrilled to have sold numerous bags to everyday citizens and celebrities alike," she said. "I may have just sold one to a certain television star from Chicago, and the soon-to-be first family may have been the ones to give it to her."

Edward's mother, Rosie Edwards Foster, 60, accompanied her daughter to the paper Wednesday afternoon. Proud that Obama is now president, she wanted something real, something tangible, to remind her of the groundbreaking day.

"I wanted a paper because it shows that we voted for someone to stand up for us and someone to look up to," she said. "Obama said he is going to try to get things on track. He is going to help the people, so I wanted the paper so I can show it to my grandchildren."

Jerome Benjamin of Jackson was one of hundreds who streamed into The Clarion-Ledger lobby Thursday morning to buy copies of a reprint of the election edition. He bought four copies.

The 25-year-old father of three wants to make a scrapbook for his young children, all under 2, so they can have what he calls "a piece of history."

Dorsie Morgan said she got extra copies for her sister and is keeping copies for her small grandchildren so they will be able to relive the moment when they get older.

"The struggle that we have went through, for everyone to have a chance," she said. "Not just one race, everyone."