It's election time again, time to put that cardboard sign in the yard, wear that pinback and put bumper stickers on your car. Then, on November third, you'll most likely toss it all away; but perhaps if you're smart, you'll keep your election keepsakes this year.
You probably won't be able to pay your taxes for the upcoming year with this small treasure trove you have in that shoe box, but you might be able to pay off some of that auction debt.
Buttons, bumper stickers and yard signs are relatively easy to come by, not to mention they are free. The reason the candidates give away their trinkets is the same reason Nike brands their name on the bottom of their sneakers, free press. At the cost of pennies to make stickers, buttons and yard signs, it's a safe bet to say that with good circulation the candidate will get their share of free press.
However those pennies can trickle down into your pocket. Here are some items that will be sure to please any political memorabilia collector.
The key to remember with yard signs is, it's not so much the candidate as it is the time. An Al Gore for president sign is worth more than a post-national convention sign where the running mate is printed next to the candidate. The reason is the earlier sign has a smaller print run in most cases. The candidate throws money into the wind printing most of the signs the last few months before the election.
These can be some of the most sought-after items. Remember, unique buttons are hot. Many times when a candidate stops at a town or city, the local organizers will produce a limited amount of buttons or pin backs. A Kansas City for Kerry or Bush pin will have a much smaller run than the nationally used pin for that candidate.
The same can be said for bumper stickers, although cities or groups rarely design custom bumper stickers. The campaign on its own may produce its own limited run sticker. Take for example the recent Howard Dean campaign, which produced a limited run of stickers with slogans that ran along side of the normal sticker. "The Doctor is in" "Give'em Hope Howard" are some examples. A "Give'em Hope Howard" sticker could easily bring upwards of ten dollars at the height of his popularity.
Election season can also be a great time to open your autograph book and get your sharpie pen ready. Candidates and celebrities abound. And if you happen to live in a key or swing state, you could end up with a nice collection.
Stumping is the term used by politicians to describe campaigning done by others in their place. With the election nearing, John Kerry and George Bush can't go everywhere. That's when they send out the stumpers, important and famous people. The good stumper is usually someone with a name the average American would recognize.
A few months ago I had the chance to meet and obtain the signatures of Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner and Al Gore, all stumpers for the Dean campaign. Along with Howard Dean's signature, I was able to sell the signed Dean campaign sign for $452 on the Internet auction site eBay.
Due to events in recent years, the president's security has become more of a priority then ever before, but that's not to say it's impossible to get his signature. With a little luck you could land yourself a nice Bush or Kerry autograph.
The thing to remember about autograph collecting is to make sure the object being signed has interest. A signed blank index card is not going to sell as well as a signed baseball or cowboy hat.
The last thing to remember with autographs is often, a certificate of authenticity is not worth the paper it's printed on. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures can be the best insurance policy.
Auction sites like eBay are flooded with autographs along with certificate of authenticity. But pictures can be a great way to show you were there, and it's also a great piece of history that you can keep for yourself.
The rare items to look out for this election season are "The New Solider," by John Kerry. A first edition in good condition can bring as much as $400. A signed copy could bring, if listed well, as much as $600.
Probably the most unique Kerry item up for sale is an LP record featuring "The Electras" a band from 1961 with none other than the young John Kerry. An LP in good condition with sleeve has brought a winning bid over of over $1,000. After some research there appears to be between 500 to 1,000 copies circulating throughout America. Keep your eyes open.
As for George Bush collectors, hot items to watch for are items with reference to September 11. Signed September 2001 issues of Time magazine are very desirable. Also keep your eyes open for items chronicling the past of president Bush. Program guides and team material that feature the Texas Rangers owner George W Bush have show much promise in auctions past.
Other things that I see a lot of are news clipping collections of presidents and elections. While they can be fun to collect, they rarely show any profit unless it's a sought-after person or election, such as the election of 1960, 68 and 72, or presidents such as Kennedy, Nixon and Harry Truman or before. Robert Kennedy is much sought after as far as newspaper is concerned.
And regarding John Kennedy memorial news clip collections: at the time of his death our country was at such a great loss, millions of people from housewives to the factory worker keep something from the local paper. Therefore there are many collections showing up at auctions and garage sales all over America, making the price drop. For $15 or $20, you are better off keeping and preserving your collection for future generations.
Collecting campaign memorabilia can be fun and can be a great history lesson. If the person you vote for doesn't get the job, you still might come out with a few more bucks in your pocket this election year.
Large list of modern buttons
"Encyclopedia of Political Buttons: United States 1896-1972," by Ted Hake