How can I make money off the campaign inundation, you ask? Well, it’s not easy and it requires a significant investment of time, but it’s practically free. Collecting political memorabilia—especially campaign memorabilia—is growing into a fairly decent business. Obviously, the big money today is the rare campaign memorabilia of old timers, from Washington to JFK. On the other hand, if you can find a campaign button from some of the lesser known stars of our political past, you can also make some good money.
How good? Probably the biggest selling piece of campaign memorabilia is a double-side button showing portraits of Presidential candidate James Cox and his running mate, a fellow who went by the name of Franklin Roosevelt. It sold for $100,000. The fact that they lost proves that you don’t need to back a winner when looking to make some cash in the political memorabilia game. (Wonder whatever happened to that Roosevelt fella?)
As with any other collectible, political memorabilia rises in worth along with popularity and scarcity. That famous newspaper that Harry Truman holds up saying “Dewey Defeats Truman” would likely be quite a hot little collectible; far more so than the newspapers across the country that jumped the gun by prematurely announcing George W. Bush was President following election day 2000. The reason? Although it has historical value as proof that some newspapers publishers either knew something the rest of us didn’t, or started the presses based upon their hope rather than the facts, those things are a dimebag a dozen today. The fact is that back in Truman’s day only the really savvy were collecting newspapers. JFK’s assassination probably marks a turning point in the history of collecting as millions have kept onto that item, making them pretty much worthless.
With the rise of television as the seminal means of delivering a politician’s message, even the old standby campaign collectible—the campaign button—has become worth less. By Teddy Roosevelt’s day those buttons had already become a work of art; today they are stamped out by the billions it seems. Except…that new printing technology has given rise to a potential new collectible. Rather than generic buttons such as I Like Ike, today it is not uncommon to see something along the lines of Gays for Kerry or Cubans for Bush popping up on buttons. Because, for obvious reasons, these are not mass produced there is the potential for creating a collectible somewhere down the road. And with the power of Gutenberg coming into the house of every American, there exists also the potential for a rise in unofficial political bumper stickers, T-shirts and buttons. Anyone who has taken a look at some of the things being offered up for sale at CafePress or SpreadShirt can see that the best slogans are definitely not coming from the DNC or RNC.
Another key to collecting campaign memorabilia is to get stuff when a candidate is running for local office, before he hits it big. Now, clearly, the chances of America electing a man for President who started his career as a local school board member is pretty slim. If he has money he’s not going to start his career in such a lowly place and if he starts in such a lowly place, he clearly doesn’t have the money it needs to get elected President. But you never know. Mayors have gone on to get elected President and it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that a City Council member might one day get elevated to the position of running mate. Therefore, if you sense in a local candidate a particularly greedy sort of ambition, then by all means steal one of his signs from off the side of road and horde it. If nothing else, you’ll be making American beautiful.