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Political Americana – Memorabilia for the politico

by Tom Carrier (12/11/08).

Not too long ago, I spent some time at Political Americana, a unique memorabilia store located about two city blocks from the White House. Its uniqueness is more than its location; it features historic campaign and presidential items covering more than 230 years of American politics. It is, and has been, a favorite place of mine to visit for about 15 years, as it’s wares are right up my alley, as I am a WorthPoint Worthologist for political and presidential items.

First, it is a relatively small store—only about several hundred square feet—but almost every inch of wall space and counter space is filled with early political campaign signs, historic American campaign flags, bumper stickers, White House official photographs, press passes, and so many early presidential gifts. It even features presidential Christmas cards dating to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent out the very first White House card.

While it is true that Political Americana is famous worldwide for its historic artifacts, it is also classified as a gift shop where you can purchase more recent political and presidential campaign items.

Occasionally, a political point has to be made, too. I found a disappearing Civil Liberties mug. When you pour hot water in it, the Civil Liberties and the Bill of Rights shown on the outside of the mug somehow disappear. More noticeable were a pair of Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan bedrooms slippers, too. Both wearing night caps and resting comfortably, one on each foot.

There are golf balls with the Democratic and Republican party symbols, so that you can take your frustration out by hitting a hole in one, maybe without being taxed for it. The playing cards featuring each of the presidential candidates and their supporters are very good for a laugh—or not.

On the other hand, Political Americana also features very rare and scarce items. I was able to see a very rare set of 10-karat gold presidential seal cuff links from the John F. Kennedy administration with his engraved signature on the reverse. With a value near $20,000, they were kept under lock and key. Just as scarce is a set of Ronald Reagan presidential cobalt blue cuff links in its brass and dark blue presentation box. Each cufflink also has an engraved signature of Ronald Reagan on the reverse. The value of these is set between $3,500 to $5,000.

One of the most unusual items in the shop is a challenge coin given out by the president in his role as commander-in-chief. The challenge coin is a half-dollar-sized brass or metal coin featuring a military unit, government agency, or cabinet level department that is given out and exchanged between members and staff. Call it an inter-departmental business card. Not produced at taxpayer expense, except for the president and department heads, these coins were originally introduced in World War I, then fell off in favor until the practice was revived by military units in the middle 1990s. The presidential editions of the coin are highly sought after and can range in value from $25 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the size or scarcity.

And, of course, you can find the political T-shirt, baseball cap, sweatshirt, key chain, postcard, and other Washington, D.C. tchotchkes here, too. But where else can you walk through a veritable museum of American political and presidential history—and buy a piece of it.

Watch a video of Tom Carrier visiting the Political Americana by clicking here .
WorthPoint: Get the Most from Your Antiques and Collectibles

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