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Tips on Collecting 2013 Presidential Inauguration Memorabilia

by Tom Carrier (01/18/13).

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. The 57th Presidential Inauguration Store sells all manner of items bear the official inaugural seal online. But which ones remain collectible after the inauguration becomes history?

Curiously, since 1901, the preparation for the swearing in of the new president of the United States actually falls to Congress or, more precisely, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The committee was established only to ensure that the president-elect fulfills the one requirement under the Constitution, to witness the prescribed oath to “enter on the Executive.”

For the 57th Inauguration honoring the reelection of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama—as with most others before him—there will be more than a public swearing-in at noon on Jan. 21. There will be an inspiring inaugural address, prayer services to guide the new president, a congressional luncheon, fancy balls and lastly a grand parade through the streets of Washington, D.C. It is an all-day affair witnessed by the nation and the world.

NOTE: For more information about presidential, political and inaugural collectibles, read: Collecting the President 2012: Advice on Acquiring Campaign Memorabilia, Party On with Inaugural Collectibles, Top Obama Inaugural Collectibles and Why Are Presidents Collected?

As the new president, Obama will receive congressional gifts of etched glassware, certificates of office, and other official mementos of the occasion. For the rest of us, the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013 provides access to official memorabilia of our own. Originally established in 1901 to sell a commemorative medal to the public to help pay for the official festivities, today’s 57th Presidential Inauguration Store sells all manner of items bear the official inaugural seal. But which ones remain collectible after the inauguration becomes history?

The official 57th Presidential Inauguration medallion set includes the official medallions cast in bronze, silver, and gold. Comes with a certificate of authenticity and decorative display box. Cost: $7,500.

The most anticipated and desired official inaugural item is the officially-sanctioned inaugural medal—usually minted in gold, silver and bronze—and issued in relatively small numbers. The 2013 inaugural medal, for example, features the bas relief of both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as sculpted by Peter Hansen on the obverse and the U.S. Capitol on the reverse (all are minted by Medalcraft). To receive the 1-oz., 14-karat-gold medal through the Committee requires buying it as part of the complete set that also includes the nearly 7-oz. silver and a large bronze medal packaged together in a collectible wooden box for $7,500 (the silver medallion is sold separately at $1,250 and the bronze can be had for $50), well above the current value of the precious metals alone. However, each of the official medals are only minted for the inauguration at a set number. The U.S. Mint also issues inaugural medals, usually only in bronze, but continue to mint long after the event, making them easily available for between $25 to $35.

Commemorate the 57th Presidential Inauguration with this porcelain dinner plate featuring the inaugural seal, $125.

Die-struck sterling silver cufflinks, $150. All inaugural commemorative items are made in the USA.

Has the discord in Washington got you down? Take the edge off with a drink in one of these rocks glasses decorated with a gold inaugural seal, $35 for four

Add some style to your wardrobe with a 57th Presidential Inauguration lapel pin, $15.

Other official items that always do well as collectibles near their selling price include the silver frame for $50, a commemorative ceramic plate for $125 and glassware such as the set of rocks glasses at $35 for a set of two or wine and champagne sets for $30 and $45, respectively, as long as they come in their original boxes. Apparel, such as scarves, T-shirts, sweatshirts or clothing in general, usually has little collector value, even if unused.

Jewelry can do well if they contain a bit of precious metal, such as the small silver charm for $50 and the silver cufflinks at $150 , which show the official presidential inaugural seal, and have their original boxes. Paperweights, throw rugs, pencils, mugs, water bottles and other items generally don’t offer a large collectible following after the event, but lapel pins can still do well over time.

The official 57th Presidential Inauguration Commemorative License Plate, available at the Presidential Inauguration Store for $25.

An example of the “official” inaugural license plate that will be used on official cars on inauguration day. The phrase “Taxation Without Representation” has caused a little stir in Washington.

The first inaugural license plate, used in 1933 for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural. It’s a tough find.

The most desirable collectibles associated with the inauguration aren’t necessarily associated with the official Inaugural Committee. Finding the official license plates used on the vehicles themselves can bring several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on how low the number is. [For more about Inaugural license plates, read: Presidential Inaugural License Plates a Tough Collection to Fill.]

Each of the 40 or so official police agencies in Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress to the Metropolitan Police Department, issue special commemorative inaugural badges that are highly sought after by collectors (particularly the very rare chief’s badge) and begin at about $200 but can be difficult to find. Be wary of commemorative badges that are commercially produced and sold as collectibles. They usually aren’t desired as much by collectors.

A ticker to the 2009 inauguration, signed by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California.

Try to get an official program with the official invitation provided to each of the congressional delegation and special guests, the ones given out on the platform during the swearing-in (not to be confused with the commemorative souvenir versions). To be collectible, the program must be complete in the original envelope to include the portraits of the president and vice president. These can sell after the event starting at $50 to $125 for the complete set over time. Having them signed dramatically increases the value.

Tickets to the inaugural swearing-in are nice collectibles, too, and can enhance a framed signed photo, for example. By themselves, they are considered ephemera with a value of $5 to $10, depending on official access. Other ephemera include commemorative newspapers, magazines or other commemorative paper items and generally have little collector value above a few dollars over time.

This no parking sign was posted in Washington, D.C., for John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Inaugural celebration. It was most likely liberated from its post shortly after the inauguration.

There will be all manner of commemorative inaugural alcoholic beverages such as champagne, whiskies and wine, tobacco items such as cigars, cigarettes and lighters, and even guns, knives and switchblades. These are all controlled items that generally cannot be resold in online auctions, in antique stores, over the counter or advertised on a community bulletin board accessible to the public but they can generally only be sold in a private sale. Check your state and local regulations before advertising these commemorative items.

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area and attending the inauguration, after the event (and not before) look for the no parking signs along the parade route, the large inaugural seals displayed in the balls, or any unusual item featuring the inaugural seal that are limited in number. These can include the official vehicle placards, event binders, seating signs, staff badges, podium signs and similar items. They will always have a collector value beyond the event, generally ranging from $10 to $50.

As with any collectible of an historical event, it is important to find the most unusual, one-of-a-kind, item that has historic as well as collectible value. If you can get a signed, personalized copy of the president’s inaugural address, well, that would certainly qualify on both counts. But simply watching the proceedings, either on television or in person, will also have a long-lasting memory you can always value, too.

Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.

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