Buyers' Guide to Political Memorabilia

Political memorabilia can be of different kinds and types, and in the following a guide to help to identify which memorabilia can be worthwhile to collect.

Why do collectors buy political memorabilia? 

 
There are three different reasons for collectors to buy political memorabilia:

1. Investment;

2. Political support for a specific party or cause;

3. Historical interest and a passion for collection separated from any specific political rationale. Through the collection of political memorabilia, people keeps a record the events of a particular moment in history.

John Isaby, of the United Kingdom, started his collection in 1990. He is very selective in what he collects, but his collection includes election leaflets and propaganda from various parties. His most valuable item of memorabilia is a William Hague baseball cap, of the type worn by the then-party leader during a publicity stunt on a theme park log flume ride.

Mark Evans, a director of American Political Items Collectors, started collecting as a young boy during the Kennedy campaign. He advises that there are good and bad investments, and the scarcity of the item is an important factor to consider - products marketed everywhere are not a good investment. 

Types of political memorabilia

There are different types of political memorabilia, and their value depends on the scarcity, uniqueness and popularity of the politician associated with the memorabilia. The list of memorabilia is very long (hats, puppets, prints, ceramics, mugs, buttons, banners, posters, leaflets, letters, etc.), so therefore in the following list we will identify only few of the most popular examples: 

Auctions

Certain political memorabilia sells very well through auction. It's important to note that in auctions, collectors respond very well to items that have a sentimental value: for example, John F. Kennedy Memorabilia. The affection that the US citizens had for this president, the significance of his politics and the event of his murder in 1963, all influence the price that this category of memorabilia can reach at auction.

In a 2011 sale, the ambulance that transported Kennedy’s body was sold for $120,000, although the provenance of the ambulance was questioned. JFK’s last signature, left on the morning of his death, was sold for $38,837 at a US auction in 2009, and even the X-ray of his pelvis sold for $28,125. Finally, Kennedy’s cabinet room chairs sold at Sotheby’s for $146,500!

On the same theme of sentimental value, a half-finished cigar abandoned by Churchill in 1940 sold for $4,500, Abraham Lincoln’s letter to a school child sold for $60,000, whilst George Washington’s letter endorsing the Constitution sold at Christie’s for $3.22 million.

Value of political memorabilia

These are some of the key elements to consider in pricing political memorabilia, including: rarity, uniqueness, popularity, demand, age, significance, provenance, condition and authenticity. Given the complexity of all the elements to be considered in order to rightly assess the value of political memorabilia, the view of an expert is key.

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