As the race for the White House heats up, so to does the race to snag political collectables from a historic election. Thousands of items circulate each cycle to promote the candidates at the top of the ballot—buttons, stickers, signs and posters to figurines, flags, apparel, and even jewelry.
As a collector myself, I can attest that pretty much anything you can think of can be turned into a piece of memorabilia. Anything. In my collection of past campaign items, I have a pair of women’s nylons promoting “No Graft with Taft,” and a roadside flare emblazoned with the candidate’s mug.
One couldn’t possible collect everything (although some collectors will try). So what will be the defining political items from 2016? We already know that Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat is an icon of the election, but those aren’t exactly in short supply. Hillary Clinton has doubled down on campaign buttons with a collection of designs created by 45 artists and graphic designers with slogans like “Pantsuits for President,” and “Fight Like Hill.”
A quick search of eBay’s “collectibles” category shows over 7,500 listings for Donald Trump and nearly 5,000 listings for Hillary Clinton. With so much material, it can be difficult to figure out what to buy, and even harder to guess the future value. Most campaign 2016 buttons cost less than $5 and few will gain in value over the coming decades. (If you invested in “Nixon Now” buttons 45 years ago, too bad. They’re still ubiquitous and worth pennies on the dollar.) Some, however, are already valuable and will tend to hold their value or grow. One limited edition Trump button recently sold at auction for $287.50.
The easiest answer, then, for what to buy is: whatever you like. Buy the design that represents your view. After all, the items are created as implements of persuasion. If you’re actually looking for an investment opportunity, here are a few tips:
- Stay away from Zazzle and Café Press. Collectors (future buyers of your political items) favor items created for and used legitimately during a campaign, not made to order and available long after Election Day comes and goes.
- Look for items that are scarce or limited editions. Items from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions are great examples – state pins or delegate badges will always been collectible, as will convention credentials.
- Buy and sell when the time is right. A lanyard from the RNC sold on eBay just after the convention for $25. Now, a month later, they can be had for $5 or less.
Also look for unique types of items. It’s not all about buttons. In fact, posters with nice graphics have been particularly difficult to find this cycle. Both conventions were packed with tee shirts with some great designs, including Trump as “Captain [Make] America [Great Again].” Issue-driven material has also been on the uptick this cycle from Blue Lives Matter objects selling like hotcakes in Cleveland to “I am an immigrant” items in Philadelphia.
There are two additional areas to consider as you add items to your collection. The first are anti-candidate items. These are often the most entertaining items created during a cycle. They’re also likely to contain the most NSFW slogans. In Cleveland, a top seller was a button reading “Hillary Lies Matter.” On the Democratic side, a top entry plays off The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart who had an exchange with Trump a couple years ago when he “revealed” Trump’s birth name. As a result, a political button was born this year reading “Join Jon Stewart and Endorse F*ckface Von Clownstick.”
The final category is early career items, which are always popular and tend to hold and grow in value. So get out those Hillary Clinton for First Lady and Hillary Clinton for Senate items. And go find the rare “The Apprentice” promotional button featuring The Donald.
Also keep an eye out for items from Mike Pence’s congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. In fact, items from his 2016 run may become especially sought after given the circumstances. Tim Kaine also has several earlier races from which there’s campaign material, including several buttons with a prominent eyebrow, as he’s known to furrow from time to time.
Matt Dole is a Republican political consultant based in Ohio. He can be reached at Matt@PoliticsCounsel.com. You can find the American Political Items Collectors at www.APIC.us.