Obama souvenirs increasing presidential inauguration memorabilia fans


The inauguration of Barack Obama as president is more than a key moment in history. For presidential memorabilia collectors, it's another jump-start to the Obama souvenir market that has grown around his candidacy and now into his presidency.

Instead of focusing on political memorabilia from the primary and presidential campaigns, collectors are looking for items from Tuesday's inauguration, and vendors are turning them out in massive amounts, according to a recent story in the New York Times.

"This has just exploded everything that ever was," Mort Berkowitz, a manufacturer and collector of political memorabilia, told the Times. "In every corner of the country, people are being exposed to inauguration memorabilia. Whole companies have opened just because of Obama."

Plenty of trinkets are on the market, and more seem to get added every day. It's a profitable business and easy to get into because since Obama's image is in the public domain, it can be used without permission. More than 900 vendors are licensed to sell their Obama wares on the streets of Washington, which is four times that of any previous presidential inauguration. The New York Times Co.'s online Obama store has sold $1 million to $2 million in goods, the paper reported.

Membership in memorabilia groups is increasing. The American Political Items Collectors, or APIC, group attributes its recent membership numbers going up from 2,800 to 3,500 to Obama. One member is former President Bill Clinton, who has a collection of election buttons, and kept an F.D.R. button on his desk. APIC formed an Obama specialty chapter in November 2008, specializing in Obama political campaign memorabilia.

Not to be overshadowed by kitchy trinkets found just about everywhere, the Obama team has an online store it calls "The Official 2009 Presidential Inauguration Store," with everything from exclusive collectibles to a $10 transparent blue piggybank with the inaugural seal on it, so you can see your money grow. And then take it out to buy more stuff.