RENO — Hundreds of political history buffs from more than 16 states gathered at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa on Friday to buy, sell and trade campaign memorabilia, including pins, posters, banners, badges and much more.
Sponsored by the American Political Items Collectors (APIC), a nonprofit hobbyist organization dedicated to the study and preservation of material relating to America’s political heritage, the Political Collectibles Show & Sale marks its fourth year in Reno this weekend.
“Despite the economic downturn, people still come out and collect,” said Adam Gottlieb, convention co-chair.
Gottlieb’s personal collection is replete with Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia, including campaign pins and even pictures of the former president at Yosemite National Park.
“You can’t get this on eBay,” he said of his prized possessions.
Though many attendees describe their fascination with political collectibles as bordering on obsession, others are simply enthralled with the historical legacy represented in the campaign trinkets of yesteryear.
“The best way to learn about history is to hold it in you hands,” Gottlieb said.
The show also included history exhibits and even a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator.
Chris Hearn, president of APIC, specializes in collecting John F. Kennedy Jr. memorabilia.
One of the rarest and most prized JFK items Hearn owns is a pin that reads “Kennedy Election Night Press,” which allowed those wearing it to access to the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Mass. The pin is appraised at nearly $4,000.
Hearn said the political collectibles industry flourishes because of the very democratic principles the country is founded on.
“It’s so unique, the political process,” Hearn said, adding that it makes for an interesting aspect of America’s shared, collective history.
Hearn also believes that nostalgia plays a big part.
But some attendees expressed uncertainty about the future of the hobby.
“You don’t see a lot of young, new collectors,” one collector said in passing.
At any rate, Jim Weling is not discouraged.
The Southern California resident collects rare items from state lawmakers.
For example, he purchased a campaign poster of former Nevada Democratic Gov. Emmet D. Boyle, who served from 1915 to 1923.
“A lot of political items dried up in Nevada,” Weling explains, and collectibles like the aforementioned poster “are hard to find.”
Many collectors like Weling, Hearn and Gottlieb focus on a niche within the market, such as anti-war protest pins, presidential campaign items or collectibles from a specific time period.
“This is the single best place to buy memorabilia,” Gottlieb said.
There’s even a “Fonzie for President” pin, perhaps just for laughs.
The Political Collectibles Show & Sale continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today in the Grand Ballroom at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno.
Attendees can get free appraisals of their political treasures by professional experts, bid in auctions and see exhibits of political artifacts and a display of political unusual automobile attachments.
Admission is $5 for individuals and children are admitted free.
For more information, visit www.apic.us.