Treasure: Reagan items may have authentic signature

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

The presidential election has been in the news lately, but the political arena has long been a popular area of collecting. Norman Kaye of Hudson’s interest was spurred, he says, by an Al Smith license plate his father gave him after World War II (for those who need a history refresher course, Smith, a New York governor, ran for president in 1928). Kaye’s father, an immigrant, worked for the Smith campaign and passed his interest in politics down to his son.

Since then, the 88-year-old has developed an interest in presidential history, and has collected items representing FDR, Eisenhower, Truman and Kennedy, among others. “Carter, Bush, Obama…. I have them all,” he told Corinne Henzi-Schultz at a recent appraisal session held downtown at DuMouchelles. “I have a whole wall of political memorabilia.”

He recently brought in an example he was especially curious about. “I acquired the poster soon after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president,” he wrote about the large wood-framed item. “At the time of the Republican National Convention, held in Detroit, his picture wearing a cowboy hat appeared in the Detroit News. Shortly after, I corresponded with him requesting a copy of the picture. He responded and asked me for additional information regarding the publication of the photo. Soon after, I received a 20’ by 15’ size poster signed by President Reagan in addition to a thank you letter.”

Written on Aug. 6, 1980, the letter reads, in part: “Thank you very much for your letter. It was very nice of you to write to share your reaction to the convention and also to send the picture. I would be delighted to send you a poster if you would do me a small favor – send me the name of the newspaper from which that picture came. The lady in the picture is a member of my staff and wants to write for a print.”

The poster, signed by Reagan in the upper right-hand corner, features a jeans and cowboy hat-wearing Reagan smiling in front of a backdrop of various famous American landmarks, including the Empire State building, the Capitol, and other sites. The bottom reads “America” and “Reagan Country.”

Henzi-Schultz filled Kaye in on his item. “It does indeed look genuine, but we are not autograph authenticators,” she said. The concern with autographs is that it could have been signed by a staff member or even an auto pen, she said, but “there’s enough inconsistencies that I think it’s indeed his signature.” That said, she pointed out, presidential autographs and signatures are worth more during the time the person served in office. “There was a similar letter on oval office official letter head that didn’t sell at auction,” she told Kaye. “It was estimated at $800-$1,200.”

Because of that, she estimated his poster and letter would bring $200-$500 at auction, more if in a retail setting. Kaye says he collects both Republican and Democratic items and adds that he’s avidly watching the current election play out. “Political undercutting is nothing new,” he said. “I’m 88 years old but have never seen such disarray.”

That said, he has great respect for the office and plans to continue collecting. “The presidents have contributed so much to our country.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Reagan memorabilia

Owner : Norman Kaye

Appraised by : Corinne Henzi-Schultz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $200-$500 at auction