Treasure: Presidential items perennially popular, no matter who is in office
Red or blue, Democrat or Republican – one truth is inescapable, says appraiser Brian Thomczek. “Presidential stuff is very, very collectible,” he recently informed Robert Wimmer, who brought a number of presidential items to an appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “I buy presidential pieces whenever I can find them and they don't cost an arm and a leg,” he told the appraiser.
Not long ago, Wimmer came across some items relating to America’s 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower served two terms, from 1953 to 1961. “I picked these up at a large garage sale in Novi," he told told Thomczek. “There was a big pile of Eisenhower-related things, including a photo with a cracked frame that said ‘Karsh” on it and a variety of other things including a big button.”
Karsh, of course, refers to Yousuf Karsh, one of the 20th century’s great portrait photographers. He is known for many images he took of the world’s most renowned scientists, artists and leaders. According to an article in Life Magazine (timeinc.net) “his success as a portrait photographer did not derive from a reverence for celebrity."
Wimmer thinks the photo dates to about 1953. “The glass and frame were cracked, so we stored the photo and matting,” he told the appraiser. He also picked up a large stamped envelope with personal tickets to the inauguration and The Inaugural Ball, both dated January 20, 1953.
“Do you want the bad news first or the good news?” the appraiser asked. The bad news is that the 10- by 13-inch Karsh photo is not an original. “The small mark of the letter c with the circle indicates that this is just a print,” he told Wimmer. “There were literally thousands of these out there.” The good news is that even though the photo is a copy, there is value in some of the other, smaller items. “The most value is probably in the tickets, because they are the most rare,” Thomczek told Wimmer. “This is also the only Eisenhower button I’ve ever seen.”
The paper items are part of a collecting area known as “ephemera,” he said – and it’s quite popular. “Even though the photo isn’t an original, the other items are and you could probably get $200-$300 for the rest of the items as a whole if you were interested in selling.” More fascinating information on Eisenhower collectibles and those related to other presidents can be found at politicalmemorabilia.com.
Wimmer said he will have to decide what to do with the items. Thomczek gave him a final piece of advice. “If you do decide to sell, look for an auction that specializes in presidential memorabilia. I wish I could have given you better news about the Karsh, but when you see the copyright mark on it, it tells you that it’s just a copy.”
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 email@example.com. 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: Presidential memorabilia
Owned by: Robert Wimmer
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated value: $200-$300 at auction