How Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher could boost America's fastest-growing hobby

Collecting political memorabilia is already regarded as the fastest-growing pastime in America.

Based on an average US house price, if you'd bought a home in America in 2000 you'd now be sitting on 3.83% per annum growth in the 10 years to 2010.

However, a handwritten letter signed by John F Kennedy is up 275.7% in the same period. A return of 14.15% per annum compounded.

At the moment the market is very much in the USA, but news this week that Meryl Streep is in talks to play Margaret Thatcher in a new Hollywood blockbuster could well see the political memorabilia market take off in the United Kingdom.

There have been recent signs that the market is developing in the UK.

As Prime Minister for some twelve years, Margaret Thatcher was at the forefront of satirical criticism, and as such, this created a number of unique opportunities for collectors, like the recent sale of a series of puppets.

In June 2007 Margaret Thatcher's Spitting Image puppet sold for £5,400. Gordon Brown's puppet only managed £4,800

In January 2008 Bonhams auctioned the Spitting Image puppets of Tony and Cherie Blair for £12,600.

And in June 2010 John Major's puppet sold for £3,600.

Over in America where the market is more established there has been a flurry of activity in the last few years.

In 2003 a pair of US Navy issue boxing shorts belonging to JFK sold for $5,000. Jackie's swim suit fetched $850.

At the same auction a Japanese Barbie Doll owned by their daughter Caroline sold for $2,750 - the estimate was just $150.

Items relating to JFK's assassination command a premium. In 2009 Jack Ruby's hat sold at auction for $54,000 against an estimate of $35,000 - a 54% increase.

Even the leg shackles used on Ruby's hospital death bed sold for twice their estimate at $11,054.

Signed documents related to the forefathers of American Politics represent the true high end of the political memorabilia market.

Recent sales include a George Washington letter offering marital advice which sold for $121,000 at auction in March this year

Another Washington letter, written in 1787, to his nephew Bushrod, endorsing the notion of a Constitution sold for $3.22m at Christie's. The figure represents a world record price for an autograph of its kind.

The most valuable piece of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia is his famous last speech calling for better education for black people and leniency towards the south. This sold for $231,000 to now deceased millionaire Malcolm Forbes, a man who recognised the potential value of the political memorabilia market.

Yet the market for unique pieces of political memorabilia need not be expensive. A toothpick holder promoting Benjamin Harrison for president, 1888 is worth around $150. A unique covered cup promoting William Jennings Bryan for president, 1896 sells for around $165.

Move up the market and a copy of Obama's famous "Hope" poster is already selling at a price of $4,500 and $5,000 could have bought you John Adams' personal snuff box, which sold at auction in August 2008.

The US political memorabilia market is not just contained within the US; it's developed into a global market.

Paul Fraser Collectibles, a British company specialising in unique pieces of memorabilia, recently sold the earliest known George Washington signature in private hands. The signature of an 18 year old Washington appeared on a land survey. The only earlier examples of Washington's signature are held in Museums.

Adrian Roose, a Director of Paul Fraser Collectibles, commented "Until now the political memorabilia market has been predominately based in the US, however we are now seeing an increased level of interest in the UK. A Hollywood film about the life of Margaret Thatcher is sure to add further fuel to the fire"

Margaret Thatcher's signature on Concorde Flight Menu
Margaret Thatcher's signature

on Concorde Flight Menu

A copy of a national newspaper signed by Margaret Thatcher the day after she quit as prime minister sold for just £270 at auction a few years ago.

A Margaret Thatcher signature on paper currently sells for around £350. More interesting items command a premium.

Thatcher's signature alongside Labour party rival James Callaghan, on the menu of a Concorde flight, is valued at around £750.

These values are expected to increase as the difficulty in finding unique signed documents relating to Margaret Thatcher is that most important documents relating to events of significance like the Falklands invasion are in the hands of museums or more often than not, governments.

So when unique collectibles with added historical value do come on the market, they are often greatly sought after.


Five Reasons to Invest in Margaret Thatcher memorabilia

1. Investing now into a growing market - The creation of a Hollywood film focusing on Thatcher's life will see renewed interest in memorabilia related to her name, especially from America.

2. Margaret Thatcher is an icon - She is the first and only female Prime Minister to ever govern Britain.

3. The significance of her office - Margaret Thatcher was also one of the longest serving Prime Ministers, in which time she dealt with a war, a nationwide strike and a radical reshaping of the nation's industry.

4. Potential for Price Increases - Compared to the US market the prices of UK related political memorabilia remain undervalued

5. The value of Thatcher's signature - As a Prime Minister of some twelve years, the historical value of Margaret Thatcher's signature will not disappear overnight and is highly unlikely to decrease.

For now Sir Winston Churchill remains the most popular figure in UK political memorabilia.

The PFC40 autograph index, which tracks the value of 40 of the most sought after autographs, shows that a signed photo of Sir Winston Churchill has increased from £2,600 to £5,950 in the last 10 years, an increase of 128.8%.

Winston Churchill
A stunning portrait photo of Britain's greatest leader 

 One such autograph is on sale now

As with all types of collectibles it is the market for unique pieces that carries the greatest level of interest.

A half smoked cigar belonging to Sir Winston Churchill, expected to sell for £350, sold for £4,500 at auction in February 2010.

In August 2009 Churchill's sofa went to auction with an £80 estimate. The rather worn, late 19th Century, settee had graced Churchill's private Whitehall office during his second stint as Prime Minister from 1951-1955. It sold for £7,500.

Were such items relating to Margaret Thatcher's time in office to emerge on the market, they could prove a savvy investment for any avid collector.


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