Introducing the 42nd President of Collectibles... Bill Clinton

Despite scandal and controversy, there are few that would deny that Bill Clinton remains one of the most popular presidents of the modern era. At one point in 1998 his approval rating reached 73% and he left office with a rating of 68%, a figure matching that of both Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt as the highest in the 20th century.

It's therefore little surprise to find that Clinton is quickly becoming an investment source for some of the most popular Presidential collectibles on the market.

 January 2006, saw the auction of an engraved invitation to the Clinton/Gore inauguration dinner dated January 20, 1993. The 8.5 x 11cm invite was signed by "Al Gore" and "Bill Clinton" and sold for £750 ($1,129).

Today, an original programme from a September 1960, Kennedy/Johnson Campaign dinner signed by "John Kennedy" and "Jacqueline Kennedy" is available for £3,950 ($5,925).

Much like Kennedy, Clinton suffered numerous allegations of infidelity during his time in office.

While Kennedy's life was cut short, leading to an increase in the value of collectibles the popularity of Clinton means that in time, such pieces could reach high auction prices.

Bill Clinton's Puppet from
Spitting Image

Various pieces of artwork and photography have also focused on one of the most popular presidents in recent history, who often endured the wrath of satirists due to his alleged problems in his private life.

One auction saw the sale of a Bill Clinton puppet. The puppet was used during the British satirical sketch show "Spitting Image" that was popular in the eighties and nineties and the life size latex model sold in August 2003, for £1,400 ($2,006).

In an interesting comparison, Bonham's auction house recently sold similar spitting image puppets at higher prices.

While Margaret Thatcher's puppet sold for £5,040 ($7,560), and Gordon Brown's fetched £4,800 ($7,200) at the June 2007 auction.

If Clinton's were to re-emerge onto the market today, it may be a similar story in terms of sale prices.

Alternatively, an original illustration from magazine artist Richard Williams came up for auction in November 2007.

The provocative piece came from the pages of one of America's most popular humour magazines "Mad" and was presented in oil on canvas, selling for £1,752 ($2,629). Today, political cartoons represent one of the growing investment markets for collectors, with some pieces reaching thousands at auction.

Photographic collections have proved popular amongst collectors. One chromogenic print, mounted on aluminum, of Bill Clinton in portrait came up for auction in New York in April 2010.

Martin Schoeller's Portrait of Clinton

The image was produced by New York photographer Martin Schoeller, whose work has appeared in The New York, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue to name but a few. The piece sold for an impressive £7,500 ($11,250).

Yet some of the most valuable collectibles relating to Bill Clinton, much like those presidents before him, remains his written correspondence.

So far, the market has served up impressive prices alongside some undervalued pieces that are ideal for investment.

One such example is a group of three letters from Clinton to country music legends Johnny and June Carter Cash. To date they have sold some 50 million records, making the collectible letters equally valuable as pieces of music memorabilia.

Coming two years into his Presidency, this memorabilia had an auction estimate of £260-£400 ($400 - 600) attached yet sold for over four times this at £1,800 ($2,700).

And yet arguably these letters remain undervalued, when compared with the prices found for similar autographed documents on the market.

A single page letter on embossed White House letterhead, and signed by President Clinton from May 28, 1996 to journalist Wily Gutman came up for auction in February, 2010 at Sotheby's. The letter, which was written regarding an article authored by Gutman as a tribute to his father, had moved Clinton who saw similarities in his own family:

 "My grandfather....was much the same kind of man. He ran a grocery store in a poor southern town before food stamps. He sold food on credit to poor hardworking people he knew could never repay him when he knew too, that they were doing their best."

Written during the campaign for re-election, the moving and intimate letter sold for £7,090 ($10,755), nearly four times as much as the letters to Johnny Cash.

The current world record price for Bill Clinton memorabilia, can be found in a unique collectible, which was nonetheless, a classic symbol of his time in office.

One of Clinton's Saxophones

In the run up to his 1993 election victory, Clinton had appeared on the "Arsenio Hall Show" playing his favourite Saxophone. It was enough for some to dub him "the MTV President" and helped to create a growing trend in politics for more youthful and energetic leaders.

Today, his saxophones - both signed and unsigned - are hot property on the auction block. Some signed saxophones can be picked up for as little as £1,800 ($2,629), like the one sold in October 2009.

 More recently there was the sale of Clinton's signed alto sax for a world record price of £120,000 ($180,000) at a charity auction in May 2009 in Cannes.

So why think about investing in Bill Clinton memorabilia?

Not only is Clinton's place in history as a President of the United States secure, but the controversy surrounding his tenure, have given him a unique, if unenviable position in American history.

To date, Clinton is only one of two Presidents to face an Impeachment charge and the only one within the 20th century, thanks to his involvement with Monica Lewinsky and the famous denial of "sexual relations."

It may be that, in time, collectibles from this period offer up the highest rewards. At an sale in October 2007, a signed baseball came up on the auction block.  Selling for £3,800 ($5,724), the collectible was highly unique, in that it featured the signatures of both Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

And that's only the start, in February 2008 Gennifer Flowers revealed that intimate tapes of her and Bill would be coming up for auction. Then things went quiet for a while. Since then, she has revealed during a radio interview that the tapes were indeed sold to a private collector.

Clinton's past is littered with incidents of controversy that have helped to make him one of the most human and seemingly popular Presidents of recent years. This past could some day, add to the growing market for his collectibles.

Add to this the growing status of Hilary Clinton and you have an investment with huge potential for longevity and high auction prices.


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