Our Top Five pieces of political memorabilia

Last night's first ever Presidential-style television debate between the leaders of Britain's political parties: Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg stirred up more interest in politics than the British public have felt for a while.

Clegg, whose party is the least likely of the three to win, appears to have taken a stride ahead of the other two based on polling after the event, which may decide who will be Prime Minister this summer.

Political memorabilia varies in its worth, as we explained with reference to an Xbox signed by Sarah Palin (we suspect it's still available if you're willing to stump up the seven figure sum demanded). Here we look at some of our favourites:

Oliver Cromwell's boots

Politics as we know it in the English speaking world began with the defeat of Royalist forces in the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell played a great part in bringing that about, and parliament granted him a leading role.

Just before Christmas last year, a pair of boots which are believed to have belonged to Cromwell (there is no absolute proof) and might have marched Roundheaded forces into battle, sold for £3,800.

Winston Churchill's cigar

A leader that any of Brown, Clegg or Cameron would want to be compared to, Churchill is remembered worldwide for his prescience in seeing the Nazi threat whilst others were still looking for peace deals, and his stirring speeches which held British resolve through WWII.

Winston Churchill's Havana cigar
Winston Churchill's cigar
(Click to enlarge)

He was also famed for his love of cigars - so much so that a type of Cuban cigar is named after him. Earlier this year a half-finished cigar he abandoned to attend an urgent meeting of some kind during the early 1940s sold for £4,500.

A signed photo of Churchill in a classic pose, and even an annotated typescript of his replies to parliamentary questions are currently available.

Vladimir Putin's watch

In an arm's factory last year in Tula, Russia, ex-President Putin gave a speech about the economy, acknowledging that times were tough for the workers. At the end, he received a remarkable request from a worker. They asked if he would give his watch, to help them remember his visit by.

Putin chose not to make use of his famed black belt judo skills, and instead handed over the fine timepiece. It was a Blancpain, of a relatively chunky and masculine style as high-end watches go, and worth £5,500.

But it will no doubt be worth more for being the one Putin handed over in this case - he is seen as an inspiring figure in Russia, to the extent that many Russians have adopted his quirk of wearing their watches on their right wrists despite being right-handed.

Lincoln's letter to a child

In May 1860, Abraham Lincoln received the Republican nomination for the Presidency, and took the time to meet a number of journalists, including one by the name of Patten, and Patten's son: George Evans Patten. Nobody at the younger Patten's school believed him.

Patten's teacher thought the best way to solve the dispute was to write to the new President. But they couldn't have known what was on Lincoln's mind at the time: the looming threat of Civil War.

On March 19 1861, President Abraham Lincoln had an emergency meeting with his military leadership regarding the Fort Sumpter crisis - and also took the time to reply to the letter from the school. In a nice touch, he chose to sent it to Patten rather than the school.

Abraham Lincoln George Evans Patten
Abraham Lincoln's letter to George Evans Patten

That letter is valued at $60,000. Presidential autograph collector Malcolm Forbes's prize possession was Lincoln's last speech, in which he called for the South to be treated leniently following the North's victory in the Civil War and for better treatment and education for black people. He paid $231,000 - a record for a Presidential document at the time.

George Washington's letter endorsing a US Constitution

In 1787, America's first President George Washington was trying not to strongly commit to one side or the other in a fierce, public debate about whether the United States needed a constitution. But in his own mind he was in no doubt, as a letter to his nephew Bushrod showed.

Washington firmly endorsed the planned Constitution across four pages, and was particularly keen on the capacity for it to be amended. Such provisions...

"...allow the people (for it is with them to judge) [to decide upon amendments when warranted] for I do not conceive that we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue than those who will come after us…"

The letter sold for a stunning $3.22m at Christie's.

Those interested in collecting rare and valuable US Presidential autographs may be interested in this portfolio which is on the market now.



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