Video of the Week... Finding value in President Barack Obama's memorabilia

Happy birthday to US President Barack Obama, who turns 49 today. That said, it might not be the happiest birthday for the President. According to reports his wife, Michelle, and daughters are away in Spain, leaving him at home alone with Bo, the family dog.

Flagging approval ratings among US voters might not be the best birthday present, either. Polling by the Gallup Organization suggests that public disapproval of Obama's presidency outweighs approval in several key areas. Overall, his approval rating is now at 45%, according to research.

Of course, how the public judge Obama now and how history judges him will be two different things. For instance, George W Bush's early-August approval figures during his second year in office stood at 71%, while the more fondly-remembered Bill Clinton's were only at 43%...

And, whether it's George Washington retiring to his Potomack farm, or Bill Clinton remaining active in humanitarian work, everyone knows that there is life after the US Presidency. And this is also true of Presidential memorabilia.

Unsurprisingly, memorabilia from the times of Washington and 'the US's most-loved President' Abraham Lincoln can sell for huge amounts on the collectors' markets.

Examples currently for sale include an accounts document signed by Washington listing the payment of slave labour and a rare military commission autographed by Lincoln - both of which could sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

But what about memorabilia attached to more recent Presidents like Obama or Clinton? Well, Clinton is quickly becoming an investment source for some of the most popular Presidential collectibles on the market. 

January 2006 saw an engraved invitation to Clinton's inauguration dinner, dated January 20, 1993, sell for an impressive £750 ($1,129) at auction.

The question is: what will this same historic document be worth in years to come? In comparison, 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).

Elsewhere, Clinton has also proven himself a star at photographic auctions. One print by the New York photographer Martin Schoeller, mounted on aluminum, of Bill Clinton in portrait came up for auction in April 2010, realising £7,500 ($11,250).

So, what about Obama's collectibles? Well, his status as the United State's first-ever African American president already gives his life and political career a heightened significance. But, in terms of which collectibles to invest in, Heritage Auction Galleries' Noah Fleischer offers some succinct advice on his blog...

"Here's the deal: The current run on all things Obama? The coins, plates, papers, shirts, shams, buttons, belly button lint pickers and the like? None of it, really, is going to be worth a thing, minus sentimental value. Perhaps in a few decades, or centuries, some of it will. But now? No. Give it up."

In other words, those "rare, limited edition" Obama coins (which are more likely actually "limited" to tens of millions of examples) won't offer you any great source of value.

Instead, items which Obama has personally owned, signed or used in his campaign or senate career (pens, chairs, cars, stationary, etc) will be the things to look out for. And there is also something else, advises Fleischer...

"One piece of Obama memorabilia that will have you pretty well set for life, and those are one of the original 350 iconic "Hope" portraits... by artist Shepard Fairey, one of which is now in The National Gallery in Washington DC."

An associate of the graffiti artist Banksy, street artist Fairey's works are beginning to show value. One piece of his work recently sold at a charity auction for more than $200,000. These posters are very limited, and likely to be in big demand in the future.

In our above Video of the Week, you can see Fairey being interviewed about his iconic artwork, and give an idea of why it could be valued for many years to come.

For now, if you're willing to spend big money on Presidential memorabilia to make big returns, then you're probably better-off sticking to historic presidents like Lincoln and Washington. On the other hand, make the right choices, and the Obama collectibles you buy today could be tomorrow's historic treasures.


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