Americans spend big on Obama souvenirs

November 15th, 2008 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaSan Francisco/Los Angeles, Nov 15 (DPA) The US economy may be deep in the doldrums, but there’s one sector where enterprising entrepreneurs are still making a fortune.Since last week’s victory by Barack Obama, souvenirs of the president-elect are selling like the crash never happened, as his supporters and foreign tourists rush to get their hands on almost anything that commemorates the election of the first African-American president.

There are some limits, of course.

So far there have been no bids on auction site eBay for a $2,499.99 piece of charred bread, being touted as a “Rare Obama on Piece of Toast”.

However, a competing item, called simply the Hope Toast, which boasts a shadowy image of Obama complete with big ears, has attracted 20 offers and was bid up to more than $200 by Thursday afternoon.

Numerous Obama bobble-head dolls, badges, pins, posters, plates, cups, coin collections, and commemorative newspapers are up for sale on eBay, where a search for Obama souvenirs yields almost 30,000 separate auctions. Many people’s favourite was the Obama singing doll, while others liked the Obama dancing doll or the Obama Cabbage Patch Doll.

There seemed to be very little interest in the auction for the web domain names or Maybe the $150,000 price tag had something to do with it.

Another website,, which sells items designed by its users, said it had offered 2.8 million Obama-linked items, while a search for the term “Obama souvenirs” on Google yielded 982,000 results.

The real world is a fine place to pick up Obama collectables, too.

From the crowded street corners of Manhattan to the stairs outside Los Angeles office buildings, street hawkers are embracing Obama trinkets as the best thing for their industry since the hot dog.

“This is phenomenal - I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” street vendor Edward Robert El, 64, told the Los Angeles Times.

He sold more than 3,000 buttons with photos of Obama and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, the slain civil rights icon. The buttons cost El 80 cents apiece, but he was selling them for $3 each outside the Los Angeles Times, where crowds were lined up seeking copies of the paper’s commemorative edition.

The publishing industry has greeted the election of the two-time best-selling author of “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” as its latest “Harry Potter” moment, with at least nine books about Obama scheduled for release in the next weeks. The list includes: “The Obama Menu: Dinners With Barack Obama” and “Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme”.

Television is getting in on the action - with premium cable channel HBO announcing its purchase of an untitled, fly-on-the wall documentary about Obama’s campaign. TV stations are getting help in fighting the advertising downturn from companies that are buying ads for items like the President Barack Obama Inaugural Gold-Plated Dollar for only $9.99, a hefty discount from the usual price of $29.99.

Among the customers for these items are curators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which is slated to open in 2015. The museum has even scooped up items discarded by the Obama campaign, such as election maps, strategy boards, campaign literature and even an office chair from his campaign headquarters.

That clamouring might explain why stores around the country are reporting that they have sold out of such artefacts.

The African-American Art Store in Greensboro, North Carolina, bet that Obama would win and stocked up on items like Obama teddy bears and playing cards. But even the store owner was surprised at the level of demand.

“They’re buying three and four and five of different products,” the harried storekeeper told her local TV station. “It’s crazy, but I understand it. It’s a great moment in history.”

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