- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

Looking for a pair of Ronald Reagan house slippers? Or tickets from his 1981 presidential inaugural ball?

You might want to start on EBay.

As of yesterday, there were more than 10,000 Reagan-related items for sale on the Internet auction site — up from 6,000 on Tuesday.

A number of online entrepreneurs are engaging in something President Reagan trumpeted throughout his political career: capitalism.

When Craig Oscarson heard of Mr. Reagan’s death Saturday, he immediately went to EBay.com.

An experienced EBay seller, he knew the site would instantly be flooded with items memorializing the former president. And he knew there was an opportunity for him to make some supplemental income.

“I got online, bought some Reagan stuff already on sale and I turned around and resold it,” Mr. Oscarson said. “Americans are impulse buyers. [The rush to buy] doesn’t last very long.”

By comparison, searches for items bearing the names or faces of other former presidents turned up far fewer results. Searching for Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton turns up about 300 to 400 items each.

Reagan memorabilia ranged from the odd to the obscure: house slippers to golf balls to campaign materials to copies of his 1994 letter to the American people in which he revealed his Alzheimer’s disease.

The signed, handwritten copy of the letter received two bids and sold for $2,551.01.

The site lists more than a dozen pairs of vibrant red, white and blue house slippers with caricature heads of the former president and first lady Nancy Reagan. Ty’s “Ronnie” beanie babies and more than 20 Reagan bobblehead dolls also fill the site. A frosted glass Air Force One jelly bean jar features the presidential seal and Mr. Reagan’s stamped signature.

The auction site also lists posters and pins from the 40th president’s 1980 and 1984 campaigns and various books and photos featuring Mr. Reagan. The Jan. 5, 1981, Time magazine featuring him as “Man of the Year” is posted, as is a set of drink tickets to the 1981 inaugural ball.

A golf ball bearing a White House seal and a stamped Reagan signature sold for $68.61. Although the auction was posted May 29, a total of 20 of the 23 bids came after Mr. Reagan’s death Saturday.

According to the descriptions, some of the items were signed by Mr. Reagan.

EBay does not guarantee the authenticity of the items listed on its Web site.

Some items include stories about how they were obtained, from bumper stickers and posters at campaign events to a set of tie clasps given to a bus driver who provided local transportation for the Secret Service once when the former president was traveling.

Mr. Oscarson, of Kansas City, Mo., said he has made about $500 selling Reagan memorabilia. He bought 24 Reagan bobblehead dolls in bulk for $7.95 each and resold them on EBay for about $30.

Mr. Oscarson is “on the fence” about whether making money on the coattails of a death is moral. “It’s a fine line … as long as it’s legit and a credit to the man he is.”

Significant news events are often reflected on the Web pages of EBay, said Hani Durzy, spokesman for EBay. Items related to news in pop culture, sports and current events are often popular.

While memorabilia were quickly transferring hands on the Internet, such items were not selling so well around the Mall this week.

About half of the T-shirt vendors on 17th Street and Independence and Constitution avenues began selling T-shirts memorializing Mr. Reagan. The shirts were not selling as well as some vendors had hoped. One reported selling 50 Wednesday, the day the caisson carrying Mr. Reagan’s casket rolled along Constitution Avenue. But many reported selling fewer than 10.

However, the shirts had Mr. Reagan’s date of birth wrong. The gray-and-white shirts read “In memory of the former president, Feb. 16, 1911-June 5, 2004, Ronald Reagan.” Mr. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911.

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