- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It’s high time — with the Iowa primary less than 24 hours away — for many to trade in their Christmas calendars and holiday wreaths for political tchotchkes and memorabilia a la “I Love Mike Huckabee” wall clocks or Obama 2008 wall calendars.

“We sell a lot of campaign stuff for the home right now — mugs, hot sauces, magnets. I think we only have one magnet left,” says Aissatou Sene, manager of Making History, a store that sells patriotic and campaign items at Union Station. “The most popular designs are Giuliani, Clinton and Obama. … Nobody’s asking for Edwards or Romney.”

As it turns out, the marketplace online and at local tchotchke shops is so full and varied you could — theoretically — decorate an entire home with campaign items. There are — in addition to the ubiquitous T-shirts — throw pillows, blankets, keepsake boxes, mugs, steins, journals, mouse pads, coasters, posters, prints, tiles (imagine an entire backsplash of Fred Thompson tiles, or an entire shower stall of Ron Paul tiles). You name it.

While Making History only had one magnet left on a recent afternoon, America!’s Spirit, another Union Station store, was completely sold out of Hillary Rodham Clinton nutcrackers — to Alexandria resident John Morison’s deep displeasure.

“I saw it somewhere and thought ‘I just have to have it,’ ” Mr. Morison says. “It’s just too funny.”

The nutcracker features Mrs. Clinton in a dark suit. The nuts are cracked between her stainless-steel-reinforced legs. It retails for about $20.

Mr. Morison was told to check back later in the week.

“The nutcracker is really a must-have,” says Ms. Sene, who is planning to order some for her store, too. “I don’t know if people who buy it love her or hate her. But personally, I see it as a compliment because Hillary’s super strong.”

A quick look online — particularly at Cafepress.com, a marketplace for independent vendors — shows that there are thousands of designs and tens of thousands of products. Kathy Nolan, who sells her designs on Cafepress, says her items are selling like hot cakes, particularly the clocks, mugs, barbecue aprons and pillows.

Ms. Nolan’s designs have a liberal slant and she says she thinks customers buy them as much to make a statement about themselves as to tease the other side.

“I know I bring out the liberal stuff as a joke when my hard-core Republican in-laws visit,” says Ms. Nolan of Howell, N.J.

Jim Gamble, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, is the owner of RightWingStuff.com, where he sells hundreds of designs and items. Of the campaign items, the most popular ones have anti-Hillary messages. One design features Mrs. Clinton dressed in a witch’s hat and the text “… and your little tax cuts, too!”

Mr. Gamble says that with all the campaign items available, you could, technically, have a primary dinner party with dinnerware featuring a favored candidate.

“You could bring out your Hillaryware,” he says. “That would be pretty cute.”

Much of the campaign items are considered short-lived, as in, once the campaign is over, the items are over. It doesn’t have to be that way. Barry Goldberg, who designs and sells items with a liberal slant on Cafepress.com, says even if your candidate loses, the item may not lose its relevance.

“If the winning candidate doesn’t perform well, you can always bring out your old campaign mugs or buttons and say ‘Don’t blame me,’ ” he says.

Campaign items also can serve as mementos as is the case with Anne O’Rourke, a Capitol Hill resident. Ms. O’Rourke has saved various items from past campaigns, including confetti from the 1992 National Democratic Convention in New York.

“I keep it in a crystal box,” Ms. O’Rourke says. “For me it’s a great reminder of an exciting time of hope.”

She also has buttons from various campaigns and a tie pin from the John F. Kennedy campaign, which was given to her by her grandfather. She hasn’t displayed any of these items yet.

“Maybe I’ll get a shadow box and display them all together, but that won’t happen until I have finished the baby books,” she says, indicating it may be a long time coming.

The idea of grouping the items, though, is definitely the way to deal with memorabilia, says Alexandria-based interior designer Karen Luria of Karen Luria Interior Identity Inc.

“When deciding how to display any accessory, you have to determine how important and integral a part it plays in your life,” Ms. Luria says. “It also depends on the decor of your home.”

If it’s a very elegant home, buttons and such might be jarring and difficult to integrate. As with any accessory, however, it often comes down to presentation. Most anything can look nice if it’s displayed right, she says.

“It’s the same with food. You could have the most amazing chef, but if the presentation isn’t there, it detracts from the food,” Ms. Luria says. “A shadow box is a great way to display pins and buttons, for example.”

Aside from presentation, placement is also key, she says. If the items don’t fit into the general decor, then maybe assign a corner or room for the items.

What it comes down to in the end, though, is what role the memorabilia have in a person’s life. To some, the stuff is cluttery junk that deserves only a quick toss into the trash. To others, like Ms. O’Rourke, it evokes important feelings and memories.

“Whenever I work with people I carefully take their ideas and feelings into consideration,” Ms. Luria says. “What can they live without and what can’t they live without. Memorabilia is no different. One person’s treasure is another person’s trash.”

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