- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Looking for a keepsake of Barack Obama‘s historic presidential victory? You may be out of luck.

Demand for buttons, T-shirts and bumper sticks featuring Mr. Obama, as well as newspaper front pages declaring him the winner skyrocketed overnight, as people rushed to grab anything that marked the historic moment.

In Memphis, Tenn., a seat of the civil rights movement and where Elvis is still the King, his home of Graceland has become a frenzied Obamanation.

“We’ve had a team of folks outside of our newspaper since 7:30 this morning selling papers and it still looks like McDonald’s at lunchtime,” Karl Wurzbach, vice president of circulation at the Commercial Appeal, said Wednesday afternoon, as he watched out of his first-floor office window and marveled at the number of readers driving by on the hunt for a keepsake.

His newspaper, nearly sold out by 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, printed 50,000 additional copies of a special edition of the morning’s paper with a headline that reads “Yes He Did.”

“After 9/11, we had a lot of sales, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mr. Wurzbach said of the demand. “I’m looking out my window at a line of cars and people are buying two, three, five copies at a time. There are a lot of very excited people that history was made [Tuesday] night in this country.”

At the Miami Herald, multimedia editor Rick Hirsch said the paper published an extra run to meet demand, but even with 251,000 copies, staffers were forced to add an additional 10,000 papers. They also were selling copies of Wednesday’s front page on the paper’s Web site.

By 9 a.m., the newspaper racks at the Chicago Tribune were sold out. By late afternoon, a line of customers — waiting to get extra copies of Wednesday’s editions — had stretched outside the newspaper’s gift shop.

Overnight, Obama interest flamed out of control online.

By noon, Mr. Obama was No. 2 on the list of Google’s hot trends. Not only were Web surfers looking for information on his election to the presidency, there was heightened interest in Mr. Obama’s inauguration in January and also future first lady Michelle Obama‘s black-and-red election night dress, Google reported.

On eBay, popular culture expert Karen Bard reported the demand for pricey and affordable Obama mementos was high.

Over the past 30 days, Miss Bard said, there have been 32,904 Obama listings. Among the most expensive: a listing for the Internet domain name — hisexcellencybarackobama.com — for a “Buy It Now” price of $299,000, as well as a first-edition signed copy of Mr. Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” for sale at $9,800.

A handcrafted “Bearack Obama for President” stuffed bear by toy crafter Lulu Tatum sold for $810, while a Barack Obama “Art Army” action figure went for $600.

The number of Obama items “keeps going up every time we check,” Miss Bard said of Wednesday’s demand, which she has been charting nearly every hour.

“Clearly people are clamoring to get limited-edition things. His win has provided a huge boost for sales,” with new listings added for such items as a two-night Washington, D.C., Fairfield Inn package for Mr. Obama’s inauguration, along with pins, buttons and license plates commemorating his taking office.

For online company Zazzle.com, “It’s been an Obama phenomenon since about 8 p.m. [Tuesday] night,” said Chief Executive Officer Robert Beaver.

“We’ve seen our orders go up 50 percent versus [Tuesday] and that has continued to go up throughout the day,” Mr. Beaver said.

T-shirts are the No. 1 seller along with buttons, posters and bumper stickers. While thrilled by the business uptick, Mr. Beaver said he had no idea the onslaught his Redwood City, Calif.-based company would get after Tuesday’s election.

“We’re stunned. It never entered our small minds that interest would be this high,” he said. “We are very focused on the holiday stuff. One would have thought logically that a week ago maybe you’d have good sales today, but it’s been such a phenomenon that we wouldn’t be surprised if this continues through the holiday season. The way this is accelerating I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of gifting this year isn’t Obama-based.”

The Washington Times, expecting high demand for Wednesday’s editions, increased the press run by about 25 percent but ran out by midday. It will publish a special commemorative fifth section of the paper as part of Thursday’s editions and will publish 10,000 additional copies of Wednesday’s newspaper. Those additional copies will be on sale Thursday in the lobby of The Washington Times at 3600 New York Ave. NE.

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