On Politics, Society and Culture by Hal Brown
You may want to forget it, but who can erase this story from their memory?
Trump lawyers told the GOP to stop using his name and likeness for fundraising and merchandise but as far as I could tell he hasn’t had them go after companies using his name and glorious visage to make money for their own enrichment. The company selling the currently advertised Mt. Rushmore $2 bill is described by Wikipedia as:
... a Westchester County New York based company that sells privately produced coins, tokens, commemoratives, and collectibles, as well as anti-aging skin products through the BioLogic brand. The company does not produce coins that are legal tender in the United States and is not affiliated, endorsed, or licensed by the U.S. government or the United States Mint. However, the company does also act as a retailer, reselling government proof coins and other legal tender. The mint also creates non-currency coins for large corporations. After National Collector's Mint was repeatedly cited by state and Federal authorities for fraudulent profiteeringfrom the 9/11 attacks, The Huffington Post described the company as a "bogus 9/11 coin seller."
They are known for a scam trying to profit off the 9-11 attack. In 2020 they advertised a coin coated with 14 milligrams of 24 karat gold worth approximately 70 cents. The coin was offered for $9.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling.
Somehow this company seems to be getting away with breaking U.S. currency law. According to their website they took “a U.S. legal tender two-dollar bill and enhanced it with full-color images of both the President and First Lady, along with fireworks over the Mt. Rushmore Memorial, and “through a special colorization process, each Genuine Legal Tender $2 Bill is enhanced by us right on the face.” This is what the government says about defacing U.S. currency is legal:
- The illustration is of a size less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half, in linear dimension, of each part of the item illustrated;
- The illustration is one-sided; and
- All negatives, plates, positives, digitized storage medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices and any other thing used in the making of the illustration that contain an image of the illustration or any part thereof are destroyed and/or deleted or erased after their final use.
The Trump bill overlay printing is on one-side so this meets the standard. However the size of the alteration appears to be far more than what is specified as permissible.
Creating Currency-Like Items and Attaching Notices to U.S. Currency
Under section 475 of the U.S. Criminal Code, “whoever designs, engraves, prints, makes, or executes, or utters, issues, distributes, circulates, or uses any business or professional card, notice, placard, circular, handbill, or advertisement in the likeness or similitude of any obligation or security of the United States issued under or authorized by any Act of Congress or writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon or attaches to any such instrument, obligation, or security, or any coin of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever, shall be fined under this title.” 18 U.S.C. § 475.
According to CNBC (in 2020), Trump made over $1 million from the store that sells products with foreign, unknown origins. According to Quartz (2018) only 15% of the products in the Trump store are made in the US. Many or most of these items have a label that says “made in America” which perhaps means that the label itself was made in America.
According to ABC News, the MAGA hats sold on the official Trump Store website is made in America
The company website selling the $2 bill tells us that it “is a nationally recognized coin and collectibles company located in Purchase, NY. Founded in 1994, the company has grown from a small two-person operation to a company of more than 50 people. Former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. and Angela Marie (Bay) Buchanan, the 37th Treasurer of the United States, co-chair our Board of Advisors and serve as spokespeople for our company.” They tout that they are “proud to be or have been a trusted licensee of General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, ChryslerCorporation, and The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation for coin and coin-related products.”
With the exception of Ronald Reagan, featured in a few presidential items, Trump is the only other president featured in items with the exception of two collections featuring all the previous living presidents in what they called their presidential collectibles.
No less a website than Investopedia defines collectable as:
What Is a Collectible?
A collectible refers to an item that is worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and/or popularity. The price for a particular collectible usually depends on how many of the same item are available as well as its overall condition. Common categories of collectibles include antiques, toys, coins, comic book, and stamps. People who amass collectibles take a lot of time to collect them, and usually store them in locations where they will not be ruined.
- A collectible is an item worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and popularity, as well as its condition.
- Collectibles aren't always as common or as great an investment.
- The term collectible is sometimes applied to new items that have been mass produced and are currently for sale.
Obviously the use of the term for these Trump items only applies to the last two takeaways above. Years from now they won’t be worth the material used to make them… or will they?
Investopedia describes describes the most valuable collectibles as:
The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909. Honus Wagner cards almost always sell for over $1 million if they are in good condition. A few have even sold for over $2 million. That is an impressive haul for a card that was stuffed in cigarette packs as a free gift. Another example is the Treskilling Yellow. This is a misprinted Swedish postage stamp that sold for somewhere around $2.3 million in 2010.
Is it possible that we will see Trump collectible fairs with the same people who hawked Trump merch at his rallies trying to unload their unsold crap as valuable collectibles? I suppose this is possible.
Here’s what happens to the some of the clothing promoting losing championship teams. Some losing teams try to have all their “winner” items destroyed. The program of donating to charity was controversial. I read somewhere ( I can't find the story) that in third world countries few people wanted them because they didn't like to be associated with a loser. There probably are people who will never see Trump as a loser, so who knows, perhaps there will always be a market for his merch.
My late wife sold some mint condition still in the box Ginny dolls and outfits her parents gave her when she was a child for about $100 each. For reason people who understand her know she just put them on a shelf and never played with them. She almost made over $200 for the first book published by William Burroughs. It was published under a pseudonym which my librarian wife spotted in a used book store and bought for about $2.00. It was a paperback in very good condition but when I photographed it I stupidly opened it to show front and back in one picture and broke the spine destroying its value. Still, we got $20 for a paperback that originally cost about a dollar. My late wife, a librarian, didn't let me hear the end of this for a long time.
Serious collectors can make money if they know which presidential memorabilia are likely to increase in value, for example here’s what an auction site has to say. The most expensive campaign button was sold for $225,000, a rare George Washington button in excellent condition was sold for a record price. Of course you’d need a time machine to go back and get one of those. (Reference) You could buy a collection of anti-Trump buttons and hope one will turn out to be rare and worth something a few years from now.
You may be able to get between $20-22 on eBay if you happen to own one of these “they can’t lick our Dick!” buttons. There’s a lot of bad things to say about Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon but as I recall he didn’t sell his own campaign merchandise so if you happen to own one of these and get $20 it will be pure profit.
I’m not a collector. My late wife was. She collected vintage items including recipe books, Santa Claus mugs, honey pots, Pussy in Boots items (second biggest collection in the country), mostly European valentines day cards, among other items. We’d go to flea markets and antique stores and then when eBay came along we also bought and sold items there. When it came to eBay she found the items to buy and decided what to sell. When selling things she’d write the descriptions and my job was taking pictures, getting it online, and when sold mailing the item to the buyer.
Here’s a list of the 10 most popular things people collect.
Here’s a list of 33.
Here’s a list of 85.
How many things do you collect?