Chicago : If Barack Obama were a stock, that might be the only thing going up in the market. As he prepares for his historical inauguration next week, people are buying all sorts of merchandise in his name or image – creating an unprecedented market estimated to be worth $100 million.
No US president has seen so many people sell so many things encashing on their popularity: collectors’ coins and plates, bath towels, bobbleheads and buttons – just about anything that can have an image applied to it, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“It’s just our very capitalistic approach to a fascination with a political leader,” Bruce Newman, a DePaul University marketing professor, was quoted as saying.
The amount of Obama-related goods for sale is unprecedented, historians said. Some major retailers estimate the Obama market could hit $100 million by the end of the inauguration.
“He’s been his own economic stimulus package for a lot of people,” said Tony Valtes, founder of Tiger Eye Design, an Ohio-based company that supplied the Obama campaign with the buttons, pins and other items sold on its website.
Tiger Eye’s total revenue is close to $16 million in 2008, the company said, with the majority from Obama-related sales.
While there were no comments from Obama’s staff, Jim Warlich, owner of souvenir shop Political Americana, said: “I’ve been in this 28 years, and I’ve never seen an image of a human being so popular except Jesus and maybe the pope.
“I love that man,” added Warlich.
However, Corey Lynn and his business partner Michael Fay in the president-elect’s home city of Chicago have not been as successful as they had hoped with their Barackas, maracas – a percussion instrument – bearing the image of the president-elect’s face.
“Everyone who ever sees them thinks, ‘Oh my God, that’s brilliant. You’re going to be a millionaire,'” said Lynn. “No. Not at all.”
Julian Zelizer, history and public affairs professor at Princeton University, commented: “One risk is that people move onto the next things in this kind of environment. If Obama became unpopular, will people start to sell anti-Obama stuff with the same kind of relish?
“You did see that with Bush, actually,” he added.