Presidents define our eras, lead our lawmakers, and create moments in history that will live for generations. To own a small piece of that legacy—something written about, written by, or signed by one of these iconic figures—is to own a piece of history. This is a list of the top ten presidential collectibles, chosen for their provenance, condition, but most importantly, for the history they represent.
For fans of John F. Kennedy, historical fiction, and conspiracy theories, grand and bold, we'd highly recommend adding Tears of Autumn to your presidential collection. The book tells a fictionalized account of an investigation into the assassination of JFK with a fictional American intelligence operative protagonist leading the charge to uncover the truth. An impressive tale in an of itself, collectors should look for first editions signed by the author, Charles McCarry.
Margaret Truman was the only child of Harry S. Truman, and she lovingly compiled this book of correspondence to honor her father and the kind of family they were. So many books focus on the career, but this one reveals an intimate, personal side of the man who, for a time, ran the world and still made his daughter a priority. Look for first editions signed by Margaret Truman in well-kept dust jackets for truly unique collectibles.
Perhaps one of the most divisive presidents, Richard Nixon oversaw the country during some of the most tumultuous times. Though he is credited with enforcing desegregation, ending the war in Vietnam, and bringing home POWs, he is most well-remembered for his resignation in disgrace after the Watergate Scandal. Now you can read what he has to say about it in his intimate and telling memoir. A signed copy of the two volume limited edition set of Memoirs is very valuable and a great addition to any presidential collection.
Gerald Ford followed Nixon in presidency and survived two assassination attempts. After pardoning the embattled former president, his approval rating took a double-digit hit, and he never recovered. He lost to Jimmy Carter in the November 1976 election—the only one he was ever a candidate in. Gentlemanly Attitudes reveals his side of the story and provides Ford's frank take on his roles as politician and family man. A first edition, signed by the authors—Robert Kronman, David Howell, and Margaret-Mary Howell—and their subject, is a prime collectible.
The 2000 presidential election continues to be one of the most fascinating elections of our time. Contested, confusing, and full of hanging chads and late nights for America, it's never been resolved to the satisfaction of all. Al Gore, the man at the center, has written this incredible book and inscribed it for any presidential history buff. Gore is an active environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Acquire a signed copy of his Assault on Reason for a wonderful presidential library addition.
Presidential photographers have a literal eye on the world, and illustrate what we can only imagine. With pictures worth a thousand words, this book of photographs from the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, as taken by David Valdez, exposes moments both significant and intimate. The hardcover edition, signed by both the photographer and his subject, is a must-have and will give you insight into both the man and the office.
Before he was a president, Barack Obama was a senator, and he wrote this book as a continuation of his now iconic and legendary 2004 Democratic Convention speech where he introduced the phrase the “audacity of hope.” Now, President Obama is in place as the historically significant first African American president of this country. A signed first edition of his book is a collection addition that serves to signify the start of his legacy.
Jimmy Carter, a man whose contributions to the world within and outside of the office of president are too numerous to count here, wrote A Full Life, Reflections At Ninety to reflect on his life now. Carter crafts this book with as full of a perspective of a life lived as one could hope. A first edition, signed copy is an indispensable collectible and serves as a fitting last chapter of an incredible story.
Not only a first edition, and not only signed, the rare and significant copy (pictured above) is also collectible just as it is. Shrink wrapped, never opened, and housed in cloth and a hard case, this is a remarkable and rare find. William Jefferson Clinton was the colorful, fascinating, and conflicting figure who became an icon of the 1990s and is still part of the larger Washington narrative. In this one book, he tells of his childhood, youth, career, marriage, and all of the struggles of his presidency. Beautiful, special, and not to be missed, this edition is a precious and remarkable find.
A first lady like no other, Nancy Reagan dedicated her life to her husband, and in this book of love letters from the former president, readers can see what their private life was like and how it influenced them both. Signed by the recipient of these lovely words, a first edition copy of I Love You, Ronnie is a fantastic collectible and lets us into the Reagan's marriage and the heart of that union.
This was a decidedly difficult list to make. For every book included, there was another that we wanted to add. Did we miss your favorite presidential collectible? Share it with us in the comments below.
Nixon, Richard Milhous. (2011). In L. Rodger & J. Bakewell, Chambers Biographical Dictionary. London, United Kingdom: Chambers Harrap.