VIDEO: Habitat to auction memorabilia from 1956 GOP convention

tbarton@islandpacket.comJanuary 4, 2012 

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As the race for the Republican presidential nomination moves beyond Iowa to New Hampshire and South Carolina, an area nonprofit agency is hoping to turn political signs into dollar signs.

The Palmetto State's first-in-the-South primary is more than two weeks away, and Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity is trying to tug at GOP heartstrings to bring in donations.

The Habitat affiliate announced Wednesday it is auctioning memorabilia from the 1956 Centennial Republican National Convention, at which Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for a second term as president and Richard Nixon as vice president.

Harry Gregory, manager of Habitat's resale store in Bluffton, found the items while cleaning out the office. They include the program from the convention held Aug. 20-23 in San Francisco, a list of convention delegates, and the lyrics and music for "Ike for Four More Years" by Irving Berlin.

Neither Gregory nor Hilton Head Regional Habitat president and CEO Pat Wirth know who donated the items or how the person acquired them. Both speculate they might have been donated by someone clearing a relative's estate.

Sadly, the three items -- which are being auctioned together to the highest bidder -- are not hot with collectors, according to Mark D. Evans, director of member services for the American Political Items Collectors. The nonprofit group formed in 1945 to promote, study, preserve and collect American political memorabilia touts itself as one of the oldest hobby organizations in the country, next to stamp- and coin-collecting groups.

Evans said the three items would fetch about $25 to $50 on the collectors' market.

"Most collectors collect buttons, so it's a smaller field of interest for the three items," Evans said. "Hopefully, there is a diehard Republican who thinks it's cool and willing to bid on it. There's a lot more interest in older material, although everything is collectible."

Still, Wirth hopes the buildup to the state's Jan. 21 primary and GOP nostalgia will spark interest in the auction.

"With a presidential year, I think people are a little more politically minded, and people are nostalgic for times that seem simpler and may spur people on to want it. There are certainly people here who may have voted in the 1956 election," she said. "I love politics. To me, this thing is terrific."

The silent auction lasts through Jan. 11. A winner will be announced the following day. Bids can be made at the Bluffton ReStore at 184 Bluffton Road.

For more information, call 843-757-5864.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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