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Inaugural Memories for the Masses

January 20, 1985|BETTY CUNIBERTI | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue may have its his-and-hers camels. But the 50th Inaugural Commemoratives catalogue is not far behind, with its 11-inch, $1,750 statue of an eagle, as well as a mug depicting President Reagan's face with a flag coming out of his head for a handle, just $295.

The 15-page catalogue offers 30 official souvenirs, whose sales are expected to defray about $3 million of the total cost of the $12-million inaugural festivities.

The pins, pictures, medallions, license plates, dinner plates, T-shirts and other paraphernalia are considered future collectors' items, and such souvenirs tend to increase in value. A George Washington vest button cost less than 50 cents in 1789, but today collectors will pay as much as $1,000 for one.

Far From Free Now The police badges given out free in 1937 now fetch $500, and the 1977 silver dinner plate, purchased at $225, now goes for $300.

For their most expensive commemoratives, the Reagans took a cue from former President Richard Nixon, who employed the Boehm Studios in New Jersey to sculpt eagle statues for his two inaugurals.

In 1981, for the first Reagan inaugural, 655 Boehm American Eagles sold at $1,200 each. But this year, there are two Boehm eagles to select from: 500 Presidential Eagles, described as hand-painted and life-like, mounted on a mahogany base, are available at $1,750 each. And for the budget-minded, the white bisque porcelain Soaring Eagle will "let your spirits soar" at just $950.

Two other Boehm works are being offered. An eight-inch-long Nancy Reagan Rose (red, of course) will go to 1,200 buyers at $475, and an 8 1/2-inch white bisque elephant is $495.

The most popular item is the inaugural license plate, which can be displayed on an automobile until March 15. Made at Lorton Prison just outside Washington, the plates feature blue letters or numbers on a white background with red stars on gold borders, gold symbolizing the 50th inaugural. The 50th inaugural seal, featuring the Capitol, appears to the left of the letters or numbers. Numerical plates are $30, personalized plates $50. And for the first time since inaugural plates were issued to the public in 1937, disabled-driver plates with the access symbol will be available. The first already has been issued to former White House Press Secretary James Brady, whose plate bears his nickname, BEAR.

A personalized plate already has been sent to ABC television interviewer Barbara Walters. Hers reads TELL ME. The plate with just the numeral 1 will be affixed to the presidential limousine, while George Bush has the numeral 2.

For drinkers, the catalogue offers the Royal Doulton mug with the image of the President and flag handle, whose $295 price tag includes a $100 donation to the James S. Brady Foundation, which provides financial assistance for those injured in assassination attempts on government leaders. For $15, one can purchase a less flamboyant blue tankard with the inaugural seal.

There is plenty of jewelry: tie bars and cuff links, stick pins and pendants, lapel pins and belt buckles, all at less than $26.

A cut crystal decorator jar goes for $135, a commemorative plate for $65, glasses and coaster set at $45 and glass platter for $35.

Medallions range in price from $25 for a 2 3/4-inch bronze to $675 for a set that includes a gold, a silver and two bronzes. The images of Reagan and Bush are on each.

For those with simpler tastes, a poster costs $5, sweat shirts and sport shirts are $20 each, and a seal-emblazoned Jelly Belly Jug of cherry, coconut and blueberry (jelly-belly talk for red, white and blue) 50th Presidential Inaugural Jelly Bellys costs $9.50.

Copies of the inaugural catalogue may be obtained by writing to the 50th American Presidential Inaugural Commemoratives, P.O. Box 19804, Washington, D.C. 20036. Items may be ordered until March 1 on the toll-free number (800) 453-1908.

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