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In Jimmy Carter's hometown, political memorabilia mix with emotion

Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

PLAINS, Ga. — He makes clear he will pay very little for people’s treasures.

They come anyway. Or sometimes they just anonymously mail him memorabilia that they value, hoping he’ll find them a good home. Because surely somebody will want this stuff: Plastic Jimmy Carter bottle openers that pop off caps with his gaping mouth. An Amy Carter paper doll kit. George Wallace presidential campaign buttons from 1968.

In the little south Georgia hometown of former President Carter, Philip Kurland and his wife, Ramona, own the Plains Trading Post. Their business card proclaims the business is “The Country’s Largest Political Memorabilia and Secret Service Pin Dealer.”

It is a ready-to-sell shrine of all things “Jimmy” — branded salt and pepper shakers, toothpick holders, political buttons, books, refrigerator magnets and products emblazoned with every iteration of exaggerated Carter-like grins. It also offers up the leftovers of lots of other politicians’ campaign dreams. Many of the names have faded from memory. Byrd. Dukakis. Gephardt. Frank Church. Gen. Curtis LeMay?

For at least the last nine years, the couple has advertised their business and building for sale on Facebook. During the first year and a half of the pandemic, they shuttered the store, all but retiring.

But they were drawn back. They’d commute from their apartment one floor above the shop to open just on weekends. “We missed the people,” says Philip Kurland.


Then Carter went into home hospice in February. More visitors and press came to town. Kurland says they decided to reopen every day, until, in his words, “it draws to a conclusion.”

It’s a bit of a community mourning period in Plains. They want to be part of it.

The items that stock the shop are brought in from basements and attics around the nation.

“I never know what will walk through that door,” he says.


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