In Jimmy Carter's hometown, political memorabilia mix with emotion
Published in News & Features
A sitting congressman from up north came by in hopes of making a trade: his piles of Wallace buttons for a rare Carter button. A former Carter campaign staffer with loads of leftover stuff. And someone, or maybe multiple someones, with access to special collectible coins made for Secret Service agents, specific to their protection assignments.
Thousands of political buttons sit in bins stacked on tables and shelves. There are framed campaign bumper stickers on walls, a display of paper Chinese yo-yos from the 1980 Carter reelection campaign and, near the front door, campaign buttons ready for 2024 presidential bids by Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Ron DeSantis. Also a stash of Christmas ornaments that originated at the Clinton presidential library.
Thousands more pieces are in storage in the back, often in cardboard boxes labeled with black markers: “Schwarzenegger, Arnold,” “Citizens Party, Communist, Socialists,” “Perry, Rick,” “Humphrey,” “Kucinich.”
When it comes to who he buys from, Kurland isn’t willing to name names. And he says he’s straight to the point with sellers.
“I tell them I am the grim reaper of political sales. I’m not going to pay much for it.”
A lot of times that’s OK. They just want their keepsakes to be appreciated. Often, their kids or grandkids have already turned them down.
“It’s not dollars and cents,” Kurland says. “There’s emotion here.”
In years past, Carter often stopped by the shop, which is only a few blocks from the former president’s home. He’d want to say hello to the Kurlands and visit with tourists, not shop for memories of campaigns past.
But sometimes Carter’s wife, Rosalynn, would give Kurland old campaign materials to keep or sell. “She is a sweetheart,” says Kurland.
Occasionally she’d peruse the store’s offerings as her husband waited, the shopkeeper recalls. “She wanted something for $5 and he yelled, ‘$5!.’” Carter was known for being careful with every dollar.
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