When it comes to swag, whatever President Donald Trump is selling, his supporters are buying.
The latest Trump item to garner widespread interest comes from an auction house in South Jersey that is selling what it says is Trump’s signature on a copy of the House’s impeachment report.
Though it likely won’t reach the $100,000 to $500,000 that Hardcore Pawn star Les Gold predicted a few weeks back, bidding on the signature has already reached $17,000. According to Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions in Runnemede, the signature is likely to sell for more than $40,000 or $50,000 by the time the auction closes on Saturday.
The president’s signature is just one of a nearly endless list of items being sought by Trump supporters, who appear to have an insatiable appetite for merchandise promoting the 45th president. Goldin said he’s auctioned many political items over the years, including some signed by former President Barack Obama, but nothing measures up to the demand he’s seen for Trump items.
The demand for the document exists even though its authenticity has been called into question. Goldin says he obtained the autograph from a man named Jonathan Moore, who had it signed during a Trump rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Dec. 18, the same day the House Judiciary Committee issued its impeachment report.
Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for the Trump campaign, expressed skepticism to the New York Times that the autographed items were “authentic as claimed.” And Jeannie Burchfield, chairwoman of the Calhoun County Republican Party, told the Times that Jonathan Moore does not exist.
Goldin acknowledged that “Jonathan Moore” may be a pseudonym, but said two separate firms — Beckett Authentication Services and Professional Sports Authenticator — confirmed that Trump’s signature is indeed on the document.
“I am cocksure this is signed by Trump,” Goldin told The Inquirer. “I’ve sold over 60 of his items. I know the timeline. I know who got it signed. And I’m extremely comfortable with it."
While registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia, the desire for presidential merch certainly exists in the suburbs, where Mike Domanico opened a new “Trump Store” in Bensalem just last week. Domanico said business has been so brisk, he had planned to open a second store in the Willow Grove Mall but is now looking at strip-mall locations in Montgomery County after he says the mall backed out of the deal. The Willow Grove Mall did not respond to a request for comment.
“Last Saturday, we had a line out the door,” Domanico said.
He’s part of a cottage industry that has grown during Trump’s first term to meet the overwhelming demand for merchandise featuring the president and his policies. His store and others like it sell merchandise unaffiliated with Trump’s campaign, running the gamut from shirts to commemorative coins and just about everything in between, including a Trump wig for your dog.
But if Trump is known for one thing, it’s slapping his name on something and selling it. Previous presidents, such as Obama, sold their fair share of branded merchandise to raise money or awareness for their political campaigns. And Obama was similarly featured on a fair share of vendors’ merchandise.
But Trump and his campaign staff appear especially adept at tapping into the anger and sense of grievance felt by his supporters, who proudly wear his now-iconic “Make America Great Again” hat and buy merchandise as much out of defiance toward Democrats and liberals as a show of support for the president.
In July, Trump’s campaign quickly sold out of plastic Trump straws, marketed as a response to the growth of environmentally friendly paper straws. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale got the idea after he was annoyed the paper straw he was using on a JetBlue flight ripped.
"I think something Trump has always understood very clearly is how to tap into a cultural moment or zeitgeist and leverage it to his advantage,” Democratic strategist Tara McGowan told Politico. She described using the plastic straws to simultaneously make a statement and raise money as "both brilliant and sinister.”
So why is Trump memorabilia, either sold directly by the campaign or through stores like the ones Domanico owns or auctions that Goldin hosts, able to generate such interest from consumers? According to Bruce Newman, a political marketing specialist and professor at Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University in Chicago, it’s about the strong connection Trump has created with his supporters.
“I think Trump is such a divisive personality, he brings out the best and the worst in people. He elicits that kind of emotion from people,” Newman said.