True American History Some People Show Their Passion for the Past with Patriotic and Historical Collectibles Such as Photographs, Newspapers and Political Memorabilia

Article excerpt

Old Glory will be flying from houses throughout the nation

today to celebrate Independence Day, but many Americans show

their patriotism indoors year-round with historical American


Dave Nelson's Virginia heritage and a genuine passion for

history led to a huge collection that fills his home and his

Jacksonville store on St. Augustine Road, Uncle Davey's


"Growing up in Virginia, there isn't a battlefield or museum I

haven't been in. The one collectible market I've been active in

that hasn't let me down for 30 years is the old and antique

collectibles," said Nelson, who specializes in Civil War-era


One reason he said he opened his store five years ago was

because he hadn't seen many historical things displayed in

people's homes.

"I was in the carpet cleaning business for 20 years. I'd been

in thousands of homes and I'd see the grandiose velvet Elvises

or a bowl of fruit, or the art decor Budweiser can of beer on

the wall. In my house, you see George Washington in one room,

the Declaration of Independence in the other.

"I wanted to have a place where people could buy genuine

historical artifacts that they could take home with them and

display proudly."

He thinks it's important for children to grow up in homes with

a sense of history.

"You can say I'm crazy, but I think if parents had more things

displayed in their homes from the American experience that kids

could find meaning in, I think we would have less school

violence. Can you picture Thomas Jefferson going into the woods

and setting a fire off I-10?"

He also says historical collectibles have an investment value.

The Beanie Baby mania that has bitten a lot of collectors makes

him groan.

"People are buying those more than lottery tickets because

they're cheap," Nelson said. The truth, he said, is that they

won't be worth anything in a couple of years despite what price

guides claim.

Historical collectibles, such as old newspapers, signed

documents, photographs, military items and political memorabilia

will only increase in value, he said.

"When you start amassing a big collection of these things,

you're going to be looking for a price guide that helps identify

them," Nelson said.

"They are good for identification, but as far as a realistic

buy-sell figure, no. There's a price guide on Civil War

collectibles. Some of the things in it are so low I'd like to

buy them. Some are so high -- I'm selling comparables for half.

The value is only what someone will pay."

It's easy to start small if you're a new collector and

gradually build up knowledge of the field by attending antique

shows and going to shops and flea markets, Nelson said.

For $5 and up, you can purchase photographs of presidents that

were taken by an official White House photographer who

authenticated them on the back.

For $2 and up, there are old photos. They are priced according

to the medium, whether the image is on glass, paper or tintype,

and the content, whether the image is a soldier, a historical

figure or an ordinary person.

"The ones of soldiers and outdoor scenes are very valuable,"

Nelson said. "A photo of a black [Civil War] soldier is worth

over a thousand dollars."

The Encyclopedia of Collectibles (Time-Life Books, 1979) said

that some of the most-sought-after political collectibles are

19th century portrait badges, which are photographs of

presidential candidates set in metal mounts. …