True American History Some People Show Their Passion for the Past with Patriotic and Historical Collectibles Such as Photographs, Newspapers and Political Memorabilia
Respess, Susan P., The Florida Times Union
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
"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
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
"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
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. …