Bob Warren, the youngest son of the late chief justice and former California Governor Earl Warren, never thought he’d be so interested in politics. While his father was campaigning as Thomas Dewey’s vice presidential candidate in 1948, he says, he was sulking at home.
“I wasn’t interested in moving from California when he was running,” he says. Warren, who was in his teens at the time, was more concerned about leaving his friends and football behind. “That particular election worked out well for me,” he adds with a laugh.
Today, Warren belongs to a select group of people obsessed with politics, especially the politics he tried so hard to ignore in his youth. Warren has a collection of over 8,000 pieces of political memorabilia, most of which are Earl Warren items. He is a member of a niche organization, the 2,500-member American Political Items Collectors, which has put a formal face on something Americans have been doing for over a century: collecting campaign freebies.
Those who participate in the hobby are tied by a common curiosity of political history. Adam Gottlieb, spokesman at the California Energy Commission and an avid collector, says he sees collectibles as “touchstones to the past. They’re artifacts, and you never know who wore them or how they were made.”
Gottlieb, who is head of the Northern California chapter of the APIC, has been collecting since the tender age of 10, shortly after a field trip to Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home sparked his interest. “I was fascinated that here was this asthmatic, scrawny kid who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, went to Harvard