’Tis the Season for the Perfect Gift: A Capitol Musical Snow Globe

Posted December 5, 2008 at 3:46pm

Shopping for holiday gifts never seems to be an easy task, and for Washingtonians, it carries an additional burden — it seems that all those pesky out-of-town relatives expect their gifts to have a political twist.

While a ticket to the upcoming presidential inauguration might be the most desired item this holiday season, it isn’t exactly the easiest to nab. So with that in mind, here’s a slew of other politically themed holiday gifts that are sure to make anybody on your list happy.

And since there’s now officially a recession going on, most items are less than $50.

That Special Guy: Winter often is chock full of formal events, which means gentlemen will have to dust off their tuxedos. Cufflinks are the perfect accessory, and the Capitol Historical Society offers plenty, including multiple sets featuring the Great Seal of the United States ($36-$56) and the Capitol ($18-$38).

If your guy’s not the fancy type, consider the society’s multiple business card holders ($10-$28), a classy, patriotic way to carry all those cards around. If he’s a sports hound, try the Constitution Baseball ($9.95), which features both the Preamble and former President Abraham Lincoln’s signature. The Newseum also offers “The Star Spangled Banner” baseball ($29.99), showcasing the handwriting of Francis Scott Key.

Diana Wailes, who oversees merchandising for the historical society, also recommends

nabbing Capitol-themed pens. Options range from a simple ballpoint to a 22-karat gold fountain pen ($3.95-$99.99). Among the most popular are the society’s Flash memory pens ($69.95-$79.95). “It’s a really nice pen, but it’s also your jump drive,” Wailes said.

That Special Lady: Jewelry is the easiest way to capture a woman’s heart — so long as you pick out the right piece. And unfortunately, political jewelry is often, well, really tacky. (See: American flag brooch.)

But hope isn’t completely lost. Online retailer Etsy.com is a great spot to find unique, handcrafted pieces with a political tint. Seller brookadelphia’s statehood necklaces ($45) and gold-plated cutouts of all 50 states that can be customized to add a heart or star in place of a special city are especially cute. Brookadelphia also sells nameplate necklaces ($45) featuring words such as “pundit,” “vote” and “O8AMA.” Another favorite is seller XOHandworks’ custom map pendants ($24) — two-sided, custom-made pieces that use real vintage maps and atlases to highlight hometown cities, states or countries.

If your gal isn’t the jewelry-wearing type, other fashionable accessories might be the best bet. The Newseum offers up a surprisingly cute political party-themed scarf, with a print of either donkeys or elephants ($39.99). The National Public Radio Shop at shop.npr.org also is selling a number of cute tote bags, including their Nina Totin’ Bag ($25), a canvas piece honoring the popular legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Mom: If your mom enjoys entertaining, she’ll love the Newseum’s Oval Serving Platter ($39.99) and Appetizer Plate ($19.99). Both are available with either the Democratic donkey or Republican elephant. For a bit more money, consider the Capitol Historical Society’s Great Seal Charger Plate ($89.95), which was presented at a first ladies luncheon hosted by Laura Bush.

Moms who love jewelry likely will enjoy the Sculptured Jewelry Box offered by the society ($28), a 5.5-inch diameter round resin box featuring a raised image of a turn-of-the-century Capitol on the cover and sculpted columns surrounding the perimeter.

If you want mom to have a piece of history, the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum is the place to go. The building once housed the National Women’s Party, and offers up a number of female-empowering items in its gift shop (also available online at sewallbelmont.org).

Sewall’s “Votes for Women” ceramics collection remembers the motto used in 1909 at the suffrage open house hosted by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. The collection features mugs ($12), luncheon plates ($15), dinner plates ($19), wine glasses ($9), a cup and saucer set ($21) and a tea pot ($28).

Dad: Ties often are the go-to gift for good old pops, and the all-things-politics store America in Union Station is offering a red tie with an inscription of the Constitution ($34.95) and a blue tie featuring the Declaration of Independence ($34.95). Another option is the Strathmore art center’s Washington Map Tie ($44), which features a design by artist Lori Bate of the 3-D buildings and landscapes that define the nation’s capital.

But what if Dad isn’t the tie-wearing sort? Visit the International Spy Museum and pick up the ID Sentry Passport Wallet ($35). Crafted from full-grain nappa leather, the wallet also blocks radio frequency and electromagnetic waves, preventing identity thefts from tricksters snatching information off scannable credit cards.

If your dad served in the armed forces (or is just an American patriot) consider placing an order to buy a flag that has been flown atop the Capitol ($13.25 to $22.55). To do so, contact your Senator or Representative.

Grandma and Grandpa: Grandparents are known to love keepsakes, and fortunately, there’s a ton to be found this time of year. The Capitol Historical Society sells an array of Christmas ornaments, including the 2008 Oval Marble Capitol ornament ($24), which is fashioned from marble removed during renovations of the East Front. “You’re actually getting a piece of history when buy one of those,” Wailes said.

Another popular item is the Marble Statue of Freedom ($36), a 9-inch reproduction of the famed figure that sits atop the Capitol Dome.

If your grandparents are among the board-game-playing set, pick up “Stratego: Democrats vs. Republicans” ($29.99). It’s a new take on the classic war-themed game, this time pinning the two parties against each other in the race for the White House.

The Youngsters: It’s never too early to get kids involved in Washington life, and there are plenty of lovable toys and accessories designed to bring children into the political world.

Start at the Newseum, where various versions of the News Hound Plush Beanie ($7.99-$19.99) help kids learn about reporting. The Newseum also offers a Plush Republiphant ($12.99) and Plush Donkeycrat ($12.99).

America (the store) has plenty of patriotic clothing designed for kids of all ages, including the American Girl T-Shirt ($17.95), which features a pig-tailed young lady holding an American flag. The historical society offers a Hug America pillow ($16), which helps kids learn the states.

Older kids are likely to enjoy the Presidents Game ($19.99), designed help students learn about the history of those who occupied the White House.

Hardcore Democrat: OK, so nabbing a ticket to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration is unlikely. But there’s still plenty of inaugural merchandise out there, including an array of T-shirts, coffee mugs and other goodies. Online donors who give at least $30 to Obama’s campaign (yes, he’s still taking donations) receive the campaign’s official victory T-shirt.

But if you shy away from political donations, America (the store) offers an array of options. Best bets include the Obama Rhinestone Pin ($12.99), Obama Bobblehead Doll ($19.99) and Obama Jack-in-the-Box ($29.95).

Perhaps you’re in the market for something non-Obama related? Both the Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy presidential libraries sell an array of items on their Web sites at www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu and jfklibrary.org, respectively. Highlights include “John F. Kennedy: The JFK Wit” ($15.95), a CD featuring clips of the president’s most charismatic speeches, and the Fala Handpainted Tile ($24.95), which showcases FDR’s beloved Scottish terrier.

Hardcore Republican: It’s certainly been a tough year for GOPers, but there still are plenty of items out there to lift their spirits.

Remembering beloved former President Ronald Reagan is perhaps the pick-me-up. The Reagan Foundation, which raises money to fund the Reagan presidential library, offers a number of Reagan-themed items at reaganfoundation.org, including a holiday ornament ($19.95) and 2009 calendar ($12.95). There’s even a “signed” Jelly Belly jar ($34.95) filled with the president’s favorite candy.

2009 will at least offer the chance for the GOP to remember past successes, as it marks the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The Capitol Historical Society already has loaded up on Lincoln items, including a 6-inch bronze bust ($45) and a small resin keepsake box ($28) crafted from some of the original steps removed during the renovation of the East Front. The society also is offering a special Lincoln-themed Christmas ornament ($18).

Want to help the party get back on track? Shop the GOP store at gop.com and pick up items such as the official 2009 Republican National Committee calendar ($25) or a plush RNC elephant ($35).

Random Relative: Picking out a gift for that aunt or uncle you see only at Christmas can be challenging. The historical society offers plenty of gifts perfect for random relatives, including the U.S. Capitol Musical Snow Globe ($39.95) that plays “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

For celebrity-loving friends, pick up “The Best of ‘Not My Job,’” ($22.95) an audio collection from the famed segment featured on the NPR quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” Guests included in this CD set include actors Tom Hanks, Sarah Silverman and Janeane Garofalo and even President-elect Barack Obama, who appeared as a newly elected Senator.

For history buffs, pick up the 10-part DVD set of “The States” for $52.50 and the eight-part “The Presidents,” on sale for $20.99 on the History Channel’s Web site. The acclaimed series offer a detailed glimpse into the history of the nation, from its various parts to its leaders.