Collecting Presidential Inaugural Invitations
The inauguration of the president and vice president of the United States is held every four years. The ceremony is a tradition which dates back to George Washington, and represents the transfer of power from one individual to another.
There are several different types of official and unofficial invitations that are typically distributed to events related to the Presidential inauguration. Responsibility for the official events is placed in the hands of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The committee is also responsible for the printing and distribution of the invitations and tickets required to attend the event at the Capitol It is also not uncommon for citizens and local governments to hold their own inauguration celebrations in their own states.
Traditionally, inaugural events include the official swearing in ceremony, inaugural parade, inaugural ball and numerous other ancillary events. The number of events has grown significantly over the years. For each event an invitation, ticket and program is typically produced. The swearing in ceremonies have most commonly been held at the U.S. Capitol, although various other locations have been utilized over the years.
The most common form of inauguration invitation is the one sheet commemorative or souvenir invitation. These invitations are generally produced in large quantities by the Inaugural Committee and distributed – or sold – to citizens. The invitations typically have a gold color embossed inaugural seal at the top. While these invitations are indeed considered official, the fact that they were produced in larger quantities tends to keep their value at a reasonable level for collectors. Commemorative size Invitations produced prior to 1949 may be the only invitation that was produced for the event.
James Buchanan Abraham LIncoln John F. Kennedy Dwight Eisenhower Ronald Reagan
Congressional Invitations typically were produced the Inaugural Committee for distribution through Congressional offices to VIP’s, contributors and constituents to the actual Inaugural Ceremonies. The sets are produced in smaller quantities than the Commemorative invitations and typically include the invitation, ceremonies program, portrait of the President, portrait of the Vice President and an outer envelope. Based on their more limited print quantities, the value of Congressional invitations is higher than that of the Commemorative invitations.
Prior to 1929 Inaugural invitations tend to break many of the “rules” mentioned above. For instance, very few Inaugural items were produced during the terms of Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding, forcing collectors of inaugural invitations to consider alternate items such as inaugural tickets to fill spaces in a collection.
Also prior to 1900, it was unusual or non-existent for invitations to be issued to the actual Inaugural ceremonies, although in many cases tickets were indeed produced. In its place, invitations or commemorative cards were printed for Inaugural Balls or Inaugural Grand Concerts. For instance, no invitations were produced for Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural ceremonies, however an ornate and engraved invitation was produced for the Inaugural Bal. This inauguration invitation is often considered the cornerstone of Inaugural invitation collections.
Inaugural Ball invitations to events held outside of Washington D.C. are also coveted by collectors, especially when no invitations to Washington D.C. events were produced.
The collecting of inaugural invitations, tickets and programs has proven to be increasingly popular with collectors.