This week, Ira spoke with Jim Warlick.
Jim Warlick, who has spent a lifetime collecting presidential artifacts, will be opening the “The JFK Exhibition” at the new Tropicana Las Vegas on November 22nd. The exhibition will showcase artifacts from a historic time in 20th century America and feature some of the most iconic memorabilia from the 35th president of the United States, all collected by Warlick.
Warlick grew up in the small town of Morgantown, North Carolina where his interest in politics was spurred on by U.S. Senator Sam Ervin Jr. As a child, Warlick collected political buttons and other memorabilia as a hobby. In 1980, while working on Capitol Hill for North Carolina Congressman Lamar Gudger Jr., Warlick came up with the idea of designing and selling political campaign buttons. Shortly after designing and creating several buttons, he attended the national Democratic convention in New York City and sold them outside his hotel. After realizing he could make a better living selling campaign buttons than working on Capitol Hill, he quit his job and hit the road to start USA Button Poll.
Warlick designed a system so each customer purchase would update a poll that showed which candidate had sold the most buttons. A few years later, several well-known national reporters began asking Warlick for regular updates on which presidential candidates’ buttons were selling the most. They realized that the USA Button Poll’s sales closely aligned with the popular vote.
In 1989, Warlick opened a kiosk at Union Station to sell political memorabilia. Within a few years, he had opened a total of six stores selling buttons and other presidential memorabilia in Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. He created an internship program and has since worked with more than 200 political science students, encouraging them to be more involved with politics.
Warlick continued collecting political memorabilia and opened his Presidential Museum in Branson, Missouri in 2002, showcasing a Boeing 707 Air Force Once fuselage, Oval Office, First Ladies’ gowns, and more than 500 presidential items. Warlick wanted more people to see his collection, so he took his American Presidential Experience across America, exhibiting at Rockefeller Center in New York and presidential nominating conventions in Denver, Charlotte, and St. Paul.
The exhibition at The New Tropicana Las Vegas, opening November 22, 2014, will feature the largest inventory and most iconic exhibits of his presidential collections, including two JFK limousines and a Boeing 707 Air Force One fuselage outfitted exactly the way it appeared on November 22, 1963. Many other personal items of both John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy will be on display for the first time anywhere in America. Many items were recently acquired from personal collectors and have not been available for viewing.