Ready or not, America, here it comes! Ronald Reaganwear. Forget cowboy chic. Patriotic red and blue ties with R-B initials (for Reagan-Bush) will be in style Jan. 20, Inauguration Day -- along with silver tie-tack replicas of the presidential seal, matching gold cufflinks, designer scarves, Reagan umbrellas and nifty double-R tote bags.
They're all part of the bona-fide, sanctified and certified commemorative collection of assorted Reagan inauguration paraphernalia unveiled yesterday by the 1981 Presidential Inauguration Committee.
At past inaugurals, only a handful of memorabilia was for sale and few items cost more than $200. Reagan's committee, however, has launched an ambitious merchandising program -- listing 44 items for sale -- and has drafted big name entertainers, including Frank Sinatra, to hawk the collectibles.
Inaugural merchandise chairman Barry Zorthian, the Merchant Prince of the Reagan Era, believes his items can quench the demands of the most demanding connoisseur of Reagan regalia. There are Tiffany sterling silver trays, blue ice buckets, a Nancy Reagan porcelain rose by Boehm, gift books, and bald-eagle statues.
For $28, the committee even will sell you a splinter of wood from the platform where the 40th president will be sworn in. The wood, along with a $5 copper inaugural medal, will be encased in Lucite.
"We wanted to give people a wide range of items to choose from," explains Zorthian. "We also want to raise money a lot of money." Officials expect sales of memorabilia to raise $1 million. Reagan's inaugural is expected to cost from $6 million to $8 million.
Within days, television viewers will be urged by Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon and Ol' Blue Eyes to order a 16-page catalogue from the Inaugural Committee, which automatically will mail sales information to about 400,000 Republican Party enthusiasts.
Sinatra, who has been plugging Chrysler this season, will hawk the committee's red, white, and blue inaugural license tags that sell for $25 and are valid until March 15, 1981. For $10 more, the committee will personalize the tag -- as long as it's not too risque. So far, "We Won" is the raciest request.
Carson and McMahon will plug the committee's other big seller, the special inaugural medal, during their 30-second spots.
The entertainers did the commercials free of charge and rather than buying air time, the committee is asking television stations to broadcast the commercials as public service announcements. In return, committee officials will write a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, telling the FCC that the station provided a needed public service to the committee. While the FCC considers public service announcements when renewing station's licenses, an FCC spokesman said letters from the inaugrual committee would not carry "any significant weight."
The medals bear a portrait of Reagan created by Utah sculptor Edward J. Fraughton, who used a plaster cast, or life mask, of Reagan's face to mold an image which Zorthian claims Americans will either hate or love upon sight. The medals are available in copper for $5; bronze, $25; fine silver, $95; proof silver, $275; and gold, $975. The committee also is selling a deluxe set of the medals for $1,475.
The cheapest item for sale (besides the $5-copper medal) is an envelope postmarked Inauguation Day. It sells for $5 and will have a sketch of Reagan and Bush on it.
The most expensive item is a limited edition bronze replica of Frederick Remington's sculputre, "The Mountain Man." Cost: $1,875.
"It really doesn't have anything to do with the inauguration," said Zorthian, "except the president has been a fan of Remington for a long time and we felt someone might want to buy the replicas."
About a dozen of the 44 items, such as the license plates and medals, will be mass-produced. The exotic items, like a $600 crystal tetrahedron or six-inch Tiffany sterling silver tray at $550, will be produced upon demand, officials said. Most of the less expensive items will be available in Washington hotels and gift shops within two weeks, but few souvenir stand will be selling the inauguration merchandise, according to Ivan Scott, the committee's local merchandise coordinator, because the Reagan items are more expensive than buttons and T-shirts found at most stands.
The committee gets a different cut of the profit for each item it sells. Sales of the committee's $20 ties, which were designed by Alexandria artist Frankie Welch, net the committee $13.
Some of the companies supplying the committee with merchandise also are manufacturing items that have not been officially sanctioned. For example, Boehm, makers of those porcelain birds President Nixon loved to give foreign dignitaries, is selling its own gold-on-porcelain elephant complete with diamond eyes. The price: $1,500.
So what tidbits did Sinatra choose? What valuable collectibles did Carson grab? How many ties did McMahon buy? And what has Zorthian selected from his prime stock?
"Well, I don't know if they bought anything," Zorthian says, "but I'm going to order a license plate today when I have time."