Democracy Dies in Darkness

How many hats has Donald Trump bought, anyway?

Donald Trump has spent a lot of money buying hats.

It's become one of the hallmarks of his unusual candidacy; each time a new campaign finance filing is released, media outlets relay the most recent figure. In May, Trump's campaign spent \$207,868 on hats -- only about \$146,000 less than it spent on payroll. And that wasn't even a particularly big month for hat-buying. Last November, Trump spent about \$300,000. In September of last year, he spent nearly \$500,000 on hats and other collateral. (The light blue bar below marks spending on line items that included hats and other things, like t-shirts.)

In total? Over \$2 million spent on hats -- some 4 percent of the amount that Trump has loaned to his campaign.

For most Americans, the conversion from hat-spending to number of hats is a murky bit of calculus. How many hats does \$2 million get you? Setting aside the inventory that's still for sale at Trump's website, how many people out there are in possession of Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hats?

This is a simple bit of math: Divide the amount Trump spent by the cost of each hat. But that second figure is tricky. People who buy hats to re-sell them pay wholesale costs -- and people who buy a lot of hats to re-sell them pay less.

Trump has used three vendors for his hat purchases, according to campaign filings submitted through May. (June's filing will be available in the middle of next month.) The firms are Ace Specialties in Lafayette, La.; Maxim Advertising in Newton, Iowa; and Cali-Fame, just outside of Los Angeles. The vast majority of the hats have been made by Cali-Fame -- enough so that the Los Angeles Times profiled the company last year. But we'll come back to that.

I reached out to all three companies to try and figure out what Trump paid per hat, without luck. (I could have asked how many hats had been ordered, I suppose, but then I wouldn't get to use division.) It is also tricky to figure out exactly which hats were ordered through which company, which is important for identifying cost. Trump's got a whole line-up of different options, including a weird version with giant, stretched-out type.

Different hats have widely divergent costs. This six-panel, brushed cotton twill offering from Maxim runs \$2.50 a pop, before embroidering. That's for one. Buy 1,440 and the cost drops to \$2.17. (Maxim also has a tool that lets you design your hat online in advance. Mine turned out great.)

But that \$2.50 figure is very low, even before embroidery. Ace Specialties has an enormous range of camouflage hats -- literally more than 800 varieties of cap involving some camo element -- available at a wide range of prices. (How good would this one look with Trump branding?) If you want one regular old camo hat without embroidering, Ace will sell it to you for \$10.0769 (don't forget your 69/100s-cent piece). Twelve dozen of those will cost you \$8.77 apiece, a savings of 14 percent. But if you want the same hat embroidered, you're paying \$13.15 for one and \$11.6154 apiece for a gross. That's about 30 percent more expensive for the embroidering.

It seems that most of what Trump bought from Ace, though, was t-shirts. A lot of Trump's November spending was identified as "T-SHIRT/HAT," and most of his spending at Ace in other months was for t-shirts and other collateral, like mugs.

So let's focus on Cali-Fame, which is where Trump's campaign spent nearly \$1.5 million on hats and nothing else.

If you head to Cali Headwear, the hat-specific site for the company, you're quickly presented with the "5 Panel Patriot" model of hat, which the company identifies as "trending" in popularity, no doubt correctly. It's clear this is the hat Trump uses at even a superficial glance.

A representative from the company wouldn't confirm what Trump's campaign paid but acknowledged that the list price -- \$15.50 -- would go up with embroidery and down with purchases in bulk. All of the most famous versions of the Trump hat are available as 5 Panel Patriots, including the red, white and camo versions.

Let's assume, then, that the price difference enjoyed by Trump mirrors the breaks that Ace gives. Add 30 percent for embroidering and lop off 12 percent for bulk purchases. That gives us an estimated cost of \$17.73. At that price, Trump's purchased about 84,000 hats from Cali-Fame (if we ignore cost spent on shipping and so on). From selling those hats at \$25 each, Trump would earn about \$8, meaning about \$600,000 for his campaign if he sold them all. (For what it's worth, the campaign lists 753 contributions of exactly \$25 and 73 of precisely \$30.)

This is a very rough estimate that ignores things like the fact that the camo hat retails for \$30 versus \$25. It's also using only a 12 percent discount, not the sort of negotiated deal we've come to expect from Trump. So let's say he gets 20 percent off the cost of each. In that case, he's bought about 92,000 hats -- and could make over \$800,000 in profit.

In the grand scheme of things -- meaning both the cosmic-dance-of-the-stars-that-will-someday-result-in-the-collapse-of-the-Milky-Way sense and in the things-that-will-effect-the-outcome-of-the-U.S.-presidential-election sense -- this is not an important question to answer. So why try? Allow this link to explain.