1948 Truman Presidential 8-Ball Award
Appraised Value: $12,000 - $20,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:56)
Collectibles, Sports Memorabilia, Toys & Games
Philip Weiss Auctions
GUEST: This is the eight ball that was presented to President Truman in 1948 by the Los Angeles Press Club. Its significance is that the press club had meetings, and when you went to the meeting, they had a giant eight ball that they would put on the table in front of you, and when you spoke behind the eight ball, technically your comments were off the record. So President Truman, being notorious for being outspoken, enjoyed that, and because of that, I think, he was given acknowledgement by the press club.
APPRAISER: And how did you acquire it?
GUEST: A relative of mine-- a great-uncle of mine-- worked in the White House as an aide to President Truman-- actually, to four presidents, starting with President Roosevelt-- and when Mr. Truman left office, uh, gave it to him as a memento.
APPRAISER: And you know the significance of the term "behind the eight ball" generally means when you're in the precarious situation where you can't escape from it. You're just...
APPRAISER: And in 1948, Truman was behind the eight ball. If you remember the history about that election, he was never supposed to win that. You're behind the eight ball. If you remember the famous photo of "Dewey Defeats Truman!", he didn't have a prayer and he wound up winning.
APPRAISER: When Truman was given this as a gift from the press club, he made a comment that said "The president seems to be behind the eight ball a lot these days, but I manage to get out of it."
GUEST: That's right.
APPRAISER: So it's really-- it's a very fascinating piece. It's engraved. You have the inscription "given to Truman," so the provenance is terrific, coming through the family. Doing some research, I found that just a pinback button alone showing Truman behind the eight ball went for a substantial amount of money. It seems to be a very, very popular kind of theme throughout his presidency, and also, as we know, President Truman accumulated a lot of stuff. His desk was cluttered with items, so an item like this would certainly be welcome to sit on his desk and probably get mixed in with all the other material.
GUEST: I did try the, you know, archives through the Presidential Library, and just like you said, his desk probably contained 100 to 150 different items on it. It was a maze that a president could keep that many things on his desk.
APPRAISER: So you couldn't really pluck it out of the pictures?
GUEST: Well, the pictures were very dark, and of course they weren't taken very close up.
GUEST: And there was also a bookshelf that sat off to the side of his desk, and I have a feeling that that may be where it actually sat.
APPRAISER: It's very possible. The best provenance and the best proof of him owning this piece was the photograph of him holding it up after it was given to him at the Los Angeles Press Club. If I placed an item like this at auction, I'd be a little bit on the conservative side only because you never know how it's going to be received as far as, you know, interest goes, but presidential memorabilia is usually over the top, and when you have a provenance attached to this, I would conservatively estimate this piece at $12,000 to $18,000.
APPRAISER: And I wouldn't be surprised to see it go even higher if you get the right people bidding on it. And if you can insure it, I would insure it for $20,000.
GUEST: Wonderful, Phil.
APPRAISER: The pinback button of Truman with an eight ball superimposed over him recently was sold for $6,000.
APPRAISER: For a pinback button.
GUEST: Thank you very much. I'm certainly glad I came.
APPRAISER: I'm glad you did, too. (laughs) It's a great piece.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.