Memorabilia collector gathers election history of U.S.
September 3, 2004
When Chuck Diets was 12 years old, he developed a fascination for the paraphernalia that comes with an election campaign.
Now at 60, he has a garage filled with memorabilia from campaigns and events of political importance.
“I’ve got lots of history here,” he said. “My earliest paper dates back to 1901 when McKinley got shot. I’ve got paper dolls, cigarettes, playing cards. You name it, I’ve got it.”
How about a stick of gum?
“I’ve got a stick of gum for Eisenhower,” he said. “A local market was conducting a straw vote. There were baskets with gum for Eisenhower, and the other guy and you would take a piece of gum with the name of the person you were going to vote for.”
The gum is still in its original wrapper, and Diets said he hasn’t seen anything like it at memorabilia shows.
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Diets still collects political materials, having visited the Republican and Democratic parties in Nevada for materials.
“I started in the middle ’50s when Eisenhower got elected the first time,” he said describing his early collecting. “I used to pick things up at fairs and circuses for free. When I first started collecting, I used to throw it in boxes.”
However, when he started his first video rental business 20 years ago, he began to frame the materials as he was framing movie posters for the store.
“I’ve got thousands of items,” he said. “I have stuff that I can’t put out because there is no way to show it without a showcase of some sort. It’s living history. Most of the pieces come out of the ’50s, ’60s ’70s and ’80s.”
While Diets is a Republican, that doesn’t stop him from picking up materials from both sides of the political fence. He said he just received his first Kerry-Edwards sign. One of his favorite pieces is a bumper sticker of the Clintons, which says “Dual Airbags.”
“People are afraid to pass things like that out because it might offend someone,” he said. “That makes it hard to find stuff like that.”
Diets said collecting political memorabilia has changed over the years.
“In last 15 to 20 years, you’ve had to start paying for a lot of these things,’ he said. “A large pin might cost $10. But Nevada has been great. I’ve been to Republican and Democratic functions, and they’re still giving materials away. It is like 30 years ago in Southern California.”
Diets arrived in Carson Valley on April 1, moving from Southern California, where he lived in a small town near the outskirts of Simi Valley for 16 years.
He has been married to Francine for 39 years, and the couple has one daughter, Jennifer, who lives in the Gardnerville Ranchos with the Diets’ granddaughters Brianna, 13, and twins Katie and Kelsie, who will be 10 in November.
The newspaper announcing McKinley’s death belonged to his grandmother and is the oldest piece in his collection.
The price was 2 cents, and the headlines aren’t like today,” he said. “It is like a little sideline that says the president was assassinated. It’s awesome.”
Diets invites anyone interested in seeing his collection to give him a call at 783-1422.
Kurt Hildebrand can be reached at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 215.